Y Pwyllgor Deddfwriaeth, Cyfiawnder a’r Cyfansoddiad
Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee26/06/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Alun Davies AS|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|James Evans AS|
|Peredur Owen Griffiths AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Charles Whitmore||Fforwm Cymdeithas Sifil Cymru|
|Wales Civil Society Forum|
|Dr Brigid Fowler||Cymdeithas Hansard|
|Dr Elin Royles||Prifysgol Aberystwyth|
|Dr Lisa Whitten||Prifysgol Queen's Belfast|
|Queen’s University Belfast|
|Tobias Lock||Prifysgol Maynooth|
|Tom Jones||Cynrychiolydd CGGC ar Fforwm Cymdeithas Sifil y DU-UE|
|WCVA representative on the UK-EU Civil Society Forum|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Kate Rabaiotti||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|P Gareth Williams||Clerc|
|Sarah Sargent||Ail 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 yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:04.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:04.
Prynhawn da, a chroeso i chi i gyd.
Good afternoon, welcome, everyone.
Welcome to this afternoon's meeting of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee. Just as a reminder, this meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and the Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. We're not expecting an alarm this afternoon, but if there is an alarm, then Members and witnesses should leave the room by the marked fire exits and follow the instructions from our staff team here. So, if we can make sure that all our mobile devices are please switched to silent, whether you're here in the committee room or on the screen. We're operating through the mediums of Welsh and English today, as usual, and we have interpretation available for proceedings. Just to remind all Members, the sound operator is controlling the microphones so we don't need to mute and unmute ourselves; that'll be done for you.
So, with that, we're going to move straight on. We have no apologies this morning. James is slightly delayed, we understand; he should be with us any moment now, so there’ll be another one of our committee members joining us very shorty, but we will make a start.
So, we go to straight to our first substantive item, which is item No. 2, which is our evidence session on EU governance, and we're delighted to have with us today Charles Whitmore, on screen, attending virtually from the Wales Civil Society Forum. Also on screen we have Brigid Fowler of the Hansard Society, and here in the committee chamber, we have Tom Jones, Wales Council for Voluntary Action representative on the UK-EU civil society forum. You’re all very welcome indeed, and thanks for joining with us.
We’ve also just got, for committee members to be aware, a paper related to this that Charles Whitmore provided to us in advance, and of course our briefing in advance of this session. So, if I can begin, and I wonder if I can turn to Dr Fowler first of all, just for your views on how the PPA has developed over the last 12 months, the role it’s played to date, and, quite importantly, how you think this might progress in the future.
Thank you Chair, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with the committee this afternoon. On the PPA—that’s the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly—from the perspective of someone who wants post-Brexit UK-EU relations to be constructive and friendly, the development of the PPA over the last year and a bit has been one of the things that have actually gone better than I thought it might in this entire process, and that’s not a long list. I think the signs are that it’s developing into a useful forum, in which parliamentarians from the two sides can identify issues that need addressing, or that could usefully be addressed, and gaps in the relationship that could usefully be addressed, and to sound out possible solutions, or politically feasible solutions—possible solutions that look as though they might have some mileage in them, in the way which a cross-party select committee might sound things out.
And there’s also, I think, secondly, the sort of general, as it were, vibe aspect of it. It’s helpful in terms of interpersonal relations—if people get to know each other, they can find out what they’re thinking about, what they’re up to, get phone numbers, so that you can put a call in occasionally. I think that side of things is very useful.
I think I would throw in two caveats. One is that I think we all need to be realistic about what these kinds of bodies can do. They can be perfectly useful, but it’s usually at the margins of these relationships. Such inter-parliamentary bodies are not decision-making bodies, they’re not executive bodies, so there are extreme limits to what they can do, and obviously the plenary only meets twice a year and staffing is limited. So, I think a degree of realism is important.
And secondly, just to flag that, next year, the PPA will be subject, I assume, to some disruption. After only four meetings—there’ll be a fourth meeting in London this autumn—then, next year, because of the elections on both sides, I’m assuming that there will be some disruption and it might not be able to meet twice. It might not be able to meet in the first part of the year, and there may also then be personnel changes. So, I think, once we’re on the other side of that, we can say more confidently that it’s settled down and is finding its place.
Thank you very much. If I could just ask you a little bit further on that, as you were saying you're somebody who wants to see these post-EU structures work effectively. What have your observations been on how this has progressed? Two of us as committee members have had experience of the PPA already, and I think we’ve discussed it, and it’s markedly changed over the last couple of meetings. What are your observations on that and where would you like to see it go, recognising the constraints that you have said?
I would agree with you that it’s developed in a positive direction, and that’s actually one of the things that I regard most positively—the fact that, after the first meeting, there was clearly some consideration about whether or not that was the best format, and decisions were taken to introduce the breakout groups, and everybody seems to have thought that that was a positive development. So, I think the fact that they were able to make that change is itself a good sign, and that innovation is going to be repeated in the meeting next week in Brussels, as I understand it. Similarly, the fact that they were able to bring the devolved legislatures on board as observers—. I know it's not as much as you would like, but, again, that was, I think, a useful innovation.
In terms of where it goes next, one thing to look out for will be the way in which the partnership council responds to the communications that have come from the PPA to the partnership council. Do they respond? Do they take it seriously? I think that will be something to look out for, and then, obviously, to see, after the experiment with the initial recommendation about energy co-operation, if the assembly is able to move into, potentially, more politically sensitive areas and start to develop some ideas there. I think those are some of the things to look out for. There are also things that one might do at Westminster, but that's possibly a slightly separate question.
Let me bring in Alun at that point, because Alun is one of the two committee members here who's had experience of this. Alun.
Yes, I don't disagree that the PPA seems to be settling down, but it just feels a bit inadequate in the sense of, you know, you meet up, you have debates, you have dinner, you have another debate and then you go home. What I find works in an inter-governmental or inter-institutional relationship is what happens between meetings, not what necessarily happens within a meeting. Do you see any appetite in Westminster to actually provide for greater scrutiny and greater accountability and greater transparency in terms of the role of parliamentarians and their oversight of the governmental agreements?
I think this runs into the sort of constitutional, almost, and institutional issue, about whether you are scrutinising the joint UK-EU bodies, or are you scrutinising the actions of the UK Government in those bodies, because, obviously, parliamentarians in theory are able to have a better handle on the second of those, but that is something that is done conventionally by Westminster select committees scrutinising the UK Executive. There is a lot that could be improved there, but I'm not sure whether it's quite the same as the PPA's role in scrutinising the TCA and the TCA bodies as a whole. Now, there's obviously a question about how those two bits link up, and I think that is something where improvements could be made. There is very little transparency at Westminster about how the PPA delegation hooks into the wider ecosystem of scrutiny of EU affairs at Westminster, particularly in the Commons. One of the interesting things about the make-up of the UK delegation to the PPA is that the Lords contingent is much more densely networked into their select committees than the Commons contingent is. Now, the argument in favour of that kind of arrangement is that it spreads the experience and the knowledge around members. The argument against it is that it's more difficult for the UK delegation to feed into the select committees and the select committees to do likewise. I think there is stuff going on behind the scenes, but it's quite difficult to get a handle on exactly how that's working and how much of it there is, and is it patchy. It's quite difficult to get a handle on that at the moment.
There seems to be—and I'm grateful to you—far less scrutiny and transparency now than there was prior to Brexit. I certainly have got no idea what the UK Government is up to half the time, and I accept that's partly because the UK Government is trying to keep its own backbenchers in the dark as well. I accept that we are not unique in that sense. But it does appear that we've created these governmental structures, which are to deliver the TCA and the rest of it, but what we don't have is similar structures of governance, of accountability, and certainly in this place, we used to have Ministers who'd be in Brussels shaping decisions, Members of the European Parliament in the Parliament, and you'd certainly have a European committee here scrutinising various things. All of that's gone. There's nothing that has replaced it except the PPA, and the role of our structures of government, in our democracy, is difficult to describe, at best.
Yes. I would agree with that, to a great extent. I think the well-oiled systems for running EU affairs pre Brexit have fragmented and degraded, and I think we do all need to think about getting something like those systems back up and running again. But I think, for some people, that's quite a challenge in the sense that the idea was, 'Well, we don't really have to do engage with the EU in that sort of structured, ongoing way any more', but I think the view is strengthening that, in fact, we do.
I mean, I would mention the European scrutiny system at Westminster, through the committees in each house—they're continuing to work in much the same way. So, a lot of valuable, detailed work is still being done on some EU documents, but it's not necessarily particularly well connected, particularly in the Commons, with other things that are going on, and secondly, it's still, rather oddly to my mind, geared towards EU documents rather than scrutinising the UK documents and the UK Government positions and information. I think, again, it's in development, and there is supposed to be a review in July, and then another one by the end of the Parliament, on how those systems are working, so I would encourage the committee to feed in. Because if anybody in the Westminster Parliament is getting information from the UK Government, it's going into the European scrutiny committees, so I would encourage you to engage even more than you already do with them.
Okay. It does feel that it's a bit one step removed from the reality of accountability and transparency. But perhaps I could ask the other two witnesses to comment on how they see the role of the Parliament here in Cardiff, but the structure of parliamentary oversight that we have at present.
And perhaps I could ask you as well just to touch on the issue of the role of civil society, and how that engages with the PPA as well. So, the big questions and that as well.
Does this come on automatically?
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Diolch, Alun, am y cwestiwn.
Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Alun, for the question.
I'll come back to Welsh a little bit later, but to address these points, obviously, the political structures are something that we're not, as civil society organisations, as well informed about as Brigid is. But, as Alun has hinted, in a way, what we did in Wales 20 years ago with the voluntary sector partnership council, where participative democracy meets elected democracy, and where there is a true sense of partnership, is not something that we're witnessing currently in these structures. What we understand is that we're in a new relationship with the European Union and not an attempt to return to a previous relationship; it's about building anew. The Foreign Secretary, James Cleverley, when he met us at the first domestic advisory group meeting, said, 'Bring me all the problems your civil society organisations identify, within the terms of the treaty, but also bring the solutions, in other words, and then I will take them forward'. Sir Oliver Heald, when he spoke to us at the last DAG meeting, was also talking about quick wins. In other words, there are certain levels of seniority that you don't expect him and his inter-parliamentary group to be able to do much about, so he was looking—again, given the timescales of the parliamentary elections, both in the UK and in the European Union, it means that he's trying to take steps that he can actually deliver in the short term. So, in that sense, I think there is room for hope. There has been some change, and, certainly, in my discussions with civil servants—don't wait until the green lights come from wherever, following the Windsor agreement; build what priorities have been identified into flesh, so that you can actually deliver them as soon as anybody says, 'Yes, go ahead'. So, we don't wait to see on Horizon, on Erasmus, and so on, somebody saying, 'Okay, we'll start negotiation, let's do the paperwork, let's do the groundwork'.
