On 23 January the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru published a white paper, Securing Wales’ Future, which sets out proposals for a future relationship between Wales and the EU. The paper also received support from the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
The paper followed the Prime Minister’s speech at Lancaster House on 17 January in which she outlined 12 objectives for the UK’s negotiations with the EU.
The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru white paper sets out proposals in relation to six key areas:
- The Single Market;
- International Trade;
- Finance and investment;
- Constitutional and devolution issues;
- Wales’ social and environmental protections and values and;
- Transitional arrangements.
The white paper calls for Wales and therefore the UK to have full and unfettered access to the Single Market. On migration the paper states that in future the freedom of movement of people from the EU into Wales should be linked to employment with an exception for students and those able to sustain themselves.
The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru call for a revision to the Block Grant that Wales gets from the UK to include replacement funding for the EU Funding Wales would have received had the UK remained part of the EU.
The white paper states that the UK’s exit from the EU is a ‘major constitutional turning point for Wales and the UK’. It calls for the creation of new inter-governmental arrangements and structures in the UK that would allow the devolved administrations and the UK Government to reach joint-agreements on key policy issues such as agriculture. The white paper argues that Wales should be ‘vigilant’ to ensure worker rights and environmental standards are protected following the UK’s exit from the EU.
Lastly the white paper states that the UK Government should seek a transitional agreement as ‘a matter of high priority’ to ‘avoid the chaos’ that may be caused by an abrupt exit by the UK from the EU should all issues on the UK’s exit and its new relationship not been negotiated within two years.
Although there are some areas of difference in the positions outlined by the UK Government and Welsh Government the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, Mark Drakeford AM, has set out his view (PDF 378KB) that they could be reconciled:
You could still deliver a great deal of what we say is essential to Wales within the terms of what the Prime Minister had to say, but you do have to work quite hard to reconcile the two. But in order to be influential, sometimes you have to bridge positions. You have to try and demonstrate that what we want to achieve and what the Prime Minister said don’t have to be irreconcilable.
A Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) meeting between the Prime Minister, the First Minister for Wales, the First Minister of Scotland and leaders of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin was held in Cardiff on 30 January. The meeting was the first to take place since the UK Government outlined its priorities for the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU. The Welsh Government stated that the First Minister would use the meeting to urge the Prime Minister to use the Welsh Government’s white paper as starting point for the UK’s negotiating position on its withdrawal from the EU. A communique issued by the UK Government following the meeting stated:
Consideration of the proposals of the devolved administrations is an ongoing process. Work will need to be intensified ahead of triggering Article 50 and continued at the same pace thereafter.
The First Minister will attend the Assembly’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee on 6 February to discuss the Welsh Government’s proposals. The white paper will also be debated by the Assembly on 7 February.
Article by Nia Moss, National Assembly for Wales Research Service