Y Pwyllgor Materion Allanol a Deddfwriaeth Ychwanegol - Y Bumed Senedd
External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee - Fifth Senedd25/01/2021
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Dai Lloyd AS|
|David J. Rowlands AS|
|David Rees AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AS|
|Laura Anne Jones AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Dr Rachel Minto||Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|João Vale de Almeida||Llysgennad yr UE i'r DU|
|EU Ambassador to the UK|
|Syr Emyr Jones Parry||Cymdeithas Ddysgedig Cymru|
|Learned Society of Wales|
|Yr Athro Anand Menon||King’s College London|
|King’s College London|
|Yr Athro Catherine Barnard||Coleg y Drindod Caergrawnt|
|Trinity College Cambridge|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Claire Fiddes||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:00.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 14:00.
Good afternoon. Can I welcome everyone to this afternoon's meeting of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, which will be held virtually, as we have been doing for a while due to the COVID restrictions? In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have agreed as Chair that the public are excluded from the committee's meetings in order to protect the public health agenda, but Members can actually access the meeting on www.senedd.tv, and the meeting will be broadcast both in English and in Welsh. So, they're both available to you.
We've received apologies at this point in time from Alun Davies. Members will know that Alun has previously been appointed as the temporary Chair in case my broadband falls out. In case that happens today, are Members content for Huw Irranca-Davies to act as temporary Chair in my absence until either I rejoin or the meeting comes to a conclusion? I see Members are content. So, Huw, if my broadband drops out again, and unfortunately, that has happened too many times, you will take over as deputy Chair. Okay? Thank you. Are there any Members who at this point in time wish to declare an interest?
It's not relevant to this section, but for the following section this afternoon, my chairing of the three groups that I've referred to in the register of interests.
It shouldn't be relevant to this afternoon's session, but thank you for that, Huw.
If we move on, then, to the next item on the agenda, which is the evidence session with the EU ambassador to the UK. Can I welcome His Excellency João Vale de Almeida—I hope I pronounced that correctly—who is the EU ambassador to the UK? There are officials also joining us, but they will be listening very carefully and intently, and they'll join us if and when required from the ambassador. So, welcome. I think the easiest way to start this afternoon's session is perhaps for you to give an overview of your role here and how you see that role working with EU citizens living in Wales and, linked to that, with the Welsh Government. So, over to you.
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you, Members of the committee. Thank you very much for this invitation. It's a great honour and a pleasure to be in Wales again, or in contact with Wales again. I had the pleasure of paying a visit in September, in an opportunity window in the current restrictions. I hope to come again, but it's a real pleasure to be here. Let me also praise the work that you have been doing on EU affairs and EU legislation and Brexit, but also your attention to citizens' rights and European Union citizens' rights in particular. There is a large community in Wales. I've been talking to my colleague ambassadors; we have important contingents of citizens there, and they all praise the Government and also yourselves as the parliamentary dimension of Wales. So, it's a real pleasure to be here.
I'll begin by giving you some ideas about what we do here. There are 143 diplomatic missions of the European Union throughout the world. I had the honour of leading our missions in the United States, in Washington, and then at the United Nations in New York, and now I'm very happy to be in London. But this is consistent with what we do with any third country with whom we have diplomatic relations. We are based in Smith Square—you have a standing invitation to visit us once COVID allows—and we've been open since 1 February 2020, so it will be exactly one year next week. It's been an atypical year, as you can imagine, for all the reasons that we know.
So, like everywhere else in the world, in the other 143 locations, the role of the delegation in the UK is to promote EU policies by engaging with Governments, obviously, other political actors, the media, academia, business, civil society, the wider public, and, in the case of the UK, of course, with the devolved administrations. We have an important role of co-ordinating the 27 member states' embassies in London, and we co-ordinate our actions, we co-ordinate our positions, and I have the honour of chairing and hosting a regular meeting of all the 27 ambassadors, together with me. We are the sort of EU family in London, and it is, of course, a very important role, which we all accomplish to the benefit of the interests of the European Union, but also to the benefit of the quality of the relationship with the UK.
In this work we attach particular attention to the protection of the rights of our citizens, the European Union's citizens in the UK, throughout the UK. More generally, our role is to assist in shaping EU-UK relations, promoting a good working relationship with the Government, and of course my first year was very much impacted by the early implementation of the withdrawal agreement, also with a citizens' rights dimension, and the negotiation of the future relations framework. We were glad to conclude those negotiations at the eleventh hour by—[Inaudible.] As you know, it was not easy, but it was very important for us, and I think for you and the British people, I would say, and British business, that we avoided a 'no deal' scenario, that we were able to find an understanding on how our relationship should evolve. My purpose right now is to contribute as much as I can with my team, with the 27 embassies, with all of you, to make this new cycle of the relationship between the EU and the UK a virtuous cycle, a positive one, a constructive one. A decision was taken to leave the European Union. We regret it but we respect it, and now we need to build on these agreements a new cycle of this relationship.
As you can understand, we have relations with many countries around the world, but you may agree with me that we have a particularly close relationship with the United Kingdom. We were together in the same union for almost half a century. There's no geographic distance between us—there's 0 km on the island of Ireland; there's only a few kilometres across the channel. Our economies, our people, our families are absolutely interconnected, so this is a special relationship, and I'm committed to contribute to that. We have to shape this relationship, of course, in accordance with the decisions taken by the UK, and particularly the decision to leave the single market and the customs union, and all the other options that the British Government took throughout the negotiations, for which they are responsible. We need to address the consequences of those decisions, and that's what we're trying to do in the best possible way.
Now, maybe a word about the subject matter that interests you most, if I can understand it well—the issues around the end of the free movement of people between the EU and UK, the settled status scheme and all the links with the immigration policy. I would say that, as the EU law ended in the UK—no longer applicable here—together with it came the end of one of the EU's four freedoms, the freedom of movement of people. This also came to an end on 31 December 2020 as a result of the decision taken by your country. So, whilst, since 1 January, the UK's and the EU 27's immigration rules will be applicable to our citizens travelling to or seeking work in our countries, the withdrawal agreement protects the EU rights—both EU and UK nationals—of those who have made decisions before 31 December to live in our respective countries. So, the withdrawal agreement is extremely important for that particular reason.
In the UK, the implementation of part 2 of the withdrawal agreement on citizens' rights, and of the EU settlement scheme, is progressing in a promising way. I must say that, overall, our assessment is a positive one. I know that you have been given all these figures, so I won't bother you with that, but I think we should retain that, by the end of last year, over 4.8 million applications had been received, and nearly 4.5 million statuses were granted for EU citizens and their family members to continue with their lives here, largely as before. I think this is a very important number to retain, and it shows overall the success of these operations so far.
These numbers already indicate that the UK has one of the world's largest and richest EU citizen diasporas, perhaps even bigger than the original estimate. Although we now have a better understanding of the size of this community, the exact number of the total citizens who are eligible to apply under the EU settlement scheme remains unknown. We don't know, basically, how many people are in the UK—EU citizens—because there is no complete registration, as you know, neither in consulates nor by Britain, so we have to keep this in mind. And it's important to keep this in mind, as it is unlikely that we will know whether all those who are eligible to be protected by the withdrawal agreement will manage to apply by the deadline of 30 June, which is the deadline foreseen in the scheme. As we know, citizens who fail to secure a new status under the scheme in time will risk being unlawfully resident in the UK. So, I think we are facing ourselves—. This particular period between 1 January and 30 June, this grace period, is absolutely critical in order to limit the number of those who will be out of the scheme if they have a right to be in, and will be out of it and enduring consequences. I think that's a major concern. I have major concerns, my people have, and that is shared by the member states' embassies, of course.
So, what are we doing and how can we—my delegation—support EU citizens? We are working closely with the Home Office, with our 27 embassies, and with a range of civil society groups representing and assisting EU citizens. We want to ensure that no-one is left behind. We have a number of public-facing support services, a wide range of publications. We hold free information and question-and-answer sessions. We launched advice surgeries for citizens. This is available free of charge to local councils, for instance, including in Wales, and we do a lot of work in Wales, but I wanted this to be very clear to you, that you and your constituents can, of course, have access to this; it's enough to contact us. I have a whole team and the programme lead, Daniel Fleischer-Ambrus, is on call. If ever you have more technical questions about this, I will hand over to him, because I'm a great believer in the expertise of experts. He's doing a great job with the team, and we are very active on this.
We also steer a monitoring network that meets every other month and liaises with the newly-established independent monitoring authority, which was foreseen in the withdrawal agreement. In this network, which monitors the whole process, we have included ourselves, the EU delegation, but also the EU 27 embassies and around 60 non-governmental organisations that assist vulnerable citizens. The objective of that work is to detect any systemic issues around the implementation of the settlement scheme and exercising withdrawal agreement rights, in order to raise them with the UK Government and the monitoring authority.
In this context, maybe it will be interesting for you if I mention what are for us the most pressing issues—what keeps us awake in these months until the end of the grace period and maybe beyond—and I'll start with the pandemic, obviously, which has impacted all of us for almost a year now. The first issue concerns the pre-settled status and UK residence interruptions in the context of the pandemic. We understand that many citizens who have obtained pre-settled status temporarily left the UK to assist their families, or simply to try and escape the worst-hit locations of the pandemic in the UK. Although pre-settled status remains valid for two years, when a citizen is outside the UK, if a stay is longer than six months in any 12-month period, this will interrupt the continued UK residence of pre-settled status holders, so there is a risk that they are put in an unfavourable situation. Such interruption, even if the pre-settled status holders return to the UK within the two-year limit, will basically make it impossible to later reapply for settled status before their pre-settled status expires. I hope you can follow me on this, but this is a real issue that we detected because of the pandemic. This is because settled status requires five years of continuous, uninterrupted residence, which these citizens will not be able to satisfy. Currently, there are 2 million pre-settled status holders, some of whom could fall into this trap without being aware of it until they are told to leave the UK. So, this is one issue that we are looking at.
The second one, or the second set of issues, is linked to the EU settlement scheme COVID guidance, published by the Home Office. They did publish guidance, but this was done two weeks before the end of the transition, leaving very limited time for citizens to return to the UK in case they found out from the guidance that the COVID-related reason for their absence would not qualify for exemption from the six-month rule. Although the guidance does suggest that some of those who were impacted by COVID could be exempt from the six-month rule and be allowed to stay away for a period of up to 12 months, these scenarios are largely limited to situations where citizens were unable to return because they themselves were ill, quarantining, or had been impacted by a flight ban. For the time being, it appears that a wider and far more common range of life situations, such as when citizens left the UK to look after their relatives at home, or because they were rendered redundant as a result of the pandemic and could not afford to stay, or where they felt unsafe to continue to stay—all these, and there may be other conditions and situations—are not, apparently, taken into account.