In terms of accountability, again, we're building, so I welcome the fact that you're having this investigation, and, in one sense, here is the first bit of challenge or accountability. But we would like—. And Charles and I will speak later on, I think, about there should be some strategy from Welsh Government that can be then scrutinised by the Senedd on how we deal with the new relationships both within the UK, but also with our European—and I do say 'European', not just EU—colleagues, because I think that that is also a dimension that we shouldn't forget: that there are lots of organisations that are members of European organisations, not just within the EU. In my own case, I'm president of something called ERCA, which is the European Rural Community Alliance. We have members in 14 European countries, starting from Portugal via England to Iceland and over to Ukraine. So, in that sense, we deal sometimes with the European Union, but we also think Europe wide. So, I think that that's one of the gateways into building new relationships—recognising that and the Trades Union Congress, the Confederation of British Industry, there are many organisations that have membership of European civil society movements, and they are still trying to maintain these links and build new relationships.
Thank you, Tom. Listen, just to close this particular section, which is helpfully setting some of the context for some of the detail we'll go into in a moment, could I ask Charles on screen: have you got any observations on the work of the PPA, but particularly, Charles, on the engagement with civil society, how that is going and how it could be improved, to add to anything Tom had to say on that?
Thank you, Chair, and thank you very much for the kind invitation to give evidence. It's always a pleasure and I'm honoured to do so. I think, briefly, there's room for development on two fronts for me with regard to the PPA and civil society. First, in terms of civil society's direct involvement in the PPA for a little bit of context, we did have some concerns initially because it seemed as though the European Parliament might be taking a more inclusive approach to civil society by engaging directly with the presidency of the European Economic and Social Committee. We had asked colleagues in the EU to raise this point, and I believe the upcoming PPA will have some involvement with the UK and EU DAG chairs. So, that's very much a positive development that we welcome.
Secondly, clearly, limiting the devolved legislatures to observer status isn't ideal, and hopefully we'll see a trajectory of improvement on that front. But in the meantime, however, I think we can be making improvements in governance domestically in terms of how we mobilise within Wales around the PPA, and I think this is an important point I'll come back to across the other structures of the trade and co-operation agreement, the DAG and the civil society forum, but also the committees that the Welsh Government is involved with as well.
It's quite difficult, I think, to envisage a pathway to a more active role in the PPA and the other bodies under the current UK Government, but I think we can be doing much more in terms of co-ordinating, consulting, supporting information sharing within Wales in the run-up to the PPA, but also, crucially, coming on to some of the other things we might talk about, the inter-governmental relations structures that we have under the new review, because I don't think they can be really disassociated from some of these questions. There needs to be a clear process in Wales, I think, for feeding into and inputting into the agenda for the PPA, and how we need to think through carefully how we can co-ordinate that in a slightly more structured way.
In a sense, this has been less of an issue on the EU side because they have a much more institutionalised approach to governance that lends itself to more formal engagement and consultation that obviously we no longer have, as others have said in previous contributions, now. But we need to be thinking about what we can put in place to fill those gaps.
Thank you very much. That's a good juncture now, actually, to bring my colleague James Evans in to pursue this line of enquiry on the role of civil society. Let's get under the skin of it a little bit now, James.
Thank you very much, Chair, and I'd like to apologise for being about five minutes late.
No, not to worry.
But Tom has touched on it, and so has Charles, about structures and engagement, and during the House of Lords evidence session, you actually called for better engagement between civil society and the Welsh Government on UK-EU relations, how all the governance structures are working and how you can feed into that. What I think the committee and I would like to know is: what structures would you like to see developed to support this, and what mechanisms will also need to be put in place to make sure that you do get your say and get brought into these discussions as we go along?
I think Charles will help me on this. In one sense, it takes the two to tango, doesn't it? In the sense that the European Union's own structures of engagement are evolving, and we need to keep apace with that. In one sense, the farming level playing field, for example, we need to be aware, through our farming unions and so on, of what is happening with the commission policy, because it doesn't stay put, it keeps on moving. The European Commission has a long-term vision for rural areas and it has a clear action programme, so we need to be having feedback from different people.
But in terms of structures, my impression is that we're obviously in this changing phase, and as yet, we haven't put in place in Wales proper structures of accountability. You chaired the European advisory group until the last election, and I found that very, very useful. You brought together in Welsh Government the various key stakeholders, we shared knowledge, you were able to report back on developments, to call people to account, to brief us, and I would say that, at that level—. There has to be some level of leadership from Welsh Government itself, within its limited powers and responsibilities, on having Wales plc-European linkages so that we can then play our part.
Currently, what was said in the House of Lords paper was that we’re at the end of our previous European programmes, and there’s a leaflet here that some of you might have seen, which highlights all the wonderful examples of work done in Wales during the previous period. We’ve done none of that now. The funds have run out, so we’re all hanging on, basically, to just bits and bobs of funding, and you can’t have proper commitment from civil society organisations into any structure unless there is the resourcing.
On the European side, as has already been mentioned, the European Economic and Social Committee, which I was a member of, hosts the DAG in Brussels, so the members there have the funds to claim their travel allowances and so on, so they can participate fully and in depth, whereas we currently do that almost on a string. The WCVA applied to join the DAG, because we thought it would be, and would grow into being, an important consultative part of the trade relationships. We’re the only named Wales-specific body on the DAG, and we’re very grateful to be there, but we don’t really have the resources to make that work unless we have, first of all, a structure and a strategy for Wales, a direction from the Government itself, and the ability to consult our own members and, widely, stakeholders in Wales to both gather information to take to these DAG meetings, and to feed back to our organisations afterwards. Charles?
Charles as well, would you like to add to that? Charles, just out of interest, I notice as Tom flagged it up—and thank you for sharing this copy; we'll get this around to Members there on the impact of European funding in Wales—of course, you refer in your paper as well to the separate piece of work there on the regional investment framework within Wales as well, and how we reflect on the levelling-up approach compared to that approach as well. But that had a lot of civic society engagement as well as academics, industry, et cetera, et cetera. So, what would you like to add to what we've just heard from Tom?
Thank you very much, Chair. I think I can only reinforce and echo what Tom has said, to be honest. Obviously, we have a single mind on this, but there is a challenging irony that I could detect with the points you've just made around the framework for regional investment that we've wrestled with in the sector for a while now on this, and that is that, if there is a desire in Wales to work towards a distinct voice in these fora, as we think there should be, to work towards exploring and making use of the new windows of opportunity that we present ourselves to in this new post-EU membership landscape, then we need to realise that this is actually a lot more work now than it used to be, and we're experiencing this quite first-hand, Tom and I, and for us, this is taking place in a context where the end of structural funds has reduced the human and financial resources that are available to us, quite frankly. So, balancing work to unpack and feed into the TCA structures where there are learning curves and transparency issues, work to try and monitor policy divergence, is very difficult. So, clearly there's a capacity and support issue to explore that was kind of undermined, to some extent, by the approach that was taken to the shared prosperity fund and the undermining of that towards the framework for regional investment.
But, crucially, I don't think we've adapted our approach domestically in Wales yet to that reality, and there needs to be, in some sense, some strategic thinking, ideally led by the Welsh Government, on this. I think we're at the point now where we need to be co-ordinating, especially now that we're starting to see these structures normalise and crystallise in their operation. So, a formal strategy led by the Welsh Government and developed collaboratively across Wales on this, I think, would both help with scrutinising Welsh Government involvement in TCA bodies, which, at the moment, seems quite nebulous, I'd say. As I said earlier, we can't disassociate this from the IDR mechanisms, but there's a transparency issue there as well.
Crucially, I think we need to put information sharing, collaboration and just general co-operation on a formal standing as well. I think this will help increase the consistency we have across the different spheres of Wales-EU activity. Tom had a very interesting meeting this morning with Taith, for instance, about their support need for engaging with Erasmus and navigating those potential strategic relationships. The reality is that the EU advisory group was extremely helpful, and it feels almost like it's stood down at just the wrong moment, because now we still need, perhaps even more, that co-ordination across sectors now that we're learning how to navigate all of these different structures.
Fascinating. James, go ahead.
I think it's a very, very good point. I do think there does need to be a lot more of a joined-up and strategic approach from Welsh Government. Yes, we talk a lot about the UK Government having a lot more say on EU matters, but it is very important, I do believe, that the Welsh Government do co-ordinate with all of you to make sure you know exactly what the Welsh Government is doing over the next five, 10 years, now there are all these new structures that are going to work.
But, on another point, could you outline your views on the operation of the UK domestic advisory group and the need for its improvement since it's in operation, and how you could see it changing to make it work better?
Yes, thank you—
You can do it yn Gymraeg. That's fine, yes. I'll have to put this on, because I'm still learning.
Fe sefydlwyd y pwyllgor yma efallai yn raddol gan Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Gyfunol. Doedden nhw ddim yn sicr eisiau fo, ond mae yna brofiad ar ochr yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, wrth gwrs—mae ganddyn nhw'r strwythur yma efo Canada a De Corea yn barod, ac felly mae yna brofiad a dwi'n meddwl bod yna waith dal i fyny wedi bod ar ochr y Deyrnas Gyfunol.
Ond yn sicr yn y diwedd fe gytunwyd y byddai WCVA a'n chwaer gyrff ni o Loegr a'r Alban a Gogledd Iwerddon yn cael seddi ar y pwyllgor yma. Does yna ddim llawer o leisiau gwirfoddol yn y pwyllgor, mae'r rhan fwyaf yn leisiau busnes, achos i raddau mae yna bwyslais wedi bod ar fasnach yn fwy na dim byd arall, ond dŷn ni'n teimlo'n gryf fod hawliau dynol a hawliau pobl o fewn cymdeithas i wybod sut mae masnachu yn digwydd yn bwysig iawn—er enghraifft, eto, ffermwyr. Dŷn ni eisiau gwybod ydy'r maes cyfartal yn bodoli, ydy'r polisïau Ewropeaidd yn mynd i gynorthwyo eu ffermwyr nhw yn fwy na'n rhai ni a beth sy'n digwydd yn ein gwlad ni. So, mae yna lot o waith o'r math yna yn digwydd.
