Mark Drakeford, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
Last week I visited both Brussels and Helsinki.
In Brussels, I spoke at a seminar arranged jointly by the European Policy Centre and the Wales Governance Centre on ‘How Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland view Brexit’. Other speakers were Mike Russell, the Scottish Government’s Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe and Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ulster. The seminar was attended by well over a hundred participants from the European Institutions, Embassies and regional offices and research institutes, as well as members of the Assembly’s European and External Affairs Committee.
I also held a series of meetings with leading figures in the European Parliament in order to get a better understanding of the Parliament’s view of progress in the negotiations and to explain the Welsh Government’s thinking. These included meetings with Guy Verhofstadt MEP, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator; Elmar Brok, MEP, the lead for Brexit within the European People’s Party Group, the largest group in the European Parliament; Charles Tannock, MEP; Derek Vaughan MEP and Kay Swinburne MEP.
Finally, I took the opportunity to meet with Lowri Evans, the Director General for DG GROW within the European Commission and the most senior European Civil Servant from Wales and to receive an update on the negotiations from staff in the UK Permanent Representation.
In Finland, I attended the 45th General Assembly of the Council of Peripheral Maritime Regions where I was invited to give a keynote address on Brexit. The Conference was attended by some 250 delegates drawn from all parts of Europe. The General Assembly agreed the Cardiff Declaration (attached) which will be the basis for a CPMR conference to be held here in Cardiff in mid November on European Cooperation Beyond Brexit.
I also took the opportunity for bilateral discussions with a number of representatives of regions from across Europe who will attend the conference in Cardiff; these included Cees Loggen, Regional Minister of Noord-Holland (Netherlands); Annika Annerby Jansson, Vice-President of the Region of Skane; Antje Grother, Member of the Bremen State Parliament; and Forough Salami Dadaki, Vice-President of the Regional Council of Brittany.
Finally, I met the Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Helsinki which was a useful opportunity both to discuss the Finnish perspective on Brexit and the potential for future economic links between Finland and Wales.