Another aspect of the pandemic and the repeated lockdowns that it has triggered is the delay with passport and national ID renewals. This is happening as our consulates are not able to function at their normal capacity through the lockdown periods, as the administrative procedure requires citizens to attend appointments in person. Some citizens now get appointments four or five months after requesting them, and the processing of applications also requires additional time. However, in order to submit settlement scheme applications, citizens need to possess valid passports or national ID cards. Without those documents, they must contact the Home Office to request a paper form application to submit an application with alternative evidence of identity. These paper forms are granted on a one-on-one basis specific to citizens authorised by the Home Office. Together with our embassies, we have been exploring if the Home Office could be more flexible in granting these forms to citizens with no valid documents, if they can show that the reason for this is beyond their control. We are hopeful that the Home Office will be able to consider some suggestions in this technical area.
Another—if I may, and I'll finish soon—chapter of our concerns today relates to vulnerable and hard-to-reach EU citizens. Despite the Office for National Statistics estimates, and the statistics on the uptake of the scheme, as I said earlier, nobody knows how many eligible citizens there are who have not yet secured their status. We don't know the universe of the potential—[Inaudible.]—the settlement status. For this reason, all actors on the ground are working to raise awareness of the need to apply and to assist, of course, those who are most vulnerable. We are grateful to the Home Office's grant funded scheme, which provides help through 72 organisations in the UK, and we remain hopeful that that funding will be extended beyond this financial year, which ends in March. I think this will be important so as to cover the entirety of this grace period. There are many vulnerable groups and they are all, of course, equally important. But perhaps two of them need particular attention, and I mean senior citizens and children. The latest statistic you still have is that the uptake of the scheme among the 65-plus group was less than 2 per cent. We believe that the ratio of the 65-plus group within the overall group of citizens eligible is higher than 2 per cent, which, of course, suggests that elderly citizens could be lagging behind with their applications, which is not something that would surprise us, of course.
Based on our exchange with NGOs in our monitoring network, which I referred to earlier, we have also received indicators with regard to looked-after children. As at the end of October, fewer than 50 per cent have had applications made to the scheme, and only 30 per cent have received status, with only 25 per cent of children in the care of the state having secured status. So, these are some of the issues and I've tried to identify with my team the most pressing ones in this particular phase of the implementation of the withdrawal agreement.
Now, in terms of timing and what comes next, we have the deadline of 30 June this year. From the point of EU free movement law, which is the backbone of part 2 of the withdrawal agreement we've been talking about, failing to meet administrative deadlines, such as the end of the grace period, could have administrative consequences. However, we believe that this should remain proportional and should take into account the individual circumstances that resulted in such non-compliance—not all non-compliance are similar. Therefore, we trust that reasonable out-of-time applications would still be considered and that the grounds allowing for this would take into account the challenging pandemic-struck year behind us. I think, when we negotiated the withdrawal agreement, nobody knew that we would have a pandemic a few months down the road, and not a pandemic like this one. So, I think and I hope and I'm sure that there'll be a degree of understanding of the situation in managing the effects of the end of the grace period.
It is in our joint interests to ensure that our citizens, whether EU citizens living here in the UK or British nationals living in the EU27, remain fully protected, in spite of the pandemic and in spite of this very difficult situation. I trust that our motto, which is 'united in diversity', could be a universal motto and that the diversity of the situation of our citizens, given their economic, social and cultural contribution, will continue to enrich British society. I am very proud of all my fellow EU citizens in the UK. I got to know many of them throughout the first year as an ambassador, but I'm also aware of how much you British people appreciate our contribution to your society. I've heard that in Wales and I'm sure I'm going to hear it today as well with your committee.
But let me finish this introduction by saying how keen I am to continue to work with you and how keen I am to visit you again, hopefully. And I think we have outlined with the First Minister, whom we had the pleasure to meet in September, dates in mid March, and I hope COVID will allow that to happen, and in any case, either physically or remotely like here, please consider me as your partner and please never hesitate to call on me or my team to help you in your work. And again, I thank you for the invitation and I give you back the floor, Chair.
Thank you very much, and thank you for that very detailed introduction, which gives us an insight into the challenges you're facing to ensure that every EU citizen has the opportunity to apply for status and how you can support them in doing so. I have questions from Dai Lloyd, Huw Irranca-Davies, Laura Jones and then David Rowlands. So, we'll start with Dai first.
Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd. Allaf i, yn y lle cyntaf, ddiolch yn fawr am y cyflwyniad graenus a chynhwysfawr yna rydym ni newydd ei glywed, sydd yn amlinellu'r heriau, wrth gwrs, a'r sefyllfa newydd rŵan y tu fas i'r Undeb Ewropeaidd? Gan fy mod i yn siarad yn Gymraeg, un o ieithoedd lleiafrifol yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, yn naturiol bydd yn rhaid ailasesu y statws yna rŵan, gan ein bod ni tu fas i'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, ond dyna fe.
Rydym ni'n sôn yn benodol, felly, am y cynllun preswylio'n sefydlog i ddinasyddion yr Undeb Ewropeaidd yma yn y Deyrnas Unedig. Rydych chi wedi olrhain llwyddiant y cynllun yma yn y lle cyntaf—llwyddiant ysgubol, buasai rhai pobl yn dweud—ond, wrth gwrs, mae yna rai materion ar ôl. Yn y lle cyntaf, buaswn i'n awgrymu, fel rydych wedi'i awgrymu eisoes, efallai nad ydyn ni'n gwybod maint yr her a faint o bobl sydd yn y Deyrnas Unedig a fyddai'n cwympo o dan y cynllun yma. Felly, o ddweud bod y cynllun mor belled yn llwyddiant, wrth gwrs mae yna waith i'w wneud i ddarganfod yr union niferoedd yna.
Felly, y cwestiwn sy'n deillio o hynna ydy: sut ydych chi'n cydweithio rŵan efo Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig, ond yn benodol, gan ein bod ni yma mewn pwyllgor yng Nghymru, sut ydych chi'n cydweithio efo Llywodraeth Cymru ar y materion yma rŵan, yn enwedig efo'r amserlen dynn yma cyn diwedd mis Mehefin eleni, pan fydd yn rhaid i ni fod wedi cael pobl wedi'u cofrestru, ac wrth gwrs rydym ni gyd yn derbyn heriau, fel rydych chi wedi'u hamlinellu, COVID ac ati? Ond o gymryd cwestiwn cychwynnol, fel rydym ni'n dechrau yn y pwyllgor yma y prynhawn yma: wrth symud ymlaen, allwch chi olrhain eich profiad chi i fyny at rŵan, a hefyd yn symud ymlaen, o'r cydweithio rhwng eich swyddfa chi â'n Senedd ni yma yng Nghymru? Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi.
Thank you very much, Chair. In the first instance, may I thank you very much for that very comprehensive, high-quality presentation that we have just heard, outlining some of the challenges and some of the new circumstances outside of the EU? As I am using the Welsh language, one of the minority languages of Europe, naturally we will have to reassess its status now, as we are outwith the European Union, but there we go.
We are looking specifically at the settlement scheme for EU citizens in the UK. You've outlined the success of the scheme in the first instance—its huge success, according to some—but there are some outstanding issues, of course. In the first instance, I would suggest, as you've already suggested, that perhaps we don't know the scale of the challenge and exactly how many people may fall under this scheme in the UK. So, having said that the scheme has been successful to date, there is still some work outstanding in terms of discovering the exact numbers involved.
So, the question emerging from that is: how are you collaborating with the UK Government, but specifically, as we are in a committee here in Wales, how are you working with the Welsh Government on these issues, particularly given this tight timetable, now that there's the deadline at the end of June by which time we need to get people registered, of course, and we all accept that there are challenges posed by COVID and so on, as you've already mentioned? But my initial question to you is: in moving forward, can you outline your experience to date and how you anticipate things developing in terms of collaboration between your office and our Parliament here in Wales? Thank you.
Thank you very much. Shall I reply to the question?
Well, first of all, Mr Lloyd, thank you very much for your question. About the scale of the challenge, well, it's an even bigger challenge because we don't know the scale of it, let's put it this way. When I arrived, I was surprised too when my people told me, 'We don't know how many we are.' 'We' meaning the EU citizens in the UK. And that's a reality and a result of the fact that you don't have a formal registration in the UK as such, and our consulates cannot force their citizens to register in the consulates either. So, on both sides, there is a sub-optimal perception of the scale of the challenge.
So, the way we approached this was to say, 'Well, if we don't know how many we are, let's provide as much information, let's go, whenever we can, through whatever means, to try to reach the maximum number of people.' This has been the approach, and that's what we have been doing in the ways I summarised earlier, with our embassies—we have a better knowledge of their communities—with associations that are working on the ground, assisting people, composed of people, and in the grass-roots organisations, to try to—. And the media, of course, the media that people read and listen to, and general media. All that, and the very proactive approach, which I have now reinforced, at the beginning of this year, with more financial means, and contracting lawyers and companies to help us. So, that's what we have been doing.
The co-operation with the Home Office, with the Foreign Office as well, has been good, and we are working with the devolved administrations. I visited Northern Ireland, I visited Wales, I had a virtual visit with Scotland—all this in September—and my purpose, if COVID allows me, is to revisit these three devolved nations between now and the end of the grace period. As I said, I've lined up a visit to Wales in mid March—COVID allowing, I'll be there—meeting again, hopefully, the First Minister, as I did in September, talking to members of his administration, talking to you again, if you wish. And my purpose was also to engage in some public activities, maybe bringing together with me a couple of my colleagues from member states with the more important communities of EU citizens in Wales, and maybe try to do a public session where we try to attract the attention of media and associations. So, this is the kind of work that we want to do with the Government, and the First Minister and members of his team were very open to this co-operation. So, we are in the process of organising that visit, and of course, I would welcome any initiative that yourselves, or your colleagues, would think of initiating. My only purpose is to reach out to as many people as we can, and try to leave no-one behind as we said earlier. So, looking forward to co-operation with the Welsh authorities and the Welsh Parliament.
Thank you, Chair. Firstly, welcome to our committee, and congratulations on your role—I can't believe it's a year already. It's a very important role and I think we all agree on its importance, and that we have a positive relationship between the EU and Britain going forward, whatever you thought about us leaving the EU. So, thank you for your address; it was very comprehensive. It's certainly a challenging time, and I just want to follow on from Dai's question and just ask you what exactly you are doing. How are you reaching out to citizens who need to apply by that deadline? What practical steps are you taking? Thank you.
Thank you very much again for your support and your openness to co-operation. Now, we do general information-sharing activities like publications, videos, social media and beyond. We provide assistance to citizens by means of questions and answers on Facebook or the internet—whatever you call it. They're restricted now by COVID, but we used to do public sessions around the country, including in Wales, of course. We will send our lawyers. We have contracted a number of lawyers specialised in these kinds of issues, and they can assist people wherever they go. Now, basically, online and remote sessions, Q&As, seminars, webinars—you name it.