Dŷn ni yn gobeithio y bydd y corff yma yn tyfu—fel y mae Elin yn awgrymu, yn araf, ac mi fydd yr etholiadau efallai yn rhoi ychydig bach eto o rwystr yn y ffordd yna, ond dwi'n gweld ei fod yn bwysig ein bod ni yn defnyddio'r corff yma'n llawn, a'n bod ni'n cael yr adnoddau sydd eu hangen i ddod â rhywbeth gwerth ei ddweud yn y cyrff yna a'n bod ni'n gallu lobïo wedyn neu alw am ymateb gan y Llywodraethau.
Fel oedd Syr Oliver Heald yn ei ddweud yr wythnos cyn diwethaf, roedd o wedi dwyn yr achos ynglŷn â phrojectau Ewropeaidd i fyny oherwydd papur oedd yn cael ei baratoi yn y Senedd Ewropeaidd. So, roedd o'n fodlon cydweithio a rhannu syniadau fel yna. Dyna sy'n rhaid i ni ei wneud hefyd—defnyddio pob cyfle sy'n bosib.
This committee was established perhaps gradually by the UK Government. They certainly didn't want it, but there is experience on the EU side—they have this structure with Canada and South Korea already, so there is experience there and there's been some work to do to catch up on the side of the UK.
But, certainly, ultimately, it was agreed that the WCVA and our sister bodies in England and in Scotland and Northern Ireland would have seats on this committee. There aren't many voluntary voices on the committee, the majority of them are the voices of business, because, to an extent, there has been an emphasis on commerce and trade more than anything else, but we feel very strongly that human rights and the right of people in society to know how trade happens are very important—for example, again, farmers. We want to know whether this parity and level playing field exist, whether European policies are going to support their farmers more than what is happening to support farmers here. So, there's a great deal of work being done there.
We hope that that this body will grow—as Elin suggests, slowly, and perhaps the elections will be another barrier in that direction, but I see that it is very important that we do use this body to its fullest potential, and that it receives the resources that it needs so that it has its say and then we can lobby or call for a response from the Governments.
As Sir Oliver Heald said the week before last, he'd made the case for European projects, he brought those up in discussion, because of a paper that was being put together in the European Parliament. He was willing to collaborate and share ideas in that way. And that's what we have to do—we have to use every opportunity that we have to do just that.
And perhaps if we can extend that to you as well, Charles, I notice in your paper you had some constructive criticisms, not in terms of just the UK DAG evolution, but also wider than that as well, in other DAGs—some lacking bite, lacking resource, et cetera; some of the things that Tom has just touched on.
Certainly, Chairman. It's interesting that, obviously, the experience across domestic advisory groups in the EU varies from group to group, because the nature of the relationship between the EU and different trading partners is different in each instance, so that paper was a reflection on that, and it's been quite interesting to gauge and see how the relationship with the UK would fall into the frameworks that we've observed in other trading relationships.
I don't know if it's helpful, but to just briefly explain, the domestic advisory group is a sort of independent civic society organisation. Its role is to advise the UK Government on the implementation of the TCA. Its remit covers the entire agreement, which is a novelty in the system. It meets at least twice yearly. It has a joint meeting with its EU counterpart once per year ahead of the annual civic society forum, and it can express views and make recommendations to the UK Government.
Now there were some initial challenges—as Tom hinted, the balance of representation being skewed heavily towards the private-sector, for instance, but also many other basic governance issues that we had to overcome and the other TCA bodies have wrestled with as well, I'm sure.
We had some concerns initially around the extent to which devolved voices would have a place in the domestic advisory group system. So, WCVA and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, through a project that I co-ordinate, we actually led UK-wide on work in the voluntary sector to try and secure four-nations representation on the domestic advisory group, so we were very happy that that was successful.
In some respects, I think it’s a little bit too early to assess the effectiveness of the mechanism and how good it will be at influencing UK-EU executive thinking on the relationship. As Brigid said earlier, these structures do operate very much in the margins, but they also do leave some room for flexibility and interpretation.
I'm also conscious that we’ve only just—two weeks ago or so— established working groups within the DAG in specific areas, and Tom and I will be participating in three of those for Welsh stakeholders, so we have one on regulatory co-operation, one on mobility, and one on nations and regions.
Another big question for me, and I know this has been being hinted at too previously as well, is that it’s unclear to me, as of yet, how constructively the UK Government will engage with any formal feedback loops with the domestic advisory group.
And just very briefly, there are some very clear obvious improvements that can be made relatively shortly. We want to be able to consult and go out to stakeholders in Wales before these meetings, but it’s been logistically challenging to do so during the initial periods, because of simple things like having sufficient notice of agendas, for example, and, as I said earlier, there are some improvements that we can make at the Wales level in terms of ensuring that we’re talking with colleagues in the Senedd, colleagues in the Welsh Government, that we’re talking with wider stakeholders to feed in the issues that Wales is experiencing, and communities are experiencing, as a result of the relationship.
Thank you very much. Pred, you wanted to come in on this.
Yes, just briefly. The three of you have mentioned resources, and just drilling a little bit into that, into is it purely financial resources, or is it capacity building, or is it expertise: is it people, or it is cash, basically, or is it that you need structures developed, and then who should be taking the lead on that? Should it be Westminster? Should it be here? Your thoughts around that.
Well, there’s an element of shopping basket, isn’t there? I think all of those will be required, and you may want to look at what happens in Scotland, for example. Does the Scottish Government provide support for civil society voices still working with European colleagues?
But, certainly, in the past, I’ve had on an individual base support from the Wales office in Brussels, individually, and whenever I’ve brought delegations here—Alun, when you were a Minister, I brought one on renewable energy. So, if we can replicate in some way that ability to still engage, that’s very, very important. But there’ll have to be some financial resourcing of (a) individual representatives on pan-European or UK-European organisations, and also, as I had in my discussion this morning with Taith, currently it’s all a bit vacuous. So, in terms of wanting to promote the links to Erasmus, for example, using Taith and Turing, I didn’t know who to turn to, and would there be a fund, would there be a strategy in Wales that would say, ‘Yes, we would be willing to help our young people link with any European projects in the future.’ So, there has to be that wider financial and policy decision making that some of the instruments that Welsh Government has would be available in some formal way, but there also has to be some pot of resourcing that enables individual representatives, whoever they would be, to actually play their part fully, both in inputting and reporting back.
Just as an aside, I took three young farmers from Montgomeryshire to Brussels a month ago, and two things about that: I was lucky to find a funder to pay towards their contribution, and then they went to the Parliament, they went to the European Commission buildings and so on and so forth. But the memory I have of them sitting there with the Conseil Européen des Jeunes Agriculteurs, which is the umbrella body for the young farmers movement, and I thought, 'My gosh, how sad,' because in Wales now there is no forum for them to link with European counterparts as they used to in the past, so they've been cut off from shared knowledge and shared experiences, whereas the person in Brussels on behalf of CEJA was just full of activity, how they were liaising with the new common agricultural policy plans, how the voice of young people is being brought into governance structures and so on. I thought, 'How on earth can we re-engage that in some way?', below this line of, 'We're not going back on Brexit' sort of thing—'We're building new relationships.' I'm sure these young people thought the same. We need to have these structures in place, and it has to stem from some leadership in Welsh Government in terms of resourcing.
It's worth making a note of that.
Yes, absolutely. We're all logging this away in our heads here, because it seems to me what you're arguing is that as the DAG and the post-EU structures evolve, there's a need for adequate resourcing at a UK level, but also some element of bespoke response on a Wales basis, from Welsh Government or from others, or partnerships or collaborations, to say, 'We've got some gaps or some specific areas that we need a strong voice represented.' We did this before. We've done it previously. So, I guess the question, then, back to the two of you, is: are you, in your roles with the DAG at the moment, at a stage yet where you're able to identify those bespoke areas that you would want Welsh Government to either help support with resources, or alternatively to strategise around it, to bring people together and say, 'We need to bring this voice together'? Are you able to do that yet, or is it too early? You've mentioned, clearly, issues around farming, but there must be a myriad of others.
Oh, absolutely. I would certainly welcome an invitation from someone in Welsh Government to say, 'I'd like to bring together key stakeholders in Wales to see what resourcing is required and what would be the main priorities for the next 12 months, 18 months, from that engagement,' so that at least then we could have a focal point, so I could then, or my colleagues, and Charles and others, could say, 'That's the person, that's the team' and that we can discuss UK, Wales, European issues, and we can draw up a hit list of priorities and somebody can put a budgetary line across to that. That's what is needed, and the sooner the better.
Charles, perhaps I could ask you: if such a thing were to happen, clearly this couldn't usurp the work of what is the UK DAG, so how does bespoke Welsh focus synchronise, dovetail, with a UK DAG?
Thank you, Chair. If I can be frank, I'll come to that point, but there is a broader point as well, in answer to your first initial point, that it is quite early in terms of drilling down into the details. As I said, DAG has only just started last week and has now established its list of the areas it's going to deep-dive in. I think the fact that we have a nations and regions sub-group on there, and one on mobility—there will clearly be Welsh lines that we'll want to articulate in those fora. So, Taith, for instance is one, and the interconnectivity that led to that with Erasmus is quite a clear example. But, in terms of resourcing, if I'm frank, the reality of the landscape is that our participation in the DAG as the sole Welsh stakeholder at the moment is externally funded by the project that I co-ordinate and that's by the Legal Education Foundation. We have 12 months left on that, but it's entirely unclear to me at the moment whether even our most basic participation in the platform will be sustainable in the long term, so that's something we will have to address as a priority, as it were, over deep-dives, I think, at the moment. And just to reinforce the point around different levels—. Different tiers have different levels of intervention that are appropriate to them, so we absolutely—. We encourage the UK Government to fund participation in the DAG or at least to make some funding available to facilitate participation for groups that just don't have the financial resource. But then, of course, we would absolutely see there to be a role for the Welsh Government to first establish a strategy that we can then align a support request along with in terms of our advocacy of Welsh interests.
Thank you. Tom.
If I can just refer to two documents. One is a memorandum of understanding between the UK Civil Society Alliance, which Charles has been primarily supportive of, and the European Economic and Social Committee. I can leave this for you—it underlines what work will be done by the EESC, which will not duplicate the work of the DAG, so there's an effort to identify subjects beyond. So, I'll table that.
And then, in this document that you've all had copies of now, look at point 5.2, where it specifically addresses Wales, from its consultations here in Wales. Even the EESC is learning about governance. When they came here first of all, probably three years ago now, I was rather concerned. We gathered lots and lots of key stakeholders to meet the EESC delegation, and there was no feedback. Proper consultation means that you bring people in to give their views, but you also feed back to them afterwards what happened following the receipt of those views. This time round, the EESC has been much more proactive in providing feedback. I think this document is extremely well prepared by my colleagues. In 5.2, it says:
'Relations between civil society and the Welsh Government are still in the processes of reinvigoration.'
