On 6 and 13 February 2017 the First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones AM, and the Minister of State for Exiting the EU, Rt Hon David Jones MP gave evidence to the Assembly’s External Affairs Committee (@SeneddEAAL) on their governments’ respective white papers and their priorities for the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
What was the view from Wales?
The First Minister for Wales told the Committee that his priority for the negotiations was ensuring that Welsh businesses are able to export to the European market in the same way as they do now. The First Minister outlined his view that this goal should be pursued even if it means a compromise on immigration but also highlighted the Welsh Government’s proposal to link the freedom of movement of people to employment.
In relation to the border between Ireland and Norther Ireland, the First Minister stated that he wouldn’t want to see a deal on the issue that would make it easier for companies to move goods through Northern Ireland than through Welsh ports.
In relation to future funding the First Minister stated that he expected Wales to be compensated for the loss of European funding. He outlined his view that this should be in the form of an increase in the block grant and that this funding should not be subject to the Barnett formula.
The First Minister said that the UK Government’s engagement with the Welsh Government had been good and he welcomed the quarterly meetings of the Joint Ministerial Council. However, the First Minister emphasised that he expects not only for the voice of the Welsh Government to be heard but also to play an active role in the negotiations with the EU. The First Minister set out his view that the Welsh Government had not yet received a coherent view from the UK Ministers on the UK Government’s negotiation position.
The First Minister argued that current structures for inter-governmental relations in the UK are not fit for purpose. He called for new structures for making policy decisions and resolving disputes between the four governments of the UK. He was clear in his view that following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU the default position on powers would be that all powers currently exercised by the EU in areas of devolved policy like agriculture would come back to Wales. He stated that this was not the current view in Whitehall where he said there is a belief that the UK Government will decide where powers currently held by the EU will go in the UK.
What was the view from Westminster?
The Minister of State for Exiting the EU, Rt Hon David Jones MP, told the External Affairs Committee that the UK Government had not yet decided when it would trigger Article 50. He stated that the UK Government had also not yet decided whether it would send a simple letter of notification or would send a more detailed letter outlining some of its negotiation objectives.
The Minister offered his reassurance to the Committee that the UK Government’s negotiation position would fully reflect the views of the devolved governments and legislatures. He stated that the UK Government would need to weigh conflicting concerns and priorities within the UK to come up with a solution in the best interests of the whole of the UK.
The Minister stated that he wanted ‘to be absolutely clear that we (the UK) will be leaving the single market’ but that he believed there would be every incentive for the EU to agree a comprehensive free trade agreement with the UK. He outlined that the UK Government is undertaking an analysis of over 50 sectors in the UK economy to consider the implications and opportunities for them post UK withdrawal.
The Minister stated that the Home Office is currently working on a policy in relation to free movement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
On inter-governmental relations the Minister stated that the UK Government was not currently looking at the development of new constitutional structures to replace the JMC though they may consider this ‘in the fullness of time’. In relation to the repatriation of powers following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU the Minister stated that (PDF 432KB):
It will be necessary for the United Kingdom to make a decision as to where various competences lie. We have been absolutely clear in indicating that any devolved competences that are currently exercised at devolved level will not be, so to speak, clawed back. It will be necessary to decide where powers best lie. It may be that there will be scope for further devolution, but, it may well be there will be an advantage, and in fact an imperative to look at UK-wide structures to replace the competences that previously resided at Brussels level.
These two evidence sessions formed part of the External Affairs Committee’s work on the implications for Wales of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Find out more about the Committee’s work on its webpage or on twitter @SeneddEAAL. You can watch the evidence sessions in full on Senedd.tv
Article by Nia Moss, National Assembly for Wales Research Service