But we also now have surgeries. We provide people with concrete advice on what to do in very specific situations. You can't imagine the kind of situations we have come across that require very specific replies. And sometimes we don't have the reply, so we channel it through the Home Office and other authorities, and to our embassies who are very much present on the ground. So, we have this network of proactive initiatives on our side: the local consulates of our 27 member states throughout the country and the network of non-governmental organisations. I think it was started even before I arrived, so I'm not claiming any credit here, but I think they're doing a fantastic job in reaching out, and I think the figure that we quoted of 4.5 million or whatever is also a result of that. A large part of the awareness is being raised through these mechanisms.
So, I think, in this phase, when we are getting closer and closer to the end of the grace period, our concern is mainly with those who are on the fringes of mainstream media, who maybe have no specific language abilities, or are somehow marginalised for some reason—and God knows, there are many reasons of different kinds. It may be because of their age—I mentioned the seniors or the children—or also because of their work contractual arrangements, people may be afraid of communicating their identity. I know that there are all sorts of issues. People feel fragile and vulnerable in a way because they heard 'Brexit', they know Brexit is done, the UK's no longer a member state, and they are afraid of their situation. So, these are the ones that we need to reach out to with most intensity, so that no-one is left behind.
We have a whole range of activities that we can do together with administrations, devolved administrations, but also Parliament, so there's a wide range of activities. I will ask my colleagues to share with your committee all the information, so that you can also share it out to your constituents, and these are available free for any councillor and any council that wants them. If a council has a large community of EU citizens and they want them to make sure that they get the information, they can call on us and we can try to provide all that support.
My presence there and that of some of my colleague ambassadors will be another way of making it more visible, and if I can talk to the Government or Members of the Assembly, this will be a way to raise awareness so that the media are attracted, they talk about it, we can talk directly to our citizens. I think we have very little time and a very difficult situation because of the pandemic, so we need to be even more proactive these days.
Yes. Thank you for what you're doing. Just quickly, Chair, it might be wise to—I mean, in Wales, local authorities are probably best placed to reach out to those people, I would have thought, and are more likely to know where they are. So, it would be good to feed that information right through our devolved Senedd, right down to the local authorities in Wales. That would be my suggestion. Thanks.
Yes. Local authorities and local councils are one of our privileged partners, and we've done a lot with them. But it also has to come bottom up. We cannot ourselves directly reach all the councils in the country. So, whatever you can do to help us on that is most welcome, to say, 'These guys can provide assistance, these guys can provide advice. They have means to help your constituents get the information they need.' So, let's all try to improve the situation.
Thanks. Thanks, Chair.
Thank you. Before I move on to David, a question: the grace period is obviously of deep concern, particularly as a consequence of the pandemic and the consequences arising from the pandemic, and, as you said, you're having discussions at this point in time, with the Home Office, to see what that means and how that could look for citizens. Are you also having discussions with the devolved nations so that the same message can be sent from different avenues? Because it affects every one of us. We all want to have the same thing, we all want to ensure EU citizens are secured and they are comfortable in their homes and they are not fearful of not having that type of status. So, are you having those conversations with the devolved Governments, particularly the Welsh Government, for our purposes, to ensure that perhaps a similar message is being sent to the Home Office about how we can help both sides?
Yes. I raised the issue with all the First Ministers I met, and I met the Welsh First Minister, I met the Scottish one, and I met one of the two First Ministers in Northern Ireland, and the message was the same: let's join efforts to, first, make sure that the maximum number of people apply within time. Secondly, if ever there are, for different reasons—and, at the time, already we knew that we had the pandemic—if there is an effect—. And the impact of the pandemic, we need to have the Home Office being reactive to that situation. And that's the message that we want to continue to convey to the Home Office.
I also work with the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and their committees are quite interested by this, and we've been discussing with a number of Members there and Chairs of committees, and they are quite aware and quite committed to it. I found a very receptive atmosphere in both the Commons and Lords to this. So, I think we are trying to do—and, again, it's not only me; it's my team, but also the 27 ambassadors, particularly the countries that have most imports and communities, they are very active. And I know that some of them have visited Wales, virtually or physically, and I would definitely encourage you and your colleagues to engage with them as well. This has to be a collective effort, otherwise, what happens otherwise is you will have difficult situations to manage after June. And it would be terrible if, after Brexit, we are in the situation where deportation is an issue. That would be very sad for the relationship between the EU and UK. I think that the last thing we want to see are these kinds of issues appearing. So, let's try. There will be some difficult situations to handle—there are always. I just want to limit that to a very reduced number, and so limit the negative impact, and that is the main agenda for the coming months.
Thank you. David.
Good afternoon, ambassador. I think, first of all, we ought to take a positive look at what's actually happening. Did you catch my first remarks, please, ambassador?
Did you catch my first remarks there?
Yes, yes, I did.
Yes. Okay, fine. Thank you. I think we should take some positives out of it, and it's down to the excellent work of both the EU and the UK Government with regard to this. You mentioned 4.5 million out of the estimated 4.8 million people have already registered—so, that's very important. But, of course, there is a great concern about those people, now, who may be being left behind.
So, I'm wondering if we could just discuss the post-June deadlines. Would you be in favour of some of sort of amnesty? Because what worries me about this is that a large number of those people who do not register may well be or feel that they're here in some illegal capacity. Now, that, obviously, makes them very vulnerable as well in that state, so perhaps an amnesty might be an idea, so that they would feel far more confident in coming forward and registering with you. Would you be willing to pursue that with the UK Government?
I think we are—. Thank you very much for your question and your suggestion. We will be looking at the situation as it develops. For the moment, our priority is to reduce the potential scope of problems by enlarging the scope of outreach of the settlement status—or pre-settlement, in this case. So, that is our focus right now. The second focus is to pass a message that we should try to avoid a too strict implementation of the grace period, particularly given the pandemic's impact and how much it has disturbed our lives—and so a more flexible reaction to that situation from the British authorities. And then we'll see where we are exactly at that point in time, aiming at reducing the degree of situations that will be detrimental to the quality of our relationship. I think that's as far as I can go at this stage, but, of course, ideas like yours, if you want to pursue them, we'll be following them very, very attentively as well. This is how we intend to pursue in the coming months.
And this will—as we approach the deadline and the end of the grace period—depend a little bit upon how COVID evolves as well, but we may find ourselves in a situation where we need to reassess after a couple of months, depending on the impact of COVID on the different situations I mentioned earlier, and how much it impacts negatively on our citizens in their pursuit of settlement status. So, I would conclude my reply to you by saying, 'Let's keep the situation under review.' That's certainly what we're going to do—assess the situation month by month, and see how we can adapt the response. But, so far, overall, the response from the Home Office has been fairly good and co-operative, but we are approaching more difficult moments where difficult decisions will have to be taken. And I hope that the scope of the problem will be as narrow as possible, and we need to look at all the opportunities we have to achieve that goal.
Thank you. Huw.
A very big welcome to you, ambassador; great to see you in role. We should reciprocate by saying, as well, that, certainly, we'd welcome the opportunity—COVID allowing—to come back and meet with you as well. Just my regards as well to your own home nation. I've got fond memories of travelling as a young person through northern and central Portugal—a beautiful country, and I hope to get back there at some point, COVID allowing.
Two questions to ask you, ambassador. The first one is very much a, 'What more can we do?' question. There have been tremendous efforts by Welsh Government to work with wider civic society to get the message out there to some difficult-to-reach groups about the settlement process, and, in fact, there's been great achievement through that. There really has. So, working through Polish communities on the ground, working through Welsh-Italian communities, including my own family connections on the ground in the Swansea and the south Wales Valleys areas. But I share your worry that, as we've heard in evidence to this committee before, there will be some who are extremely vulnerable and hard to reach who will fall outside the message, and there will also be some—and I do declare an interest here, Chair—including in my own family, who have been here for decades and decades, paid their taxes, and have settled, and have brought up not just children, but grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and might be wondering, 'This surely doesn't apply to me.' So, my question to you on that is: we'll continue doing the work within Wales as much as we can to get that message out through families and civic connections and so on—is there anything that can be done in the European home nations to also drive that message through people who have left their families to work here, even in the current generation, to make sure that they are talking to others to say, 'Please, please, complete your settlement status'?
My other question is this, ambassador, and it's a bigger one. I was surprised the other day, I have to say, that, for whatever reason, UK Government had decided not, at this moment, at least, to grant full ambassadorial status. Now, for whatever reason that is—. And it just seems to me remarkable; the EU currently has 143 delegations, I think, around the world, all of them have full—full—diplomatic status. So, I think, hopefully, this will work itself out, but it's a practical question linked to that I want to ask you. Does that cause any difficulties or challenges in the scope of the things that we're trying to do and achieve here that you've laid out today, or is it simply more a question of the status and so on? If it's practical difficulties, we'd really want to know about that, because I think we'd want to make those representations then through our Welsh Government Ministers to UK Ministers to say, 'Sort this out. We can't be the only country in the world that doesn't grant full ambassadorial status to our nearest and most significant trading and socioeconomic partner.'
Well, thank you very much. Thank you for your kind words and all the different points you mentioned. Let me take one at a time. With regard to Portugal, you visited the north and the centre, you still have the south to visit, so you are invited to come further south and visit my home town, Lisboa, which is a beautiful town, I'm sure you will enjoy it, and come further down to the Algarve, where I spend my summer holidays; it's a nice place as well. So, there's plenty still for you to see in Portugal, and it's equally pleasant. Thank you for your interest in my country.
Regarding the Welsh Government, I think they're doing a good job, to be very frank. I think all the echoes I have from my team are very positive. My visit in September went extremely well, and what I agreed with the First Minister is that we would try—and we have positioned a visit in March also, because you have elections, or, in principle, you will have elections in May and all that. We don't want to get involved in that, of course, but what we envisage doing is some public activities between the Government and us, but also with your own body, so that this becomes even more visible and that we can, again, reach out to involve an even more important number of people.
You mentioned one point that is important. I didn't mention it, because it's not necessarily related to pandemics and law, and it's a larger issue, which is that some people don't even realise that they have to do it, because they feel so much integrated into Britain, into the UK, into Wales, that it doesn't even cross their minds that they are concerned by it, that they are the object of this operation, and that, if they don't do it, they might find themselves in a difficult situation, which will be, of course, incredibly unfair. That's one of the main points. That's one of the main points, and people need to realise that, if they have to do it, they'd better do it, because otherwise problems will come down the road. So, I very much agree with that, and that we can only solve that by spreading information, by reaching out to even those people that feel very and totally integrated in their host country.
Now, the work with our member states is at an important point. I think we're doing a number of things there, through our embassies particularly, to reach out in our own countries so that the information comes back to those who are in Britain, or to those who are thinking of coming to Britain, or were thinking of coming before 31 December. So, there's a lot being done on that front, and I think it's a very good idea. I will come back to my colleague ambassadors with that point in our next meeting, so that they can do more about it.
