On 21 May, Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) met virtually for the first time and only for the second time this year.
The communique can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/887061/2020-05-21_JMC_EN__Communique_UPDATED.pdf (external link).
A few days before JMC (EN) all of the Devolved Governments received the long awaited legal text from the UKG. We received advance copies just one day before its publication which is completely unacceptable. We have been calling for many weeks for the UK Government to share this text with us. It is useful to finally see the legal texts and understand the parameters that the UK Government are working towards in these negotiations but we fundamentally disagree with their approach. Their approach as confirmed by the legal text puts ideology ahead of the economic realities. Their approach puts sovereignty ahead of maintaining a close economic relationship with Wales’ most important trading partner. We have repeatedly stated that as we have responsibility for implementing many aspects of the future relationship the UK Government and the EU need assurance that whatever eventually emerges from the negotiations can be implemented across all parts of the UK.
The JMC (EN) firstly focused on negotiations. I called again for a pause to current negotiations and an extension to the transition period, in light of the pressures on all governments in responding to COVID-19. With the UK Government intent on running the negotiations alongside the response to COVID-19, I again made the point that the engagement to date on negotiations has fallen considerably short of what is required to ensure the interests of all parts of the UK are represented. The UK Government has failed to live up to promises made to for an enhanced role during this phase of negotiations.
Prior to the meeting, the UK Government published the Command Paper: The UK’s Approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol. The Command Paper sets the broad parameters but fails to provide the details necessary to understand how the Northern Ireland Protocol will be implemented. The research we commissioned from the UK Trade Policy Observatory earlier this year sets out some key concerns for us in Wales and these remain live issues. I pressed the UK Government at JMC (EN) to provide urgent clarity on the implications of the protocol on Welsh ports and on Welsh businesses focusing on those issued raised in our commissioned research. Despite the UK Government’s agreement that it is vital we work together to ensure the arrangement on the Northern Ireland Protocol works in practice, they have failed to involve us in this workstream and only shared the Command Paper hours before publication.
On preparedness matters, I welcomed the sharing of information on some of the projects the UK Government has established for the end of the transition period. It is essential that no further time is lost and I urged the UK Government to recognise the importance of establishing effective joint work on preparedness matters building on the approach that was in place during the “no deal” planning work.
Finally, I stressed that work on the Intergovernmental relations review (IGRR) must recommence: particularly work on dispute resolution. There was agreement on this, including using lessons learnt during the current pandemic as a foundation for positive intergovernmental working. We hope to see this in advance of the next JMC (EN) which I proposed take place later this month.