That refers to the question you were asking earlier on. But, more importantly, if you go to page—. There are no page numbers—it's 'Lessons emerging from Wales's approach'. It refers to the WCVA and so on, it talks about Taith. So, this is a very detailed response paper to the consultations they held in Wales, and here they talk about the lack of resources and so on and so forth. So, I would commend this to you—those references to Wales in this document are well worth looking at in your deliberations.
Thank you very much indeed. James, was there anything else you wanted to touch on?
I'm finished, thank you, Chair, in the interests of time.
Brilliant. Okay. In which case, Pred, we'll pass to you, then.
Thank you very much. As a committee, we've spoken about the challenges associated with navigating the new arrangements. Professor Catherine Barnard told us that it feels very much like the transparency of a black box, and Alun mentioned it earlier. Can you share your views on how the transparency of decision making within these UK-EU governance structures could be improved?
The first point is that the minutes are recorded and are publicly available, I think, so in that sense there's an element of transparency there. What we are trying to persuade the organisers of the DAG is, 'Please give us the agenda to these meetings sooner, so we can consult members', rather than just turn up, having had just perhaps a week to look at what's going to be on the agenda, and, 'Please let us know when the minutes will be available'. For example, it would've been useful for me today to present the minutes of the last DAG to you, but they haven't appeared yet, so I only have my own notes and recollections. There's an awful lot more that can be done, and I think the European Commission itself, as I said earlier on, is moving ahead in the way it deals with and consults with organisations. I'm off to Brussels this evening, because we're being consulted tomorrow on a toolkit for rural areas, for example. So, there's an ongoing dialogue. Okay, you could still say, 'It's a dialogue with the elitist civil society; it doesn't involve the wider depth', but that can only happen if people, like the WCVA and others, have resources to include all their membership in this dialogue. I think I'll hand over to Charles on more ideas.
Before Charles comes in, could we just pass the same question to Professor Fowler as well, for her thoughts on this lack of transparency, this black box? There's lots of information in a black box, of course, but it's all tucked away until somebody decodes it.
Thank you, Chair, and you've just promoted me—I'm not a prof.
Sorry. Take it as read.
I agree about Catherine's black box point. I think there's an interesting issue about whether or not UK Government's practices with respect to the EU bodies are any 'worse' than they are with respect to other international bodies. But, parking that, I think I would make a distinction between information that the Government might share privately and that is not accessible publicly—. To get access to that, as I say, you might want to either engage with the select committees in Parliament or with your own Welsh Government to see if and what they're getting. In terms of public information, though, I agree it's extremely poor. The biggest initial problem is just not knowing what's coming up.
For example, the new committee on the Windsor framework—I know this is a withdrawal agreement matter rather than TCA—met on Friday, and as somebody who keeps a reasonably close eye on Westminster, but from the outside, the first I knew about it was Thursday afternoon when the agenda was published, which is hopeless. And then, the agenda only consisted of six headings, so it was just pointless. So, I think what we need to aim at is trying to get into a more regularised rhythm whereby we have dates of meetings a long while in advance, and then at least some more substantive indication of the agenda items further in advance, if possible, so that people inside Parliament and in civil society are better able to engage. I would have thought that should be possible. Sometimes, there can be a difficulty if they are joint documents, as it were, that both the EU side as well as the UK side have to sign off on who they can share it with, and whether or not it can be published. But, I would have thought, starting from the base that we are now, we could do better than where we are now.
I suppose having a future work programme a bit more detailed to give you an idea of the direction of travel, and that sort of thing, would be useful, on top of minutes and reports, and that sort of thing. I don't know if Charles wanted to add anything to that.
Obviously, I'd agree with Catherine's typically colourful and eloquent qualification of this. I think it's important to note that this is doubly an issue for the devolved level, because, presumably, our domestic inter-governmental routes into informing and shaping UK positions on these agendas are the new IGR structures. And from the official records, it's very difficult to get a sense of the level of detail discussed even within those, and the level of influence open to the Welsh Government, how this falls into feeding in or reflecting into the TCA body's work—that's not at all clear to me. So, it stands that one of our steps in trying to remedy this transparency gap that might be within our control is to try and scrutinise and increase transparency around the IGR structures as well.
To illustrate this problem in slightly more practical terms, you can see in the minutes of the last trade partnership committee that the EU is actually requesting to start exchanging agendas earlier because it has said it needs more time to consult the member states in the council to inform its position. But it's entirely unclear to me on the UK side what our counterpart process might be, whether this is being done in sufficient time, whether the UK Government is consulting the devolved executives, and then where the discussions will take place on the other side of that. So, I think the IGR mechanisms are quite crucial to this.
And just perhaps one final point: we have really practical examples where this is a concern for our sector. If you look at the minutes of the last partnership council meeting, we see no more than the Bill of Rights Bill and the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill being discussed, with no information around what the UK position would have been on that. Yet as this committee knows only too well, there is a distinct difference of views on the REUL Bill and the Bill of Rights Bill at the devolved level, let alone the UK level.
Diolch. I suppose just with an eye on the clock, Chair—
—dwi jest eisiau gofyn cwestiwn olaf. Bydd tymor y Senedd yma yn dod i ben yn 2026. Beth ydych chi'n meddwl medrwn ni ei wneud fel Senedd neu fel pwyllgor i gael yr effaith fwyaf yn y ddwy flynedd a hanner, tair blynedd olaf yma?
—I just want to ask a final question. This Senedd term will run until 2026. What do you think we can do as a Senedd or as a committee to have the greatest impact during the next two and a half to three years?
O'm rhan i, y peth pwysicaf ydy beth rydyn ni wedi'i drafod heddiw, sef eich bod chi yn gallu, yn eich adroddiad, gobeithio, rhoi darlun o beth sy'n digwydd yn yr Alban, ac efallai gwledydd eraill o fewn y Deyrnas Gyfunol, o ran cymorth, ond yn fwy na hynny, eich bod chi'n galw ar Lywodraeth Cymru i roi arweiniad rŵan. Mae eisiau arweiniad o'r newydd. Fel roedd Charles yn ei ddweud, mi ddaeth y pwyllgor blaenorol i ben, hwyrach, yn rhy fuan, ond does dim rhaid iddo fod yr un fath â hwnna. Ond mae angen rhyw arweiniad gan y Llywodraeth am ryw fath o bwyllgor ymgynghorol a fyddai'n cynnwys y sector sifil yn ei ehangrwydd, a rhyw fath o strwythur ariannol i fynd efo hwnna. Byddai hwnna, dwi'n meddwl, a gwireddu hwnna gan y Llywodraeth, yn sicr cyn yr etholiad nesaf, ond yn gynt os yn bosib, yn golygu y byddwn ni'n gallu parhau a dyfnhau ein cyfraniad ni fel sector gwirfoddol i'r trafodaethau yma. Ac fel roedd Alun yn ei ddweud yn gynharach, mae'n fater o adeiladu, yn aml iawn, rhwng cyfarfodydd, ac ennill parch y bobl rydych chi'n gweithio hefo nhw, fel eu bod nhw'n gweld gwerth yn eich mewnbwn chi. Ac i wneud hynny, mae'n rhaid i chi fod yna yn barhaol. Fedrwch chi ddim jest troi i fyny unwaith mewn blwyddyn a disgwyl dylanwadu. Mae'n rhaid bod yna berthynas sydd yn ddyfalbarhaus.
From my perspective, the most important thing is what we've discussed today, which is that you in your report, hopefully, can portray a picture of what is happening in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom in terms of support, but more than that, that you call on the Welsh Government to provide guidance now. As Charles said, the previous committee came to an end perhaps too soon in its work, but it doesn't have to be the same format as that. But we do need some sort of leadership or guidance from the Welsh Government for some sort of advisory committee that would include the civil sector in its wider sense and a financial structure to go along with it. I think achieving and implementing that, by the Welsh Government, by the time of the next election, or before that if possible, would mean that we could extend our contribution as a voluntary sector as part of these discussions. And as Alun said earlier, it's a matter of building and constructing between meetings, it's engendering that confidence, so that they see the value of your impact, and to do that, you have to be there consistently. You can't just turn up once a year and expect to have an influence. There has to be that relationship that is ongoing.
Anything from either of the other two witnesses to add to that, or would you be in agreement?
I would be in agreement with that. I would flag the obvious opportunity that is presented by the review of the TCA implementation that the UK and EU must undertake in 2026. Obviously, how exactly the Westminster Parliament might engage with that is a little bit unclear at the moment, because obviously it's the other side of the election. But you have the advantage of having, as it were, a clear run right up to that time, so I would encourage you to work up some substantive, concrete proposals and asks, as it were, that are ready to go in time for that process.
I agree with what Tom and Brigid have said. I'd say three bullet points: encouraging the development of a European strategy for Wales and supporting more intra-Wales co-ordination; helping to breach the transparency gap, particularly around the IGR structures and asking the Welsh Government how those discussions are going, and what challenges they're facing; and thirdly, building relationships with stakeholders in the EU. That's still very much an emerging landscape. We're all learning what the opportunities are. So, building those and sharing those relationships and the information with our sector would be very helpful. And, obviously, noting the Senedd's support in our building of relationships with the EESC has been absolutely crucial to helping us develop that relationship. So, more of that.
That's great. Thank you very much. Really succinct. Anything else from colleagues? No. But you've given us a lot of food for thought. Tom.
Just in passing, it's minor compared to what we've just been saying, but just to give you an example of where the EU is willing to engage with UK organisations, there was a call for a Horizon project recently under the common agricultural policy to create a platform of knowledge exchange and information and so on, and for the first time—. They got national experts from all the 27 member states, but they also accepted a UK national expert, one of my colleagues, because they want to learn what we're doing in the UK. So, I hope that we in the UK, as UK organisations, are also willing to engage with European expertise so we don't get left behind, so we are actually keeping in step with what they're doing. So, I just share that as an example. I'm involved with a current Horizon project, not as a UK member, but I just happen to be president of a pan-European organisation, as I said. So there is an acceptance within the Commission that it can at least tolerate UK inputs and actually find benefit from having that UK input.
I think that's really positive to hear. I think it does back up the message that, even though we've left the EU, we haven't left Europe. They are our closest neighbour and we do need to share knowledge and expertise, and it's very important we do that in a different relation. It's really good you've—. If you've got any more examples like that, Tom, I'm sure we'd love to see them as a committee, because it's always good to see where we're working with our colleagues across the water.