Your last point about myself and my delegation; let me say that we are still discussing with the UK authorities about the status. When we start a relationship with a third country, which is the case now with the UK, one of the issues that always has to happen in diplomatic relations is to establish the conditions of the order, the activity of an embassy of a diplomatic mission in a different country. This is standard procedure in international relations; this is a technical issue, this is done between protocol services and legal services. We have been discussing for some time, but we have not yet reached an agreement. And in the process of discussing this, a number of letters were exchanged, and one letter was made available to the media and that's how the issue came back to the news last week.
So, our hope is that we can find the appropriate solutions in the coming negotiations that we hope to start very soon. I'll keep on doing my work. I'm not prevented from doing anything right now, but I hope we can find an understanding that is in line with, as you said, what 142 other countries do around the world. And I've been to the US and to the UN, and I have colleagues again throughout the world where it is recognised that the EU is—[Inaudible.]—elements in it that support this particular status. But I'm hopeful that we can find a solution very soon and we look forward to that. In the meantime, we'll continue to do our work, and I will continue to do my work, together with you and many other partners, and I'm sure we can achieve good and common goals.
Thank you, ambassador, and, from what I gathered, the question Huw raised was whether that would have a practical impact upon you, and, from your answer, I gather there is no practical impact upon you being able to deliver and work to ensure that people are able to get that representation, and the much effort you can put in with other Governments and the UK Government to get awareness. That's not being impacted upon at all.
No, because we are now covered by a particular protocol that is a temporary one between accession of membership of the union and fully diplomatic status of our delegation, and that allows me to do my job as well as I can. But, of course, we need to find a long-term solution, and we hope it will be in line with traditional practice.
Thank you for that, and thank you for your time. We've come to the end of our session.
Thank you very much for attending today. It's been very helpful, very interesting for us to understand how you are working with Governments and other community groups to ensure that your message is got out to as many people as possible and what we can do to help with that. And perhaps the fact that you've indicated you will, hopefully, be meeting the First Minister sometime in March—we may well raise with him as well as to what he is doing to work with your office to ensure we get to that point. And I think the COVID question you raised is a very important one that we need to perhaps ensure the Welsh Government also puts in its message to the UK Government, that this is beyond everyone's control, beyond the citizens' control, and really we need to be working with citizens not to put the barriers in their place, and if it means, if we can't get an extension for the period of grace, then that's what we should be looking at, to allow everyone to have the opportunity to meet what they would have probably met without it.
Yes. Thank you very much. Thank you, again.
We'll send you a copy of the transcript of the session. If there are any factual inaccuracies, please let my clerking team know as soon as possible and we'll have them corrected.
Thank you very much.
Nice seeing you, sir. All the best to you.
Thank you. Bye. And for colleagues now, we will go into a short break until—. We're due to start at 3 o'clock. But if we can go five minutes over, shall we start at 3.05 p.m.? Everyone be back just before 3.05 p.m., so we can get everything sorted out. Okay.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:54 ac 15:07.
The meeting adjourned between 14:54 and 15:07.
I welcome back the Members and the public to this afternoon's session of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee. We move on to item 3 of the agenda, and this evidence session is looking at Wales and the world, and perhaps the future position of Wales in the world following the end of the transition period and the agreement between the EU and the UK. Our evidence session today is, can I welcome Professor Catherine Barnard from the University of Cambridge; Sir Emyr Jones Parry; Professor Anand Menon from King's College London; and Dr Rachel Minto from Cardiff University? Can I welcome you all back, because you've all given evidence before to this committee? So, it's nice to see you all, even though it's in a virtual mode this time around.
Obviously, there's a lot to discuss, and since we last met the world has changed quite dramatically, and I don't mean COVID, but because of the situation regarding the agreement, the deal and where we are now moving towards as far as relationships with other nations as well. So, I think we want to move straight on to that, and we'll open up questions with Dai Lloyd.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd, a phrynhawn da ichi i gyd. Ie, wel, yn dilyn beth mae'r Cadeirydd newydd ei ddweud, cwestiwn cyffredinol i agor, i'r pedwar ohonoch chi yn y bôn. Nawr, wrth gwrs, rydyn ni yn Senedd Cymru, rydyn i'n eistedd ar hyn o bryd, ond cawsom ni ein hethol yn 2016 ac yn naturiol, o gael ein hailethol eto ym mis Mai eleni, fe fydd y cyd-destun ym mis Mai eleni cryn dipyn o wahanol i'r cyd-destun nôl yn 2016. Felly, allwch chi jest ddweud yn gyffredinol beth ddylai blaenoriaethau Senedd Cymru fod yn y Senedd nesaf, a blaenoriaethau Llywodraeth Cymru yn y Senedd nesaf? Dwi ddim yn gwybod pwy sydd eisiau dechrau ar hwnna.
Thank you very much, Chair, and a very good afternoon to you all. Following on from the Chair's comments, I have a general question to all four of you. Now, of course, we are in the Welsh Parliament, we're currently sitting, but we were elected in 2016, and were we to be re-elected in May of this year, then the context will be very different to the context back in 2016. So, can you just tell us in general terms what the priorities of the Welsh Parliament should be in the next Senedd, and what should the Welsh Government's priorities be too? I don't know who'd like to kick off.
What I'm going to do, simply because of the way I see my screen, to keep its organisation, I'm going to work across my screen. So, Rachel, you are first; Emyr, you are second; Professor Barnard third, and then Professor Menon fourth. Is that okay?
Many thanks for the invitation to join you today, and also for the question. So, keeping in my mind that I'm thinking about Wales in the world, one of the things now, obviously, that we have to acknowledge is that we are now working within the context of a new agreement and a new relationship between the UK and European Union. We now have a UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement, so, really, what is going to be key now is to really understand that agreement and all the implications that flow from it, to refresh and reset relationships in that new context. So, for various actors within Wales, that will mean refreshing relationships with the UK Government, also as part of the raft of different committees and working groups that have been established as part of the trade and co-operation agreement, and also refreshing and reconfiguring those relationships [correction: reconfiguring relationships] with the European Union, the institutions, civil society organisations, member states and member state regions within that new context.
I couldn't hear you, Chair.
No, I was muted and then unmuted, and then I was muted again by the host.
We couldn't hear him either.
So, Emyr, over to you.
Cadeirydd, diolch am y gwahoddiad. Diolch am y cwestiwn hefyd. Mae'n bwysig iawn, dwi'n meddwl, cael diddordebau Cymru yn erbyn pethau rhyngwladol i weld beth ddylem ni wneud nawr mewn amgylchiadau sy'n hollol wahanol.
Chair, thank you for the invitation to join you today, and thank you for the question. I think it's very important to hold Wales's interests up against international affairs to consider what we should do now, in circumstances that are transformed.
That is to say I think we are all going to have to work so much harder, we're going to have less influence in this world than we had, fewer organisations within an institution within which we have a natural part, so we've got to crack on. And I want us to focus in an international strategy on things that are of interest to Wales, not for altruistic reasons but what will bring benefit to our nation. Wales needs to promote itself far better. We need to respond to global challenges and play our part in that. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we are all caught—none of us are immune. We have to identify those interests, define what I would regard as the distinctive qualities of Wales and what that means in terms of promoting our nation.
The first priority for me internationally—I'll define that as external to Wales—so, the first priority ought to be relations with Her Majesty's Government, the British Government, and the other nations of the kingdom. I'm happy to take questions on that, but I think that's of paramount importance. We need to use the soft power we have, and we have lots of instruments to do so, but they need to be mobilised. And it's not just Government; it's third sector, universities, non-governmental organisations, business, you name it. People have to be engaged in this exercise.
There needs to be long-term planning and investment provided. We need strategies for wider participation and to bring home why Wales, which has always been an internationally oriented country, why we need to do that for own interests, but the benefits it brings to anyone engaged, and those benefits go to the person who's collecting for, say, the deprived in any part of Africa at the moment, to business having to sell in markets. All those things impact internationally and they're important.
We need to make far better use of British institutions. We have to hold the British Government far more to account for what it does on behalf of Wales. My final point would be to encourage Welsh institutions and organisations to collaborate internationally for the opportunities available. That means cracking on and taking every opportunity to do so, under a strategy brought together, with Government playing a leading role, but not dictating to all, and actually enabling everybody to play their part against other strategies that are, of course, so relevant in terms of the economy and other things, but which have international implications and touch on the intrinsic interests of Wales, its people, its industries, et cetera.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much.
Thank you. Professor Barnard.
Thank you very much indeed for this. I would like to make two broad comments, one building on the point made by Emyr and one unrelated. The point building on the observations currently made by Emyr is that the most important thing for the Senedd and for the Welsh Government in the next two to three months is to make sure that their voice is heard in the establishment of the partnership council, which is the new committee that will co-ordinate relations between the EU and the UK, and, secondly, how the Welsh voice will be heard on the 18 specialised trade committees, plus the four sub-groups, and furthermore, whether the Senedd will have a voice in any parliamentary assembly that is being set up between the EU and the UK. It's interesting that the treaty seems to envisage it should be a Westminster issue, but, nevertheless, it's clearly extremely important for Wales that the Welsh voice is heard. I think it's not just to make sure that the Welsh voice is heard on those committees, but also the Welsh Government and the Parliament/Senedd needs to be able to scrutinise what is coming out of those committees.
The other issue for Wales is whether it decides to follow in Scotland's footsteps and carry on mirroring quite a lot of EU legislation, or whether it intends to go separate and plough a separate furrow. And if it does intend to mirror any EU legislation going forward, how will you be able to scrutinise that legislation at the proposal stage before it gets onto the statue book? So, that's my first strand of observations.
The second is totally unrelated, but it's a legal observation. The trade and co-operation agreement is an immensely complex legal text. I have spent many, many hours looking at it, and I really struggle to understand tracts of it. In fact, what you are going to have to invest in in Wales, as we will in England and in universities as a whole, is to carry on teaching EU law because, of course, there is going to be a strong strand of EU law that is part of domestic law, but also World Trade Organization law, upon which much of this treaty is based. You need to have the tools of WTO law and tools of free trade agreement law to be able to understand this text, and also a deep understanding of what the TCA actually means for Wales. Thank you very much.
Thank you. Professor Menon.
Just in terms of the specifics of the question, which is the priorities, I think, come May, if the elections take place in May, we're going to be absolutely swamped by the COVID economic crisis that will gradually replace the COVID public health crisis. So, I think, first and foremost, we probably shouldn't exaggerate the extent to which strategic thinking now is going to have any bearing on what we're doing, because I think we're all going to be scrabbling come Easter and after Easter to deal with what is the largest unemployment crisis the country has faced since the 1980s. So, whilst everything my colleagues have said is absolutely true, I would just sound a salutary note about the fact that there might not actually be a lot of bandwidth around, given the scale of the economic problems we'll almost certainly be facing, to do much in the way of broader, more strategic, more thought-out things, because I think it might well be all hands to the pumps.
Thank you for that, and I'm pleased that you actually mentioned that, because I think it's important we also recognise that COVID is going to be an agenda item for us in the months ahead of us, and how, as you say, the economic recovery will also impact on everything we do. Dai.
Diolch yn fawr iawn am yr ymatebion yna i gyd ac, wrth gwrs, yn y dilyn y pwynt diwethaf yna am yr heriau sylweddol mae COVID yn eu rhoi i bawb, wrth gwrs, mae hefyd gadael Ewrop, yn enwedig gyda Deddf y farchnad fewnol, yn rhoi heriau i hyd yn oed fodolaeth y Senedd yma hefyd, yn ogystal â bodolaeth Cymru fel cenedl. Felly, mae yna sawl her sydd yn dod efo'i gilydd yn fan hyn gan ein bod ni i weld yn colli pwerau o dan Ddeddf y farchnad fewnol.
Yng nghyd-destun beth rydym ni'n sôn amdano y prynhawn yma—Cymru a'r byd—jest i arbrofi ychydig bach, dwi'n credu y buasech chi'n cytuno fel y grŵp o arbenigwyr, ei bod hi'n bwysicach fyth rŵan fod Cymru yn ymdrechu yn ddewrach i gael sylw rhyngwladol, o gofio'r cyd-destun o adael Ewrop ac ati, ac yn seiliedig ar beth rydych chi newydd ei ddweud. Sut fuasech chi—[Anghlywadwy.]—a'r byd rhyngwladol o ochr y Llywodraeth yma yng Nghymru, neu gael cyfres o strategaethau sydd yn seiliedig ar wahanol feysydd neu ar wahanol bynciau penodol, megis beth mae Senedd a Llywodraeth yr Alban yn eu gwneud efo'u strategaeth Arctig nhw? Beth fuasai'r ffordd orau o fynd ymlaen, achos mae'n mynd i fod yn her sylweddol, pwy bynnag sydd yn llywodraethu ar ôl mis Mai eleni, a dwi'n derbyn, a dwi'n credu ein bod ni i gyd yn derbyn, y cyd-destun yna? Ond, yn y bôn, o sylw rhyngwladol i Gymru sydd, fel dŷch chi wedi sôn eisoes, wastad wedi bod yn wlad ryngwladol ei golwg, sut ydyn ni'n mynd i gryfhau hynna yn wyneb yr holl heriau sy'n ein hwynebu ni? Un strategaeth fawr ryngwladol, ynteu cyfres o rai sydd yn seiliedig ar wahanol faterion o bwys? Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you for those responses and, of course, following on from that final point on the significant challenges posed by COVID, exiting the European Union, along with the internal market Act, poses some threats to the very existence of this Senedd, as well as to the existence of Wales as a nation. So, there are a number of challenges coming together here as we do seem to be losing powers under the internal market Act.
In the context of what we're discussing this afternoon—namely Wales and the world—if I could just push you a little, I think you would agree, as a group of experts, that it's paramount now that Wales does strive for influence on the international stage, given that we have left the European Union, and based on what you've just said. So, how would you—[Inaudible.] Now, in terms of the Welsh Government, do you believe that it's wise to have a series of multiple issue-focused international strategies, such as the approach taken by the Scottish Government with its Arctic strategy? What would be the best approach in your view, because it is going to be a significant challenge, whoever is in government after May of this year, and I think we all accept that context? But, in looking at Wales's international profile—and you've already mentioned that Wales has always had that international outlook—how can we strengthen that in the face of all of the challenges we face? Should we have one overarching international strategy or a series of issue-focused strategies? Thank you very much.
Right. Shall we go in the same order as we had last time, and then I'll reverse the order next time? So, Rachel.
Thank you. Well, I suppose what is important is that form follows function in a case like this. And, obviously, what the Welsh Government have opted for so far is to have that overarching international strategy and then they're developing a number of action plans; I believe there are four action plans in place at the moment. So, my one key observation here—and then I'll pass over to my colleagues—is the notable difference between that [correction: between the] draft international strategy that, actually, I discussed with the committee in a round-table last year or the year before last [correction: a round-table the year before last], and this iteration, the final international strategy, which is that [correction: in that] there is now a much clearer place for Europe and the European Union in the international strategy. And that is something that, I think, is of benefit when it comes to gaining clarity around where the Welsh Government is going and the organisations that will also be supported through Welsh Government action, where they [correction: and where Welsh Government] will be targeting their efforts. Now, beyond that, I'm afraid I don't have any strong views. I will hand over to my colleagues on the panel.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. I think we can worry too much about what we call things and whether it's an overall or if it's bits. For me, what matters is Wales needs to—picking up what Professor Barnard said—identify interest and then what is the message and to whom. And that voice has to be delivered, and the people to whom we're delivering it have to be held to account for how much notice they take of it. And, frankly, the negotiations in the past have demonstrated the scant interest that London has taken in what's happening in the devolved nations or, indeed, in parts of England. So, I want to focus on London and what I expect of the British Government and British institutions. I take that as a priority.
Secondly are the economic interests, be they agriculture and particular problems coming from the agreement, be it industry and how we are exporting and how that is working, and what's actually happened in terms of future arrangements. Crucially, what's happening in universities, what's happening through research and development co-operation, how are we getting involved in Horizon Europe? It's presented as a great success, but the way I read it, there were three legs to Horizon Europe and we may be involved in one and a bit of them. Certainly, we will have very little influence on either strategy or choice of projects, and the amount of money we can get is limited. So, it's nothing like the panacea it's been made out to be, but yet, that research collaboration and the co-operation between university staff and students have been of great value to Wales and I want to keep it. And, of course, the structural funds and what they represented, and how research capacity in Wales really came on very dramatically post 2015, because of structural fund contributions. What's going to happen with the shared prosperity fund? Much heralded, promised details; very little emerging and, I suspect, a deliberate plan to make sure that the benefits of actually dispersing money from it to go to London and not to the devolved administrations, and yet it is they that, for most part, have the competence in actually extending it. So, getting at the financing, I think, is quite crucial. And although I agree with Professor Anand Menon about what's coming down the pipe in terms of the economy, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it can't be band aid and nothing else. We have to look beyond that and try and see what are the areas that are of interest and likely benefit to Wales, what needs to be done. And that's why I think the international aspect matters.
Thinking of tomorrow's industries and the things that are likely to come to the forefront—coming from climate change, the need for sustainable development—the issues we can identify quite easily. What's going to happen about regulation? And I would appeal to you, as Members of the Senedd, that where you are likely to be legislating, please let's not make it restrictive, in the natural tendency that's been in Wales in the past, or it might be an English reaction, which is to say, 'Well, I want legislation that shows I'm independent of the EU.' Let's have legislation that is forward looking. And in terms of all of the things we can think of, and the expertise in Cardiff University in particular in terms of stem cells and a whole bunch of technology there, can we think how we can legislate productively and constructively? And staying close to Brussels, because I'm very conscious that developments out there in Brussels will affect what happens to us to a great extent. So, keeping aware of all those things is quite crucial.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much.
Thank you. Professor Barnard.
I would say the following. First of all, there is going to be a chronic shortage of capacity for COVID-related reasons, because so much governmental and executive energy will be spent responding to the ongoing COVID crisis. Which brings me to my second point, which is that you need to focus on the things that are of particular interest to Wales, rather than trying to cover all bases. And to my mind, that would be agriculture, education—Emyr has already spoken broadly about that—culture, and I would put the resources into those areas that are of particular interest to Wales, rather than trying to spread yourself too thinly. Thirdly, I would say your focus should be on London, London, London in order to try and really get Westminster to appreciate how little attention the devolved administrations have had as part of the negotiations of the trade and co-operation agreement. And the fact is that if the TCA genuinely is going to govern our relationship with the EU for the next 30 or so years, then you need to make sure that your voice is heard as soon as possible on all of those key committees.
My fourth point is about how much time should be devoted to Brussels and capitals in other member states. I would say, yes, of course, it is absolutely imperative that you have some representation in Brussels, because so much now is done by Brussels and not the member states. I would not recommend you put significant resource into capitals in Prague and Bratislava, because they also do not have much capacity and they rely on the EU to do a lot of the work for them. The capital I would, however, put a lot of resource into is Dublin, both for geographic reasons and cultural reasons, but also, as my colleagues in Norway and other non-EU member states tell me, because they're not at the table they have to find out, through drinking a lot of coffee and probably stronger stuff with civil servants from sympathetic members states, what on earth is going on. And Dublin would seem to be a very logical place for Wales to devote its resource. Thank you.
Thank you. We seem to have lost the connection at the moment to Professor Anand Menon so, Dai, do you have any more questions?
No, happy—back to you, Chair.
Okay, then, David, you have a set of questions.
Yes. It's clear that the Welsh Government is intent on increasing its presence in the EU member states over the next five years in order to ensure that the EU remains Wales's strongest partner. Does the panel agree with this approach, or does the panel feel now that Wales ought to be looking on a global basis, given the diaspora we have in many countries throughout the world, and indeed contact with the Commonwealth—that, if Wales is to become a truly global nation, it ought to be exploiting those areas as well?
Professor Barnard, since you basically answered certain elements of that question in the last answer, do you want to add anything more to that? Okay. Sir Emyr.
I agree, Chair, with Professor Barnard's priorities. Institutions, yes, and the thing about Brussels is there's a milieu—everyone else is gathered around Brussels, so the cross-fertilisation, the other people you meet, is actually very important. Dublin—quite right. I note that the Learned Society of Wales has established a Celtic alliance with the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh precisely where there's a commonality of interest.
What I would say is it's quite easy to be an ambassador, because you have a status, and, if you are the ambassador sitting in Brussels, you sit at the table. If you're the Welsh Government representative sitting in, say, Paris, it's a much more difficult job, because you don't have a role. If you have a status, people want to come to talk to you, it's much easier. To be a Welsh representative elsewhere is not easy, and it requires, really, people who are attuned to it—so, it isn't the extrovert—but have clear messages of what they're trying to deliver and what they're trying to find out, which means giving them terms of reference that are clear and set by Government, and are held to account for what they actually do.
The point about the diaspora outside the EU—yes, but, actually, getting hold of, identifying, and motivating the diaspora is itself a challenge. But I would say that, in terms of inward investment and the economic aspect, you can't, of course, ignore the United States, and particular parts of the United States. I would say South Korea and other destinations in Asia are really quite important.
Well, I've got only a little bit to add to—. Sorry. I've got a little bit to add to what Catherine and Sir Emyr have already said. I'm sympathetic with their positions. I think it's worth remembering that Brussels is also an important site for inter-governmental relations, and this is where we've seen really successful—as in inter-governmental relations between the Governments within the UK. So, we have successful examples, good examples of successful inter-governmental working taking place over in Brussels. So, that will be [correction: will continue to be] an important role for the Welsh Government office in Brussels, ongoing in the context of the TCA.