Yes, very much, and we will of course take up the advice you gave a couple of times, to look at what other devolved nations and administrations are doing as well, and parliaments are doing within the UK sphere as well.
Thank you, all three of you, very much for your time. We've covered a lot of ground, and you've given us a lot of food for thought, so we really appreciate that. If there is anything more that you think, having left the committee chamber, that you want to share with us, by all means ping something across to us. We will of course send you the transcript of proceedings for accuracy, in case you—or we—have misspoken or said something we didn't intend to. But otherwise, we look forward to continuing to engage with you now and in future as this develops, because it is still very much early days, but we do want to make sure that both the voice of the UK civil society—as well as Wales within that—is very loud and is heard, but also that the structures that we're putting in place are effective and meaningful and transparent. So, some of the guidance you've given us, some of your thoughts today, have been really helpful indeed.
So, diolch yn fawr iawn, pawb.
So, thank you very much, everybody.
What we will do now, if Members are content, is we will take a very short break here, just a very short break, to allow our panellists to leave virtually, and here in the committee room, and we need to actually test the audio then for our new panellists. So, we're going to move into private session for a moment, just for a few minutes while we do that. Diolch yn fawr.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:01 ac 14:14.
The meeting adjourned between 14:01 and 14:14.
Prynhawn da, a chroeso nôl i chi i gyd.
Good afternoon, and welcome back, all.
Welcome back, everybody, to this afternoon's session of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee. We've been taking evidence this afternoon already on UK-EU governance. We've said goodbye to our previous list of witnesses, but we're delighted to welcome now our second panel of the afternoon. On our second panel, we have Professor Tobias Lock of Maynooth University, Dr Lisa Whitten of Queen’s University Belfast, and Dr Elin Royles of Aberystwyth University. So, a very big welcome to all of you and thank you for taking the time to join with us today.
If you're happy, everybody, we'll go straight into some questions there, and as we ask these, if you've got anything to add if we begin with one of you, and anybody wants to add, feel free to do so, but there's no need to say anything in particular unless you want to add something if your colleague has summed it up, if that makes sense.
Let's just begin by looking at the institutional architecture that lies behind the withdrawal agreement and the TCA. They've been in place now for a few years, it is still early days, but they've had a little bit of time to settle in. So, can I just ask for your views on the arrangements at a UK-EU level? How's it going? Are there aspects of it that are doing particularly well? Are there aspects of it that are not functioning so well and could do better? Who'd like to begin? Go ahead, Lisa.
Thank you, and thank you for the invitation to be here this afternoon. Just broadly, I would begin by recognising that, although the institutions of the withdrawal agreement and the trade and co-operation agreement have been in place for a few years, those few years haven't been politically easy between the UK and EU, and so I would flag that, with the recent agreement of the Windsor framework, the institutions of those two agreements are perhaps in a new position to become more settled. There has been some evidence of a lack of meetings being held in accordance with the agreements that were laid down as to how often different committees and bodies were intended to meet throughout that period of tense negotiations and talks, primarily around the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland under the protocol and the withdrawal agreement. So, in that respect, while we are discussing what has happened over a series of years, I would also suggest that, from this point forward, following the majority resolution of that political tension over the Northern Ireland arrangements, we could perhaps be optimistic that we can see some more settling across the institutional architecture of both agreements from here on.
I would then just perhaps briefly say, while I think there are more areas that could be improved than perhaps have gone well so far, and flag that I think, under the TCA, the different specialised committees and trade specialised committees have been functioning, it seems, relatively well at that UK-EU level in terms of what's been discussed and the minutes that are published following meetings. It seems that they're operating in line with the terms of reference of the agreement.
On the withdrawal agreement, I would flag that the bottom tier of the institution, the joint consultative working group, has been functioning relatively effectively, notwithstanding political tensions more broadly throughout that period. It's been quite regular. On areas of improvement, I'll perhaps let colleagues jump in. I think there are many more, but I'll leave it at the optimistic for now.
Okay, thank you. Thanks, Dr Whitten. Let's go to Professor Lock, please.
Thank you and good afternoon. One thing I'd like to add is that the arrangements that we find in both agreements, both in the TCA and in the withdrawal agreement, are quite standard arrangements for governance. So, we have them in many other EU agreements. We have a joint committee and often some sort of parliamentary forum of some kind in there. It's a well-tested way of managing these types of trade arrangements.
The thing I would note, and I think that's something Lisa said as well, is that we have seen only minimal engagement in some respects, so we've only had two meetings of the partnership council and there has to be one every year, so it's the bare minimum. Whether this is going to improve or not, well, we can only speculate, but it seems that some of the more specialised committees, which are often happening at the civil servant level, seem to have been more active and more productive, which is of course positive and goes to show that a lot of the work is being done under the high-level surface, and I think that is something—. Maybe a lesson we have learnt from how the Windsor framework came about is that a lot of work is done even outside these committee structures and outside these structures at a diplomatic level and then implemented. The Windsor framework has really shown how powerful these committees can be—the amount of changes it has brought about. And they're all joint committee decisions, some unilateral decisions. There hasn't been a formal amendment to the withdrawal agreement that had to go through the European Parliament, that had to go through the processes in the UK Parliament. None of that was necessary in order to change, quite fundamentally, the workings of the protocol. So, you can see, on the one hand, the potential of these committees and of these governance arrangements, and on the other side their underuse so far.
One of the things that I think could be improved is transparency more generally. It's very hard—. Very little information is in the public domain, certainly about the withdrawal agreement. If we're very lucky—. I mean, I could only find one summary of minutes of one of the meetings so far, but there have been 10 of the joint committee, so there's very little transparency. That, of course, makes it very difficult to assess what's actually happening there, but it also is a challenge for institutions like your own, the devolved Parliaments—how do you access information and how do the Governments, the devolved Governments, access information? That's a real challenge, I think.
Thank you for that. Dr Royles, I'll come to you for your thoughts on this opening question, setting the context of how well or otherwise things are functioning, but it strikes me on the transparency issue that we're quite used to in the pre-Brexit scenario, the transparency of the final outcome being fairly limited; communiqués would be issued, et cetera, et cetera, but what was noticeable was the amount of engagement and consultation that had led up to that point. There was no shortage of either civil society or wider inter-governmental notices on where priorities lay, et cetera, et cetera, before a communiqué was finally issued. But anyway, your thoughts, Dr Royles, on how things are going.
Mae'n rhaid i fi fod yn onest; mae fy niddordebau pennaf i wedi bod o ran ymwneud y sefydliadau datganoledig eu hunain yn fwy na sut mae'r trefniadau yn gweithio, ond mae yna brosiect ymchwil ar fin datblygu efo Carolyn Rowe a Rachel Minto yn y maes yma. Ond mi fyddwn i'n ategu'r pwynt o fynd ati i drio deall sut mae'r strwythurau yma'n gweithio, mae yna her oherwydd diffyg hygyrchedd gwybod beth sy'n digwydd, ac mae'n effeithio'n uniongyrchol ar eich sefyllfa chi rŵan yn trio gwerthuso'r math hyn o strwythurau. Felly, dwi'n derbyn eich pwynt chi mai dyna beth ydy natur lot o'r trefniadau wedi bod, eu bod nhw ddim yn dryloyw iawn, ond mae o'n effeithio ar ein dealltwriaeth ni o i ba raddau mae cyrff datganoledig ac yn y blaen yn cael dylanwad o fewn y strwythurau yma.
I have to be honest; my main interests have been in the involvement of the devolved organisations themselves, rather than how the arrangements work, but there is a research project that is about to be undertaken with Carolyn Rowe and Rachel Minto in this area. But I would endorse the fact that in trying to understand how the structures works, there is a challenge, because of a lack of accessibility and knowing what's happening, and it has a direct impact on your situation now trying to evaluate these sorts of structures. So, I accept your point that that has been the nature of a lot of the arrangements, and that they're not very transparent, but it does have an impact on our understanding of to what extent devolved bodies have an influence within these structures.
And I wonder, does anybody have anything to add on how these processes are working in terms of the devolved apparatus as well, the role of devolved Governments, not only in the agreements but also in delivering on the ground? Who would like to pick that up? Dr Whitten.
Yes. I think I would begin answering by distinguishing between the Northern Ireland situation and Scotland and Wales in this respect, because the withdrawal agreement arrangement and the protocol Windsor framework really does set Northern Ireland apart, particularly since the Windsor framework, in terms of the level of engagement and representation now provided for, at least in principle—all of the new provisions haven't actually been implemented yet—and it does provide a suite of possible avenues for Northern Ireland stakeholders, officials, and business representatives, civic representatives, as well as elected representatives, to input into the process of implementation and delivery, therefore, of the agreements.
That said, when we go into detail—and the written evidence submitted probably went into all too much detail on some aspects of this—there is still the formal retention of the UK position in a lot of aspects of the processes for Northern Ireland involvement; they're at the discretion of the UK, and it is, ultimately, the UK Government that's holding that.
On the broader picture of provision for devolved involvement in both agreements, with Scotland and Wales, from my understanding of the institutional architecture under the withdrawal agreement, there is no provision for the Scottish and Welsh Governments or stakeholders to input to the implementation of the withdrawal agreement arrangement, and there's quite a clear separation between the withdrawal agreement and the TCA institutional architectures, which is itself, perhaps, problematic. But, then, on the TCA, there have been commitments made by the UK Government for devolved representatives to be present at meetings, at the partnership council, when relevant to devolved competence. Perhaps worth noting there that there could be, because of the asymmetry of competence in devolution, some implications in terms of that representation, but, again, that's a discretionary provision. So, there is a very clear distinction to be made between the Northern Ireland position under the withdrawal agreement, and then, in the TCA, which has a very minimal provision for devolved Governments across the UK to be represented there, I would suggest.
Alun, let me come to you. I think it's a question of whether we should be delighted for the arrangements that have been made in Northern Ireland, or inordinately jealous, or both—I'm not sure—and what it means for the future. But Alun, you pursue this.
Yes, jealousy of the institutional arrangements in Northern Ireland would be a new thing, I think, in lots of different ways. [Laughter.] But looking at where we are, it strikes me that, notwithstanding the issues where the EU and the UK have been trying to solve all the problems that Brexit has created on the island of Ireland, we don't seem to have a settled institutional structure within the United Kingdom, in terms of an agreed relationship with the EU relationship, shall we say, in its wider sense. I was interested, Professor Lock, in the paper you submitted, and your use of Switzerland and Germany as examples, because I think they're both, in different ways, quite useful and informative. But the paper, of course, was very much a chapter 1, wasn't it; chapter 2 is 'What does this mean for the United Kingdom?' And I noticed that you've tried to avoid any sort of creation of a new model, if you like, for the United Kingdom, and that's fair enough, of course.