Otherwise, this is really about the profiling of Wales internationally and where it sits—really, the extent to which it should profile itself as a European nation or understand itself more globally, and whether those things are mutually exclusive, which I don't think they are. I think what's important to note is, at the moment, those relationships [correction: those relationships with Europe] do exist, and there are strong relationships between different institutions in Wales and different institutions in Europe, including, for example—. Hopefully, we'll come on to civil society organisations later on, but let me take this as an example. As it stands, the Welsh civil society sector is really plugged into the European Union and the European political system. It gives them the opportunity to engage with, build partnerships with, like-minded organisations that share their values and have common policy objectives. So, it's a very useful site for exchange, and those relationships—given the length of time that the UK has been a member of the European Union, those relationships do exist now.
Thank you. And Professor Menon, just to restate the question, it was focusing on the Welsh Government's intention to increase its presence in the EU, and particularly member states over the next five years, and should that be the right approach, or should we be looking beyond that into the wider global marketplace, given that the diaspora of Wales really is global?
Firstly, apologies. My Wi-Fi, I think, has had enough of lockdown and is basically giving up the ghost.
I think all the Wi-Fis have had enough of lockdown. [Laughter.]
I don't see the two as mutually exclusive, to be honest. I think, if you're promoting a Welsh global presence, you should do so both within the EU—there are specific issues, obviously, within the EU, and I'm just thinking about last week and the Erasmus issue; obviously, there's a different sort of debate with the European Union—but more broadly too. But I think as well what is absolutely crucial is that obviously the Senedd and the Welsh Government should play a role in this, but the more joined-up these approaches can be, so that they include Westminster MPs and, crucially, Welsh businesses, the more effective they're going to be. So, this needs to be a sort of all-Wales approach, as it were, because you need to leverage the contacts, the resources, the networks that are enjoyed by all those who have an interest in promoting Wales in this way. So, I wouldn't see it narrowly as a Welsh Government agenda; I would try and bring together a broader coalition.
Okay, thank you. David.
Yes. Well, thank you for that. I think we're all in agreement that we keep as many of the institutional connections as we possibly can, but it's interesting to see that very few of you have mentioned anything about the economic—apart from the colleague who's just mentioned that now—side of our relationship with the European Union. But, if we can move on, could we have your views on the basis the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement provides for devolved engagement in its implementation, governance and revision?
Professor Barnard, if I start with you, because you clearly reflected upon this earlier, and perhaps you want to expand upon that a little bit.
Well, thank you, yes. What's striking about the TCA, the trade and co-operation agreement, is how relatively little it makes any reference to the devolved—indeed, I can't find the word 'devolved' there at all, but what you can find is reference to regional Government. And perhaps the most important provision in this respect is the provision of point 5. Now, as you may or may not know—I don't know if you've had a look at the TCA, but the numbering is pretty rebarbative, and it's quite difficult to navigate your way around, but if you want to—. And at the moment, each bit has got some letters and then a number after it, and in the section 'OTH', point 5—it's on page 283 of the version I was looking at; the page numbers themselves are somewhat different between the EU and the UK versions—it does say that each party shall ensure compliance by central, regional or local Government with the requirements of the TCA. So, it clearly does anticipate that regional or local Governments will have a role in giving effect to the provisions in the TCA. It also recognises in the services section, which goes by the name of 'SERVIN', 2.3 or 2.7, how regional Governments can be challenged for nonconforming, but the ultimate liability rests with the party, which would be the UK on our side of the agreement. So, the TCA itself doesn't seem to envisage too much of a role for regional Government.
The one other point I just want to draw to your attention: the only other reference I could find to regional Government was in respect of what are called 'safeguard measures'—and, if you want the reference, it's 'INST', for institutions, point 36, which is on page 421—and that is about if there is a particular problem, socioeconomic problem, caused by the treaty, you can temporarily pull the plug and seek safeguard measures—so, if Wales is being particularly affected in some way. Now, you might recall that already Northern Ireland are trying to—. The DUP have suggested that the equivalent provision in the Northern Ireland protocol, article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, should be invoked because of the problems that Northern Ireland is having in respect of trade. There is that possibility, but the bottom line, in answer to your question, is that the agreement is very much an international agreement between two sovereign parties, i.e., the UK on the one hand and the EU acting on behalf of the 27 on the other, and so does not, unlike the TFEU—the treaty on the functioning of the European Union—contain significant provisions on regional diversity and the benefits thereof.
Okay, thank you. Professor Menon.
That was a valiant effort by Catherine, but I'd start with the final point, which is that, ultimately, however carefully you parse the text, most of the ability of Wales to impinge on this is going to go via Westminster and what the British Government decides to do. You can find small openings here and there maybe, but ultimately—and predictably, given the nature of this Government—this has been written in such as way as to ensure that it is London that decides, ultimately, on what goes on.
Okay. I might well come back to you on that one. Okay. Thank you. Sir Emyr.
Mr Rowlands, I'm not sure if we failed to say that the economy mattered enough—the last comment that we hadn't mentioned it. I want to make it clear that I think Professor Barnard and I, and others, have made it clear that the economic interests of Wales are paramount—agriculture, but also all the industrial exports that we have. Sixty per cent of our manufactures go to the EU, and they've got to be covered, and that's why the relationship with London is so important.
There's a certain view in London that we're always, in terms of devolution, talking about the regions. Somehow it sticks in certain throats to use the word 'nations', and that's reflected, of course, in the agreement. What Professor Barnard described—and I haven't ventured into that detail, but it seems to me that two things stand out. One is what Professor Menon has just said, that the external responsibility for foreign affairs and defence is vested in the British Government, so they negotiate. That stands out. And the second one is that the arrangement that pertained in terms of EU implementation and the obligations in successive Government of Wales Acts, et cetera, for legislation to have to be consistent with what the EU had set out—that's not very much different from what I've heard now described.
What it does emphasise is the cardinal importance of the relationship with London, and that's why, if you are going to identify an interest, which you have to, it's making sure that that interest is identified and reflected to London, and London held to account. Now, as I've said before, they've taken scant interest in the past in the Welsh or the Scottish interests, but the message has to get across, and it's got to get across for a number of reasons, not least that it really matters to Wales, but, secondly, it should matter to anybody who cares about the United Kingdom, because the manner in which devolution is being put at risk—. And you hear British Ministers saying, 'Well, of course, the advantage of Brexit is that it increases the powers available to the devolved administrations', whereas the views in the devolved administrations appear to be the opposite, that the powers are being further restricted. Certainly, for me, the powers available to Wales, as set out in the Government of Wales Acts, they haven't been increased by any subsequent Act of the British Parliament; the manner in which they are exercised, though, has been.
The reality is that the international negotiations done by the British Government will inevitably, to some extent, impact on the operation and implementation of competences already transferred to Scotland or to Wales or Northern Ireland. It's also the case that, as you exercise in the Senedd and pass legislation in the competences that you have, you are affecting the international aspect of Wales. The conclusion of that should be that, in a sensible political system, one Government would be talking to other Governments, they would take account of and heed the different interests and points made, and there would be a system of co-operation based on political will to make the system operate. But, if there isn't to be one of those, our interests are not going to be reflected and, moreover, the long-term future of the kingdom is actually being brought further at risk.
Dr Minto. You're muted.
Thank you. Obviously, I agree with the contributions of my panel of colleagues. I would just make one additional reflection, and this is not to challenge anything that has been raised previously, but thinking about Wales's future relationship with the European Union and EU institutions, et cetera, it's quite interesting to note the unique position of Wales within the United Kingdom as being very open about wanting to have a strong relationship with the European Union, but doing so within the United Kingdom. And as we know, for the European Union, they deal with nation states. There is a real reluctance to engage in the territorial politics of nation states, so that perhaps puts Wales in quite a strong position to be able to build relationships with the European Union, without the concern on the European Union's side that this is interfering in UK territorial politics. However, I say this absolutely notwithstanding the fact that this is an agreement between the UK and the European Union and, obviously, I defer to Catherine's original intervention.
Thank you. Okay, David?
Thanks very much, Chair.
Before I move on to the questions, I just want to clarify a point on the TCA. Do you believe—Professor Menon, perhaps, on this—that the TCA makes it harder for Wales to stand out as a nation with other EU nations, other EU member states, because of the TCA, because you mentioned that everything is done through Westminster? So, is it harder for us to actually build those relationships up as a separate nation outside in the sense of not simply having to go through Westminster all the time?
The first thing I'd say is that simple non-membership makes it much harder because membership actually opened up loads and loads of different pathways for a whole variety of sub-national entities to engage directly with their counterparts in Brussels. So, the simple fact of not being a member state has closed a number of those pathways but, yes, you can imagine a different sort of UK Government negotiating in all sorts of ways a different sort of agreement with the European Union. From what I understand about the European Union and its attitude to these sorts of questions, I suspect they would have been open to a TCA that more explicitly mentioned sub-national governance, and the need to foster relations between sub-national Governments. That's just not how this Government approaches things. So, yes, I think it's a combination of Brexit and the nature of the treaty that was signed that has closed off several of those avenues that you could imagine ways of opening up in a parallel universe where someone else was negotiating on our behalf.
Okay, thank you. We'll move on to questions from Laura Jones. Laura.
Thank you. Thank you all for being here. Just as a quick response to what you've just said, ultimately, it is a UK issue, isn't it? We could delve into the break-up of the United Kingdom and the devolved administrations, but it is a UK issue however you feel about that. So, they have every right to make it based on that and take the power, I suppose.
I'd just like to ask you—we've already covered this, really, but I wanted to see what your opinions were, and whether you thought the Welsh Government should seek to maintain relationships with EU institutions. I think you've delved into that quite a lot, and also outlined the importance that we concentrate our relationship with the UK as well because, ultimately, that's going to be what we need to concentrate on in the first place, in the first instance. I'd also just like, then, to go on and ask you what you think the role of business and civil society organisations in Wales's engagement with the EU is—how you see that. Rachel Minto has already started that. I just wondered if you could expand on that, please, and everyone else. Thank you.
In that case, let's go to Rachel first.
Thank you. I think I'll pick up that final strand of your question around the participation, particularly of civil society organisations, as I think this is sometimes a set of organisations that can be overlooked. I think it's worth acknowledging the starting point in Wales. We have a Welsh civil society sector that is already highly integrated in the European Union, participates heavily in European networks, has lots of bilateral and multilateral relationships in Europe that have, in part, been consolidated due to the European structural and investment funds that have been coming [correction: that have come] to Wales, but not solely in function of that. I think it's worth noting that since the referendum in 2016, the civil society sector in Wales has been really active in seeking to maintain—. Well, not only maintain. Interestingly, to maintain and to strengthen relationships into Europe, notwithstanding the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, and I point you in the direction of the work of the Wales Civil Society Forum on Brexit, which is a joint venture between the Wales Governance Centre and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, led by Charles Whitmore, and they've done a huge amount of work thinking about those future relationships between the organisations in Wales and the European Union.
Now, as it stands, what we see is a set of values-based organisations that see benefit in being able to exchange information with and stand in solidarity with different civil society organisations across the European Union: to give you some examples, those working in the area of women's rights and gender equality, the rights of children, the rights of disabled people, the environment. It really is a broad set of interest organisations that are very keen to continue to be plugged into the European Union.
Now, on that point, I did just want to pause for a moment and note that in the trade and co-operation agreement, there is provision for the establishment of a civil society forum and domestic advisory groups as part of that civil society infrastructure [correction: as part of an infrastructure for civil society], and this is something that I understand is a 'standard' approach of the European Union as part of their trade agreements. So, this is to allow civil society organisations to be able to reflect upon and share their experiences of the implementation of, in this case, the trade and co-operation agreement. Now, it's going to be really important for civil society organisations in Wales that they are a part of that institutional architecture—as we've spoken about previously—as it's developed in London. So, that is another important route in [correction: another important route into participation], and certainly the civil society sector in Wales will need the support of the devolved institutions in order to be able to fulfil their aspirations of maintaining those European relationships.
Thank you. Would anyone else like to comment?
Thank you. Thank you for the question. Of course, the answer is 'yes'; you do want to retain your relations with the EU institutions as far as possible, and, as I said before, Brussels should be your focus rather than the other capitals, apart from Dublin. On your specific point about the role of business and civil society, as Rachel rightly said, there is this provision in articles INST.6-8 on the participation of civil society. I'm told the UK Government was not enthusiastic about having that in the first place, so if this is something that you are committed to, then it would be important to try and push and take a lead on this and to see what form this participation might take, and crucially, how could it have some effect to make sure that it's not just a talking shop? How does it feed into the whole process? How does it feed into the parliamentary partnership assembly? How does it feed into, crucially, the partnership council? And how does the Welsh voice get heard over the voices of the English civil society organisations, which, no doubt, will be jostling, also, to get their voice at the table?
My next point would be that one of the things that I think Wales could take advantage of, talking about your diaspora, is, of course, outside the areas of the TCA, there's not much to stop you having bilateral arrangements of various sorts—Emyr has already talked about the Learned Society of Wales having a chapter in Dublin. And I think some exploration of mutually beneficial bilateral arrangements would be a good thing.
My final point is that it's crucial that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland co-operate, because it looks like, if you look a Gordon Brown's intervention this morning, there is real concern about the future of the union of the United Kingdom. And it now may be the time that finally, Westminster begins to listen to the devolved regions and therefore, it's important that you speak, not exactly with one voice, but at least you co-ordinate your responses to Westminster, with a view to making sure that the devolved voices are heard.
Thank you. Professor Menon, do you want to add anything to that?
A couple of things, maybe. Firstly, I think it's important that business and civil society organisations maintain networks with similar organisations across the European Union. You don't necessarily have to go through Brussels for these, but I think, maintaining those links—I mean, if you just think about academic networks, which are the ones I know best—maintaining those direct links in the absence of membership. It's going to take slightly more work than it did in the past, but it's not beyond the wit of man to ensure that they keep going and can form the basis for future collaboration.
But I think the point is well made. Ultimately, I think, even though Wales's external profile is very, very important, one of the implications of Brexit is that the relationship with London becomes more important and becomes the fundamental relationship, whether it's in terms of politics and influence, or whether it's in terms of economics. Because one of the things we've seen is things like the shared prosperity fund, the decision making is going to take place in Whitehall about this, and it's very, very important indeed, I think, that the Welsh Government and, indeed, Welsh MPs lobby hard to ensure that some of those resources arrive in Wales. And particularly—
Sir Emyr, do you want to add anything?
I was just going to say, particularly given what Catherine was saying, at a time when the laser-like focus of London is going to be on Scotland because of what's going on there, there is a danger that Wales gets overseen simply because of the perceived urgency of the Scottish situation.
Thank you. Sir Emyr, do you want to add anything to that?
I find myself in total agreement with what both Professor Barnard and Professor Menon said. In terms of other states—forget the institutions, as they're less obvious—Dublin, I agree, is a priority. I just wonder if smaller states, and I would pick out there, Estonia, relationships with countries like that could be useful. Why? If one of our priorities is cyber security, the country that has done spectacularly well on cyber security is Estonia, and establishing a link where there is a commonality of interest may well be very helpful. Much as I find it exotic and interesting to visit the Basque Country and to drink the wine from the Rioja, I don't see the commonality of interest so obvious, other than a shared historical heritage. So, be careful that we're talking about identifying the real interest for the future that applies.
This question of the sub-nation having links with Brussels is sensitive. I think seven member states of the EU have not recognised Kosovo. It's not just Spain that is sensitive about this issue, but where you can identify a commonality of interests and where I believe it's legally possible, I'd like to see Wales pursuing, with the approval of the British Government as a pre-condition, its own relationship with different programmes of the EU. I think we should really hammer this point to see what is possible; I'm thinking especially of Erasmus, where the Turing project is nothing like the same. We have an infrastructure that's there, and if it ain't broke why fix it? But, let's pursue what Wales could do on its own, where the EU countries would say, 'Yes, there'd be benefit to us too to see that done'.
Links with business—yes, I agree with what's been said there totally, and on civil society. But, for business, it's also what you say to London and what London does on your behalf.
Okay. Thank you, all. We'll move on to Huw.
Thank you, Chair. It strikes me that everything we've heard so far, with all of the practical suggestions and the analysis of what's going on, argues the case for a new elite—in the correct use of that term and the good use of that term—diplomatic corps in Wales that is going to need to focus not only on Brussels but on London, but also on targeted nations as well. I think we've done well over the years in strengthening what we've got, but it seems that we are talking about, perhaps, a step change in our approach now in order to influence. Could I ask you, first of all: is there anything that you've left unsaid in terms of the role you would see the Welsh Government having in international negotiations? I take as my starting point that we, here in Wales, would want to maximise the influence we have, albeit recognising what Laura was saying—that some of these competences are primarily for London and Westminster. But, in seeking to maximise our influence, is there anything that you have left unsaid on the things that we should be doing on international negotiations? You don't all have to answer, by the way. Catherine.
Thank you for your question. I would say that, of course, the trade and co-operation agreement has been front and centre of the last year. It's worth remembering, of course, that the UK has negotiated—I use that term with caution—57 or so roll-over agreements with other countries with which it benefited from free trade agreements when it was a member of the European Union. But, of course, the next stage in the strategy will be negotiating trade agreements with other states that don't fall within that group of 57 or so. This is where, I think, your document that you've kindly linked to me is really, actually, very important, and I think some very good thinking has gone on there. The sad thing for me, and, presumably, much more acutely for you, is that some of the aspirations you had, and some of the aspirations that are set out in the memorandum of understanding, have not been followed, as far as I can tell, in respect of the negotiations over the TCA.
So, then, the question is what do you do to try to hold the Government to account over its non-legal commitments in the MOU and, in particular, the key point about any future mandate for any future trade agreement—what role do the devolved administrations have in that. I think one of the points that really stood out for me very starkly on reading this document is the reliance on the CRAG, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, and how that would give time. Of course, we saw just how easily the CRAG was set aside in the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020, which, essentially, said, 'We don't need to comply with the requirements of the CRAG'. So, I think one of the things that it would be sensible for the Welsh Government and the Senedd to be pushing for is for some sort of accountability from Westminster as to how they propose to fulfil what were at least political commitments, which they did disregard in respect of the process leading up to the TCA.
Now, it may be that the TCA was so highly politically sensitive, and because of the very short time limits, for better or for worse, for reasons that we know, things had to be done with the utmost urgency. That might not be the case with other trade agreements, but, of course, the moment you're talking about other trade agreements with the United States or China, all sorts of other highly sensitive issues come into play, particularly for Wales in respect of the US, but any trade deal with China raises other issues too.
I wonder if I could ask you, before I extend the same question—? I'm glad you've taken it into the areas of governance and what can now be done, as we've missed—it's not that we've missed some opportunities, but some opportunities have been missed to bolt this down in terms of governance. I wonder if I could throw it back to you. If we don't have those supplemental mechanisms, having missed some of those opportunities—could I ask you not to speculate, but to give an informed opinion on what that could mean for the voice of Wales in international negotiations and discussions? Again, I reiterate, I'm a former Member of Parliament; I understand that, absolutely, the primacy of some of these issues rests in Westminster. But over 20 years of devolution, there has been—it's fluctuated, but there's been an understanding of the necessity of bolting in through MOUs or other agreements, or new governance arrangements, the voice of Wales. Because, if you lose Wales, it's pretty damn important for Westminster as well. So, what would you say would be the implications of not doing this? Because, otherwise, we're resting, as Emyr was saying, on goodwill between Ministers.
Well, I think you can see it even in the TCA that the devolved administrations' voices were not listened to, because we only need to look at what's happening to the fishing fleets, particularly affected in Scotland. But you know far better than I do about what's happening to the major ports in Wales, and the fact that traffic through the ports is down 50 per cent, 75 per cent. These are really serious implications and issues for those towns and for those parts of Wales. And also, of course, it seems to go against the Westminster Government's commitment to delivering on a levelling-up agenda, because, at the moment, these areas have been hit very badly by the TCA. So, the fact that, de facto, there hasn't been a voice for the devolveds has actually had serious implications for their local communities.
Then the question is how do you get the Westminster Government to agree, when, ultimately, international relations is a reserved matter for Westminster. This touches upon one of the other questions that I'm sure you've been thinking about, and indeed is actually briefly referred to in this paper, which is are there models elsewhere that work well. I think Canada is the one I've looked at. I've come across a very useful paper, which I will link to you if you're interested, about how the different provinces in Canada try and have a say, to a greater or lesser extent, in influencing the federal Government in their trade agreements. But even that admits that, actually, the provinces' voices, despite the fact that quite a lot of resource is put into it, are not listened to as effectively as a number of the provinces would like.
Thank you for that answer. I think you've taken us into that idea of other models that might help us as well. Let me open it out to our other witnesses here as well, with their experience. Would anybody like to add, please, to how we take this forward? Emyr.
Well, firstly, can I welcome your endorsement of the concept of an elite? I share that, provided the elite is excellence and merit based, and not any other basis for it. But following what Professor Barnard said, I just want to emphasise that 57 agreements or so have now been rolled over. We have a new agreement with Japan, which includes a little bit, as I understand it, on intellectual property-type stuff, and access for cheese to use unused EU quota for some residual exports from Britain. That's the sort of extent of it. So, this great opening up, global Britain benefiting, is proving so far to be a figment. But where there are negotiations that hopefully will be more useful, it's vital that there is a process we all understand.
Of course, I wouldn't want to argue that Wales should be represented at the negotiation, but I would argue that the formulation of the mandate for the negotiation should be the subject of discussion. And in the end, somebody's going to have to take a decision, but there has to be an opportunity for Welsh interests to be reflected and a holding to account for the extent to which that interest was reflected, and a communication back as to how the negotiations are proceeding and, in the light of progress, or lack of, where's the Welsh interest. In the past, there was an EU arrangement that covered that to some extent. It worked best for fish, where, in the annual negotiations on the total allowable catch, Scotland in particular was always at the table. But, for the most part, the devolved administrations and nations were not taken into account and it carried on.