But where does it leave us, from the experience of the three of you, looking at the political structures in different ways? We don't seem to be settled. We don't seem to have structures that are transparent, that are democratic and that provide scrutiny and accountability. And we seem only to be able to respond to a crisis, and not to a more settled political environment.
Who would like to pick that challenge up? Dr Lock, as your name has been taken in vain, we'll go to you first, and, then, we'll go to Dr Royles.
Actually, he's a professor.
He's a professor.
[Laughter.] My apologies, I am getting it totally wrong today; I think you may need a new Chair, colleagues.
That's no problem at all. Yes, I didn't go there in my evidence, partly because time was quite tight, and I don't want to step on anybody's toes, because you need to develop these things yourselves, of course. But I think what I tried to do is, obviously neither Germany or Switzerland are the UK, and their relationship with the EU is very different, even though the Swiss relationship—the UK seems to be going down that kind of general route of having a very, very bespoke and unique relationship with the EU, and I don't think that is going to change any time soon. So, maybe it's not completely off.
But, what I was trying to show is that it would be good to have predefined rules about information flow from UK Government to devolved Governments and, maybe, if you pushed it, even some arrangement as to how to come to common positions in areas that are devolved. Now, as Dr Whitten has said, we've got this asymmetrical problem in UK devolution that we have three bits of the UK that are devolved to different extents, and then we've got England, which is sitting there in the middle and is, of course, represented by the UK Government. So, England’s interests are taken into account at the highest level by its very nature, whereas Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish interests might not be. So, I think, in that sense, some flow of information would be good, but also not just down from UK to devolved, but also upstream—that devolved Governments have at least some influence, perhaps, on the agenda setting. As far as I can see, from all the meetings that have taken place at inter-ministerial level, they happen three or four days before the actual meeting was taking place—the agenda was settled at this stage; it was basically an information exercise. And that is nice and it's good that it's happening, but I think it could be improved in order to give these devolved Governments and, by extension, their legislatures—which have actual powers and that have been given actual powers—an opportunity to voice their views and maybe even have these views taken into account. Because, otherwise you get to this situation where the powers, those competencies, are squeezed out, because you could have arrangements at the TCA level or at the withdrawal agreement level that will simply make it impossible for the Welsh Government and Welsh Parliament, the Senedd, to exercise its powers in any meaningful way.
And Dr Royles.
Ie, dwi'n meddwl mai un o'r dadleuon sydd wedi cael ei awgrymu am yr amrywiaeth patrymau ydy natur datganoli asymetrig. Ond beth wnaethon ni weld yng nghyfnod datganoli o 1999 ymlaen oedd trefniadau cyson ar draws y cyrff datganoledig o sut i'w cynnwys nhw yn ymwneud ynglŷn â pholisïau’r Undeb Ewropeaidd, boed hynny yn gynrychiolaeth ym Mrwsel, yn amlwg sydd wedi mynd, neu drefniadau JMC. Doedd natur y grymoedd ddim yn cael unrhyw effaith—y pwyslais oedd cysondeb yn y trefniadau. A beth dwi'n meddwl dŷn ni'n ei weld ydy lleihad yn eu cynrychiolaeth nhw ac anghysondeb yn eu cynrychiolaeth nhw, ac mae lle i gryfhau a ffurfioli yn bellach i greu trefniadau mwy settled, achos beth roedd Alun Davies yn ei awgrymu, o ran bod y trefniadau yma ddim wedi eu setlo. A beth sy'n anodd ydy gweld beth ydy'r rhesymeg y tu ôl i'r penderfyniadau ynglŷn â'r graddau mae yna gynrychiolaeth neu beidio, oherwydd mae'r cytundebau yma i gyd yn effeithio ar rymoedd datganoledig, ac mae'r Athro Lock newydd awgrymu beth ydy rhai o'r goblygiadau os nad ydy hynny yn cael ei ystyried. Felly, dwi'n meddwl bod y diffyg eglurder y tu ôl i'r anghysondebau yma yn creu trafferth a goblygiadau mwy hirdymor hefyd. Ac eto, mae yna ddisgwyliadau i fod yn gweithredu cytundebau, yn gweithredu'r ymrwymiadau ac yn y blaen, a dydy hynny ddim yn broblem, ond mi fyddech chi'n disgwyl wedyn bod yna gyfle i gael llais, a mwy o lais na jest arsylwi mewn pwyllgor.
Yes, I think that one of the arguments that has been put forward for the variance in the patterns is the asymmetric nature of devolution. But what we saw in the period of devolution from 1999 onwards were consistent arrangements across the devolved Governments in how to include them in EU policy, be that in representation in Brussels, which has gone, or the JMC arrangements. The nature of the powers didn't have any impact—the emphasis was on consistency in the arrangements. And I think what've seen now is a decrease in their representation and inconsistency in their representation. I think there's room to strengthen and formalise further in order to create more settled arrangements. As Alun Davies suggested, these arrangements are not settled, and what's difficult is to see the rationale behind the decisions with regard to the degree to which there is representation or not, because these agreements all impact devolved powers, and Professor Lock has just suggested what some of the implications are if that isn't taken into account. So, I think the lack of clarity behind these inconsistencies does cause issues and implications in the longer term too. And again, there are expectations to be implementing agreements and implementing the obligations and so on, and that isn't an issue. But you would expect then that there's an opportunity to have a voice and more of a voice throughout than just having observer status in a committee.
Diolch yn fawr. Alun, do you mind if I bring James in at this point? Because I think, as we've touched on inter-governmental relations, it might be useful—[Inaudible.]
Yes, it was around the inter-ministerial groups, which Professor Lock talked about. How effective do you think that model actually is for co-ordinating matters between the nations of the UK? Because these meetings normally happen ahead of the UK-EU meetings, so, the Welsh Government are feeding into things. How effective do you think they are? Or how, also, do you think they could be improved as well?
Dr Royles, did you want to pick up on that?
Ie, hapus iawn i godi hynny. Buaswn i'n cwestiynu, efallai, pa mor effeithiol ydy'r rhain. I gychwyn, mae'n anodd iawn cael gwybodaeth amdanyn nhw. Y ffordd orau, dwi'n ffeindio, o gael gwybodaeth amdanyn nhw ydy adroddiadau Gweinidogion Llywodraeth Cymru. Yn wahanol i rai o'r pwyllgorau inter-ministerial eraill, does yna ddim cyhoeddi ar weithrediadau'r rhain ar wefan Llywodraeth San Steffan; dŷch chi'n gorfod edrych yn yr adroddiadau chwarterol i gael gafael arnyn nhw, felly dydyn nhw ddim yn dryloyw. Roedd y JMC Europe—hwnna oedd yr esiampl i'w dilyn ar gyfer yr holl bwyllgorau rhyngweinidogol eraill o dan y trefniadau cynt, ond dydy hwn, er mor bwysig ac er mor arwyddocaol, ddim yn cael yr un sylw. Yn amlwg, mae yna botensial i'r strwythurau hyn, ond dydyn nhw ddim yn cwrdd yn rheolaidd; mae o wedi cwrdd teirgwaith, hyd y gwelaf i. Roedden nhw'n hwyr yn cael eu sefydlu. Fel roeddech chi'n awgrymu efo'r cwestiwn, mae yna botensial iddyn nhw fod yn cwrdd yn fwy cyson cyn rhai o'r cyfarfodydd yma, yn fforwm i ddatblygu safbwynt ar y cyd, ac i gynnwys diddordebau datganoledig mewn meysydd sy'n cael eu dylanwadu gan yr Undeb Ewropeaidd i ystyriaeth. Ond mae lle i fynd â hyn yn bellach. Ar hyn o bryd, dŷn ni'n ei weld o fel fforwm lle mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn trio tynnu sylw at rai o'r pryderon sydd ganddyn nhw ynglŷn â diffyg llais, ac i drio cael mwy o lais, ac mae hwnna’n gyfan gwbl briodol, ond dwi'n meddwl bod lle i'r trefniadau yma gael rôl gryfach, rôl amlycach, a gosod diddordebau datganoledig yn fwy canolog yn yr agendâu.
Yes, very happy to come in on that. I would question, perhaps, how effective these are. To start with, it's very difficult to get any information about them. I find that the best way to get information about them is the reports from Welsh Ministers. Unlike some of the other inter-ministerial committees, there is no publication of the operations on the Westminster Government website; you have to look at the quarterly reports to get a handle on these, so they are not transparent. The JMC Europe was the example to follow for all the other inter-ministerial committees under the previous arrangements, but this, even though it's important and significant, does not have the same attention. Clearly, these structures have potential, but they don't meet regularly; they've met three times, as far as I can see. They were late being established. As you suggested with the question, there is potential for them to be meeting more regularly before some of these meetings, as a forum to develop a joint position, and to include devolved interests in areas that are influenced by the European Union. But there is room to take this further. Currently, we see it as a forum where the Welsh Government is trying to draw attention to some of the concerns they have regarding a lack of voice, and to try and get more of a voice, and that is very appropriate, but I think there is room for these arrangements to have a stronger role, a more prominent role, and place devolved interests at a more central position.
Professor Lock, is there anything you'd like to add to that, not just from a Welsh perspective, but from a devolved perspective?
No. I fully agree with this. I think more engagement and more regular engagement that allows enough time for devolved positions to be taken into account, not only where the agenda has already been set, but also beforehand, because, otherwise, things won't get on the agenda, or they might get on the agenda at the next meeting, which might be a year later, would be very, very good.
Okay. Alun, back to you.
Thank you. I'm interested, Dr Whitten, in the work that you've been doing around the Windsor framework and what that means for wider UK structures. I understand you've conducted polling on how voters in Northern Ireland see the Windsor framework. Does this tell you anything about the UK–EU governance in this wider sense? Does it tell you how people in Northern Ireland view the protocol or view the framework that's been agreed more recently?
Thank you. Yes, I guess it does tell us something. I would, of course—. We have to be hesitant in reading directly across from the Northern Ireland context to the UK more widely, but I think there are probably two key takeaways from the polling we've been carrying out on the protocol, on the Windsor framework. We've been doing that consistently since the beginning of the entry into force of these agreements, so the end of the transition period. And our most recent poll was just on 9 June to 12 June, so the findings are published this week. But what we see is that there is general support for closer UK-EU relations in the Northern Ireland context, and that question is asked in the context that, if there's a closer UK–EU relationship via the TCA, that will help ease some of the burden for the differentiation of Northern Ireland within the UK. And we see a strong majority support for that—so 72 per cent support for closer UK-EU relations under the TCA, in our most recent June polling, and, notably, in the Northern Ireland context, that comes from across the political spectrum.