Part of this is also the responsibility of the devolved Governments. You have to actually identify your interest and make your points and press them really hard. Wales needs a voice, and the voice needs to be projected loudly, with a follow-up. But there have been too many instances where meetings take place, and at the end, somebody says, 'Well, these are our conclusions'—I never went to a meeting where I had not agreed the conclusions before the meeting and when I was involved in writing those conclusions. But this idea of being bounced into and not being able to actually say, 'I'm insisting on'—. Just look at the arrangements for the automobile industry in the UK, and the whole movement of things back and forth and the immediacy of wanting various things to arrive. That wasn't covered to the extent that real Welsh interests were involved. It's the same for aerospace. So, let's have an opportunity and a system, let's make the voice heard—and that's our responsibility to do that—and then let's hold them to account.
I note the point about Canada, but realpolitik comes in here, because you're finding international negotiations, especially in agriculture. Quebec has a disproportionate impact, but most of the others don't, other than energy as affecting Alberta. The question of size and opportunity to influence and, at the end, somebody saying, 'Well, we're the majority in Ontario and we're going to decide'—. So, getting a system and then applying it with rigour and robustly on the part of Wales—that's our obligation too.
Thank you, Emyr. I know time is running on, Chair, but do we have any other suggestions on the way forward, things that haven't been covered on Wales's voice and role in international negotiations, how it would be represented—things that haven't been touched on yet? No. Okay. Well, in which case, can I ask a final question? Because it's all been really helpful. I still have an issue, by the way, about how we persuade a UK Government of the necessity to take some of this on board from a Wales perspective particularly, but, of course, from a devolved nations perspective, but therein lies the diplomacy of officials and the skills of officials and the expertise of officials, but also Ministers. Could I ask you about the role of the legislatures in scrutiny of this? How should we now—? Whether we have a stronger voice or a weaker voice, how should this legislature be playing its role in scrutinising not only what is going on with Welsh Government Ministers, but the outcomes of international negotiations and how they impact on Wales? How do you see that? How would you describe that?
We can see that you all enthusiastically want to start. So, Professor Menon—you're smiling—and then professor Barnard.
I'm not confident that any such scrutiny is going to have an enormous impact on what Government in Westminster thinks or does, but I think you need to proceed as if it would. That is to say, if you're commissioning studies that say, 'Okay, this is the economic impact of the TCA on Wales', I think those things are useful. Building up an evidence base in terms of how these things impact on Wales specifically is useful and potentially—though, as I said, I doubt it—impactful when it comes to shaping the approach of central Government in London. Part of this is that it needs to be done in such a way that it looks like you're providing information that could be used as the basis of a dialogue with policy makers in London. That is to say, rather than doing it in a conflictual or confrontational way, as some devolved Governments might decide to approach this, the way to do this is to say, 'Okay, look, we've thought about this. We've thought about this in the context of our own country, because we understand very well that you weren't able to do that kind of impact assessment ahead of what was a very rushed treaty, but here is the evidence that suggests that there are certain areas that you might need to think about when formulating your policies or deciding on your regional objectives for the shared prosperity fund.' I mean, that would be how I would go about it. But I think you need to be doing those impact assessments, because Lord alone knows, they won't be doing them from Whitehall.
You started on quite a pessimistic note there about the extent to which there is influence, but I just wonder whether this does come back to Emyr's point. When I was, for a couple of years, fisheries Minister at a UK level, the reason we engaged so well with both the Welsh and Scottish fisheries teams, small as they were—it was much larger in Scotland—was because of the expertise that they brought to the table, which often the UK centre didn't quite hold. Now, because of that, they were brought into the discussions. So, I wonder, Anand, whether it again comes down to that. How much will the devolved nations be taken account of? Well, it depends what they can bring to the table in each specific area.
I think that's true up to a point, and if you're providing good information, you'd like to think that in Whitehall, if not in Westminster, that information would be drawn upon and used, but I've never come across an administration that was so disinclined to listen to external voices before. So, I regretfully maintain my scepticism about it, though I think it would be an absolute shame not to try.
Professor Barnard, you had your hand up as well.
Thank you. I was going to talk at a much more prosaic level, moving away from impact on negotiation of international agreements and actually thinking about the nuts and bolts that really will affect Wales, the Welsh economy and the Welsh people on a much more day-to-day basis, namely what comes out of the partnership council and what comes out of the 18 technical, specialised committees. And I think it's there that actually you could really concentrate your expertise. Again, your resources will be finite, so you would have to work out which committees are the ones that are most likely to have an impact on the lives of the people of Wales and really focus your attention on there, whether it be fisheries or whether it be trade through the ports or whether it be life sciences. Whatever is your particular area of strength, you focus on that and you do the hard leg work—you call in the experts from Cardiff University and Swansea and wherever else and actually get some scrutiny. It's not glamorous; I fully accept it's not glamorous in the way that negotiating international trade agreements are, but in fact, it might actually have a greater impact on the people of Wales.
And the other point I would reiterate: whatever the rhetoric, what comes out of Brussels will continue to have a significant effect on the life of manufacturers in the UK because if manufacturers are selling into the EU market, they've got to comply with EU standards. So, it will be really important for the Welsh Government and for the Senedd to have a weather eye on what's being proposed by Brussels, and this is where actually working closely with Dublin would serve you well.
Okay. I think that comes to the end of that question because I don't see anyone with their hands up. If we go to the final set of questions, and it basically is back to scrutiny and perhaps our role in scrutiny, from Laura.
Thank you. Amongst all your other questions, they have really been covered—a lot of the questions I'd like to ask you now—but I'll just run through them as a group and then you can take which ones you want to answer. I wanted to know: how do you think the Senedd should monitor and scrutinise the Welsh Government's international activities going forward now? Also, your views on what role the Senedd should play in the scrutiny of the implementation and review of the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement—so, we've covered a lot of that—and for your views on what role the Senedd, in its own right, should play in international agreements and what areas it should prioritise within its own international strategy. And, to what extent the Senedd should continue to prioritise engagement with the EU and formal institutions of the EU. So, we've covered a lot of that, but is there anything more you want to add?
And could I add one thing to that, I think, which highlights it? To what extent should the inter-parliamentary associations work to deliver some of that?
Yes. That's good. Yes.
Anyone want to take that on?
Can I just start with a very general point, almost a principle? Which is, when it comes to negotiating international agreements, and particularly when it comes to negotiating international trade agreements, it's absolutely fundamental that the negotiations are informed by sectoral geographical interests, because it is the only way in which you're going to strike an agreement that ends up having broad societal support. And because it is absolutely fundamental to know from the people who know best what the impacts of the kinds of agreements you're trying to sign up are, that strikes me as one of the fundamental problems with the way in which the TCA has been negotiated. In an ideal world, Government would consult with sectoral groups and regional groups before the impacts of whatever they've signed are being felt. So, while they're doing the negotiation. So, I think it is very, very important, if the Welsh Government is undertaking international talks or negotiations, or also even if the UK Government is, that the Senedd plays its role in providing information on potential impacts on Wales and actual impacts on Wales, because that's how, in an ideal world, that process should work. It should be informed by those sorts of studies, because good Government acts on the basis of good information.
Does anyone else want to add to that? No-one is adding to that. Sir Emyr.
Can I just make three quick points? The first one is, I think the scrutiny arrangements that the committee is setting in place are very sensible, in terms of looking at international agreements and then the subset—how they affect Wales. Very sensible.
In term of the inter-parliamentary, I think you should sign up to anything that it's possible to sign up to. And this is a wheeze, and I don't know if it will be possible, but the European Parliament either has or will be about to establish a committee for relations with the United Kingdom. If you could get that to be defined as 'the United Kingdom and its devolved nations', it would immediately have an impact and a standing with the European Parliament, which I'd suggest now would be quite useful.
Thank you. Does anyone else want to make final comments before we finish? David, you have a question. You're muted, David.
Yes, David. It's an observation. Obviously, we seem to be forgetting the fact that Brussels negotiated on behalf of 27 other nations in Europe, and I'm absolutely certain, although they did all sign up to that agreement, that many of them had a great many reservations about the agreement itself, and, of course, they were overlooked on those things. Now, I'm sure that the differences in the UK nations compared to the diversities of the nations in Europe are quite small. So, I think we shouldn't overlook that fact, that Brussels acted on behalf of the other 27 nations.
Before I bring Professor Barnard in, I understand that point, but I also make the point that the negotiation mandate was given by the 27 nations. Professor Barnard.
I just wanted to say one point specifically about parliamentary cooperation, and that is, if you look at the way it's drafted, it says the European Parliament and the Parliament of the United Kingdom may establish a parliamentary partnership assembly. So, again, it seems to suggest that that means Westminster, and not involving the devolved parliaments, and this is where Emyr's point is so relevant for you—if they take that literally, they will say there is no role for the Senedd.
Thank you for that. I think it's important for us as a Senedd to actually approach this with the European Parliament and to do work with the European Parliament, perhaps, as well as working with the Westminster Parliament, so that we can get an understanding of the roles of Parliaments, in the Senedd, in Scotland and in the Assembly in Northern Ireland. Sir Emyr, you're muted.
Not by me. Professor Barnard rightly talked about the parliamentary arrangements under this agreement. I was talking about what the European Parliament has by way of standing delegations for relations with a whole range of external countries, and there will now be one with the United Kingdom, and it's that that I was foreseeing, Chair. I don't know if you were going to close, but I was wondering—
Thanks for clarifying the position. Thank you. With that, I think we'll draw this session to an end. Can I thank you all for your contributions this afternoon? They have been very enlightening to understand the perspective for us to look at where Wales in the world will be going beyond the next Assembly elections. You will obviously receive a copy of the transcript. If there are any inaccuracies you identify, please let the team know as soon as possible so we can have them corrected. But once again, finally, thank you for your time. It's been very much appreciated, not just in this session but in previous sessions as well. It's given us great guidance as to where we think we should go. Thank you.
Thank you very much for your time.
For Members, we're to move on to the next item of business, and that's papers to note, item 4. The first one is correspondence from the chairperson of the Committee for the Executive Office at the Northern Ireland Assembly to myself regarding correspondence from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Members are asked to simply note that paper at this point. Are Members content to note?
Secondly, there's another letter from the chairperson of the Committee of the Executive Office of the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding committee scrutiny of common frameworks. Again, are Members content to note that? They are.
And the third one is correspondence from the Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee to the Secretary of State for Wales regarding the Sewel convention. And I think it's important for us to note that and read its contents so that we are fully aware of what's going on in the LJC on issues we've been discussing as well. Are Members content to note? I can see they are.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Item 5 on the agenda is a motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of today's meeting. Are Members content to do so? They are, and therefore the public meeting will come to an end and we'll move into private session for the remainder of today.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 16:27.
The public part of the meeting ended at 16:27.