The other aspect to highlight is just around a consistent finding that we have had on stakeholder engagement and the role of stakeholders. We've asked questions around whether people in Northern Ireland believe the UK and EU should increase engagement with Northern Ireland stakeholders, and again, we've seen consistent strong support for that—71 per cent in the most recent poll—and there's cross-party support. So, I guess in the context of the broader UK–EU governance, and the role of devolveds in feeding into that, Northern Ireland public opinion would suggest that there is broader support. There might be popular support across the board for more devolved engagement in the UK and EU governance and implementation of these arrangements.
Then, I would also just say, on the Windsor framework, in terms of its potential impact more generally on the post-Brexit UK-EU relationship, that some of the changes it makes do affect, through an expansion of the definition of authorised economic operators and trusted traders, the Windsor framework newly expands the potential for traders from Great Britain to engage in and benefit from easements of trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. So, just to flag, going forward, that, after the Windsor framework, constituents, businesses, stakeholders in Great Britain may be more affected by the implementation of the Windsor framework than they were under the protocol arrangement, just from that specific expansion of the definition, if that's useful.
Thank you very much for that. I suspect that the electorate of Northern Ireland are probably, how shall I put this, more familiar with clinical debates about structures and governance than perhaps other parts of the United Kingdom.
So, it's probably a more informed electorate than you'd have in either Wales, Scotland or England, in that sense. And that makes it all the more interesting, of course, to hear those conclusions. We have clearly had a focus on the position of Ireland and the north of Ireland in these debates. But looking back across the wider conversation around the structural stakeholder governance relationship with the EU post Brexit, have any of you seen anything from the United Kingdom Government, or perhaps the other Governments, which would point to either a clear vision of what that future institutional relationship will look like, in terms of the UK side of things, or, from any of the devolved Governments, a clear, workable, achievable idea of where these institutional debates are going to settle? Has there been anything in your view where the United Kingdom Government has either taken a lead—? It demands its position, in terms of its responsibility for foreign affairs, but I don't see that it's delivering on that demand by delivering a clear vision of where it wants these things to settle. Anyone of the three of you to—.
Diolch yn fawr. Dwi'n meddwl y buaswn i'n dweud na, nad ydw i wedi dod ar draws unrhyw weledigaeth eglur. A rhan o'r broblem i fi ydy'r anghysonderau sydd gennym ni o ran beth ydy'r weledigaeth a beth ydy'r egwyddorion y tu ôl i ymwneud cyrff datganoledig yn llunio safbwynt y Deyrnas Unedig mewn perthynas â'r Undeb Ewropeaidd. Felly, mae'n dal gennym ni'r memorandwm cyd-ddealltwriaeth a'r concordat ar gydlynu perthnasau efo'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, yn dod o 2013. Mae gennym ni'r egwyddorion newydd ar gyfer perthnasau rhynglywodraethol, a gafodd eu cynhyrchu yn 2021. Mae gennym ni hefyd lythyr yr Arglwydd Frost o 2021, a oedd yn trio gosod rhyw sail ar gyfer y berthynas. A dwi'n meddwl mai'r broblem i fi—a dwi'n meddwl am hyn oherwydd fy mod i'n dysgu hefyd, a dwi'n meddwl sut ar y ddaear dwi'n egluro hyn i fyfyrwyr, sydd efallai'n mynd i fod yn trio gweithredu'r prosesau yma—ydy ble mae'r hierarchaeth. Pa rai o'r egwyddorion yma sydd â'r statws uchaf? Sut ydym ni i fod i ddeall sut mae'r egwyddorion yma i fod i ddylanwadu ar berthnasau, achos mae rhai ohonyn nhw'n gwrthdaro â'i gilydd? Mae rhai ohonyn nhw'n dehongli diddordebau datganoledig mewn ffyrdd gwahanol. Mae rhai ohonyn nhw'n gweld rôl a statws uwch ac yn rhoi mwy o bwyslais ar gydgysylltu na'i gilydd. Felly, mae'r haenau yma'n ychwanegu at y cymhlethdodau, dwi'n meddwl, o sut y gallwn ni ddehongli, a does yna ddim gweledigaeth glir. A dwi'n meddwl, o'r ochr arall, y byddai, er enghraifft, ddatganiad cliriach gan Lywodraethau fel Llywodraeth Cymru ynglŷn â'u blaenoriaethau mewn perthynas â'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, ac o ran dylanwadu ar y Deyrnas Gyfunol mewn perthynas â'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, yn ddefnyddiol iawn i ni, i allu gwerthuso beth ydy goblygiadau sut mae'r trefniadau yma'n gweithio ar hyn o bryd i rannau datganoledig gwahanol.
Thank you very much. I think I would say that, no, I haven't come across any kind of clear vision. And part of the problem for me is the inconsistency that we have in terms of what the vision is and what the principles are behind the engagement of devolved bodies in shaping the UK's stance with regard to the European Union. So, we still have that memorandum of understanding and the concordat on co-ordinating relations with the European Union, emanating from 2013. We have the new principles for inter-governmental relations, produced in 2021. We also have the letter of Lord Frost from 2021, which tried to set out some sort of basis for the relationship. And I think that the problem for me—and I think about this because I also teach, and I think how on earth do I explain this to students, who are perhaps going to have to try to implement these processes—is where is the hierarchy. Which one of these principles has the highest status? How are we meant to understand how these principles are going to influence relations, because some of them contradict each other? Some of them interpret devolved interests in different ways. Some of them envisage a greater role and status and put more emphasis on co-ordination than others. So, these strata add to the complexities, I think, in terms of how we can interpret all of this, and there is no clear vision. And I think, from the other side, that, for example, a clearer statement by Governments such as the Welsh Government in terms of their priorities with regard to the European Union, and in terms of influencing the United Kingdom with regard to the European Union, would be very useful for us, in order to be able to evaluate what the implications are of how these arrangements are currently working with regard to different devolved nations.
Okay. Did either of our witnesses want to come in on that as well? Both do. Let me go first of all, then, to Dr Whitten.
Thank you. Yes, I guess I would just agree with Dr Royles and make the observation that I think what is clear is complexity and the ad hoc nature of the arrangements that exist to support the UK-EU governance and implementation, but also in the domestic setting. As Dr Royles was pointing out, there are contradictions in the system, and we can look at tensions between the common frameworks arrangement, the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 and the institution set up, the Office for the Internal Market, and how that works together or does not work together with institutions under the withdrawal agreement and the TCA. So, I think complexity and an ad hoc manner of development are defining features of the quite intricate network of the institutions post Brexit.
And then, I would just make an observation in the Northern Ireland context over the last few years, and just speaking as someone who's been watching developments from that vantage point rather closely, to say that the arrangements that have come forward under the Windsor framework in terms of involvement of stakeholders and greater representation for Northern Ireland officials—and it's quite explicit in the UK-EU messaging and political documents that came alongside the legal text of the framework—that the role of stakeholders over the last number of years in raising issues and in engaging with both the UK Government and the European Commission from Northern Ireland organically and from the bottom up has been significant in shaping the outcomes at UK-EU level. And so, while, of course, particular and specific, I do think there's evidence of the potential for ideas from the bottom up to have influence and impact in that context of a very ad hoc top level, and perhaps a lack of overall comprehensive strategy in the institutional architecture.
That's really interesting. Before I bring you in, Professor Locke, could I just ask you, Dr Whitten, is it an inevitability—it certainly has been for the past few decades—that Northern Ireland is always that bit different, that bit special in terms of engagement with the UK Government because of the wider political context, et cetera? So, there will always be special arrangements, if I put that in parentheses for a moment. Or should the sort of quality of engagement not simply with the administration and the political parties, but actually with wider civic society, be something that we should aspire to across the UK as the way to do it in a post-Brexit situation? And realistically, is that ever going to be the case, because Northern Ireland has been for the whole of my lifetime, and most of us in this room, a special case?
I would say that I think Northern Ireland, because of its definition and the constitutional set-up here, is always going to be the most differentiated part of the UK within the vast majority of the conversations that we're having, including around engagement and things. That said, I don't think I would suggest that there is a problematic effect with placing Northern Ireland apart as a consequence that it is the most different—not, of course, that every part isn't unique, but it has that—. Differentiation is greater in Northern Ireland, but that does not mean, and ought not to mean, that practices in Northern Ireland cannot inform and filter across the rest of the UK, and be for the benefit more broadly. So, I would say that while I would make no commitments or suggestions that it will be inevitably read across, I do think there are some aspects of the Northern Ireland particular position that could be used to inform and help improve, and allow for creativity across the rest of the UK.
Fascinating—ways of working. Professor Lock.
Thank you. Just coming back to the vision bit, I too haven't come across any formulated vision of the UK Government or anyone else as to how these arrangements should work, but I think the UK Government’s practice is very much one that is based on its reserved and exclusive power to conduct external relations, and you can see that particularly in the way that it has allowed devolved Governments to be represented in certain cases. But it’s a unilateral act, so it’s not an agreement. And you can see—. Why is it not and why isn’t there match-up? Because I think you can see that there might be some disagreement over what it actually means, that devolved powers aren’t affected.
Now, obviously in the TCA context, this arrangement works reasonably well, but when it comes to the withdrawal agreement, for instance, when it comes to citizens' rights, the UK Government's position would be, 'Well, this is for us to decide in concert with the EU. Nothing is devolved here', but, of course, devolved powers are affected, because the devolved Governments must ensure equal treatment of EU citizens who have certain rights under the withdrawal agreement, who have 'settled status', in UK parlance, when it comes to access to healthcare, when it comes to access to education, and all sorts of other things. So, you can see that an agreed position would probably look a bit differently. So, there may not be a vision, but there's clearly a practice, and I think that practice is very much evidence of a centralised vision of the exercise of external powers. So, that's what I wanted to add. Thank you.
Thank you. Peredur.
Diolch. Mae gen i ddau gwestiwn i orffen. Y cwestiwn cyntaf: yn eich barn chi, beth ydy'r datblygiad pwysicaf sydd ar y gweill, neu beth ydy'r camau nesaf i edrych allan amdanyn nhw? Felly, byddwn i'n jest licio gofyn i'r tri ohonoch chi yn unigol i weld beth ydych chi'n meddwl ydy'r pethau sydd yn mynd i ddod lawr y lein yn y misoedd nesaf. Dwi ddim yn siŵr at bwy dwi am fynd yn gyntaf. Dr Royles.
Thank you. I have two questions to end on. The first question: in your view, what is the most important upcoming development or the next steps to look out for? I'd like to ask the three of you individually what issues you think are going to come down the line in the next few months. Who would like to go first? Dr Royles.
Diolch. Efallai y bydd canfyddiadau eich pwyllgor chi yn gallu helpu'r broses o ddatblygu pethau, yn gyntaf, efallai, drwy—fel a godwyd yn y sesiwn dystiolaeth gynt—annog Llywodraeth Cymru i fod yn gliriach ar beth ydy ei blaenoriaethau hi, a gall hynna helpu i gynorthwyo deall beth ydy sgil-effeithiau'r broses. Rydyn ni hefyd wedi sôn am dryloywder y mecanweithiau, a dwi'n meddwl, po fwyaf o leisiau sy'n codi'r angen am y tryloywder yna—. Dwi'n meddwl bod hynna'n hollbwysig.
Dwi'n gobeithio bod y trefniadau rhyngweinidogol ac elfennau gwahanol o'r trefniadau rydyn ni wedi'u trafod heddiw yn gallu esblygu—nad ydyn nhw jest yn statig ac yn mynd i aros yn yr unfan, ond bod yna le iddyn nhw esblygu. Efallai fy mod i'n optimist yn fan hyn, ond dwi'n meddwl bod yna broblemau sylfaenol efo'r anghysonderau a'r diffyg statws i'r cyrff datganoledig o fewn y strwythur yma.
Gaf i godi un mater arall? Rydyn ni wedi trafod Gogledd Iwerddon; efallai mai'r mater arall ydy'r Alban. Mae sefyllfa wleidyddol yr Alban yn amlwg yn wahanol iawn, ac rydyn ni'n gwybod bod yna barodrwydd i gicio'r tresi mwy oherwydd hynny. Beth rydyn ni wedi gweld o dan drefniadau interest representation gwledydd yn yr Undeb Ewropeaidd ydy, pan nad oedd y strwythurau ffurfiol yn galluogi lleisiau datganoledig i gael eu clywed, bydden nhw'n gwneud mwy o ymdrech i'r lleisiau yna yn cael eu clywed yn anuniongyrchol, ac yn 'circumvent-io' llywodraeth ganolog, fel petai. Felly, dwi'n meddwl bod yna botensial i hynny ddigwydd.
Beth rydyn ni wedi gweld yn y gorffennol ydy, pan fydd Llywodraeth yr Alban yn dod i fwy o densiwn efo'r Llywodraeth ganolog, mae hynna'n creu goblygiadau i Gymru, ac fel arfer mae'r sgil-effeithiau un ai wedi ffurfioli trefniadau rhynglywodraethol—a hynny, efallai, weithiau wedi bod o fudd—neu wedi gwneud pethau'n anoddach a gosod mwy o gyfyngiadau. So, buaswn i'n codi'r pwynt bod yna bosibiliadau i beth bynnag sy'n digwydd yn yr Alban gael sgil-effeithiau ar Gymru. Mae yna rai awgrymiadau bod hynny eisoes yn digwydd o ran cyfyngu ar swyddfeydd yr Alban dramor a'r hyn maen nhw'n gwneud mewn cysylltiadau efo gwledydd eraill. Dwi'n meddwl bod angen gwylio am beth ydy goblygiadau hynna i Gymru oherwydd bod hi'n gosod cyd-destun ehangach i beth rydyn ni'n ei drafod heddiw.
Thank you. Perhaps the findings of your committee will be able to help that process of developing things further, but first of all—as raised in the previous evidence session—encouraging the Welsh Government to be clearer in terms of what its priorities are, and that could assist and support the understanding of what the impact of the process will be. We've also talked about the clarity and transparency of the mechanisms, and the more voices that raise that need for clarity, the better.
I hope the inter-ministerial arrangements and the different elements of the arrangements that we've already discussed today can evolve—that they aren't just static and remain at a standstill, but that there is room for them to evolve. Perhaps I'm being an optimist here, but I do think there are fundamental problems with the inconsistencies and the lack of status for the devolved bodies within this structure.
May I raise another matter? We've talked about Northern Ireland, but another matter might be Scotland. The political situation in Scotland is clearly very different, and we know that, as a result, there is a willingness to be more conflictual. What we've seen in terms of the interest representation arrangements of countries in the European Union is that when the formal structures didn't enable devolved voices to be heard, they made more of an effort for those voices to be heard informally and so circumvented central Government, as it were. So, I think there is potential for that to happen here.
What we've seen in the past is that, when there is greater tension between the Scottish Government and central Government, that has implications for Wales, through either formalising the inter-governmental arrangements—and that perhaps has been of benefit—or making things more difficult and establishing additional limitations. So, I would make the point that there is scope for what happens in Scotland to have an impact on what happens in Wales. There's a suggestion that that is already happening in terms of placing limitations on Scottish offices overseas and their relations with other countries. I think we have to be mindful of the implications for Wales because it creates a wider context for what we're discussing today.
Diolch yn fawr. Dr Whitten, any thoughts on next steps, the next things to look out for?
Yes, thanks. So, I think, in the immediate term, things to look out for—and this would be for information, perhaps, more than direct impact in Wales—is that October 2023 is when we start to see commitments made under the Windsor framework due to come into effect in terms of easements and arrangements to ease movements of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. The implementation timetable is, as will probably not be surprising, complex and it runs until 2025, but 1 October 2023 will be interesting, to see how that plays out.
We'd also flag, before the end of this year, that the UK Government have committed to publishing the final version of the border target operating model, which, although not mentioned here, when read together with the UK-EU arrangement is likely to have significant effects all across the UK in terms of the experience of that UK-EU relationship and in trading terms. Also then, just for reference, the end of 2024 is when we will see the first holding of the Northern Ireland vote on the democratic consent mechanisms, so it would be the continuation or the disapplication of the trade aspects of the protocol framework. So, that is perhaps more indirect and contextual, but, depending on how things unfold, those developments could have much broader repercussions.
And then the one that I think is perhaps most pertinent for the purposes of this discussion is the upcoming review of the trade and co-operation agreement, which is due before the end of 2025, I believe. But I understand that the formation of the UK position and proposals is beginning at this point and will probably run through 2024 in earnest, in particular. So, if there were ideas and suggestions coming around the development of the devolved involvement in the implementation of these agreements, I think feeding into that review of the TCA could be a very fruitful avenue.
Thank you. Possibly, before answering that question, Professor Lock, if I ask my other question, it might lead into a further discussion. In 2026, we will have the elections for this place. Between now and then, what influence could or should this Senedd, and this committee in particular, be trying to have in the processes running up to that election? We've just been given a timeline, really, there by Dr Whitten. Where do this committee and this Senedd fit into that, and what could we do?
Okay, thank you very much. I only want to add two things, or two or three dates of upcoming events. The review is a review of the implementation of the TCA, and I think that's an important semantic difference. It's not a wholesale review of the TCA, do we want to continue it, do we want to scrap it, do we want to amend it, but it's the implementation, so it's one step below. But, given that the partnership council has far-reaching powers to shape the TCA, to shape the practice of the TCA by way of decisions, but also by recommendations, I think there's an awful lot of wiggle room of what might happen and how trade in goods in particular could be eased. Obviously, if the mood is very good, there is nothing to prevent the EU and the UK from going further. There's nothing to prevent them from reviewing the TCA as a whole, or adding chapters on services or other things or other policy areas that they might think of at that point.
Now, obviously, some of these policy areas in the TCA touch upon devolved competence. Notably, issues around perhaps another go at accessing the Erasmus programme might be perhaps in the interest of this committee. Also the whole fisheries deal that is going to come up for renewal in 2026, which will need to be renegotiated—the compromise that was found in the last stages of the negotiations five years ago is going to have to be replaced.
There will be a number of unilateral decisions that need to be taken at EU level but also at UK level about the continuation of certain concessions, essentially, that are currently being given. One is data equivalence, data adequacy—very, very important for any data that is currently stored on UK servers from the EU; if that adequacy decision goes, the data has to go. Or the continued use of the CE marking on goods in the UK, so that goods that have been approved in the EU don't need to run through another process in the UK.
All of these things—I think it is worth for this committee to perhaps take evidence on what Welsh businesses and Welsh civil society would like to see happening in the run-up to this review of the implementation of the TCA, and also in the run-up to the renewal, especially, of the fisheries deal, and try and obviously communicate this to the UK Government, both through the Welsh Government but also directly, and try to make the Welsh position clear and unequivocal, if at all possible.
So, I think two more dates, perhaps—and, obviously, you're aware of the UK general election happening somewhere in between there as well, but European Parliament elections are happening next June, and there will be a new European Commission as a consequence as well in about a year's time.
Lovely. Dr Whitten, anything to add about what we could do as a committee or as a Senedd?
Honestly, not much to add. I think that was comprehensive, and just to reiterate that I do think—and, absolutely, thank you, Professor Lock, for it—it is an implementation of the TCA review. But I do think, within that, discussions around governance arrangements and its institutional architecture will be considered and on the table, as it were.
And I guess, just a reflection in terms of what the committee could do, is to speak back to that point around the Northern Ireland experience of the potential for bottom-up initiatives to inform and get picked up in the broader picture of UK-EU relations, as to whether our good ideas and suggestions informed by Welsh constituents and Welsh stakeholders—. I would be optimistic, for what it's worth, that that could be fruitful.
Dr Royles, rwyt ti wedi ymateb rywfaint i hwn yn barod, ond dwi ddim yn gwybod oes gen ti unrhyw beth—.
Dr Royles, you've responded to some of this already, but I don't know if you have anything else to add.
Jest efallai un pwynt olaf, sef mae lot o drafodaeth rŵan ynghylch llywodraethiant, ynghylch trefniadau, oherwydd y cymhlethdodau. Beth fyddai’r senario pe fuasem ni ddim yn gorfod trafod hynny, pe buasai'r trefniadau yn fwy llyfn? Efallai y byddai yna fwy o bwyslais yn cael ei roi ar oblygiadau polisïau’r Undeb Ewropeaidd i Gymru, i sefydliadau sy’n parhau i drio gwneud busnes ac yn y blaen. Felly, byddwn i'n awgrymu trio sicrhau bod yna sylw digonol yn cael ei roi i'r agenda sy'n digwydd yn yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, oherwydd y sgil-effeithiau economaidd, cymdeithasol, amgylcheddol ac yn y blaen. Ac efallai mai nad i’ch pwyllgor chi, felly, mae hynny, ond rhai o bwyllgorau eraill y Senedd, ond sut mae sicrhau cadw golwg glir ar agenda’r Undeb Ewropeaidd a'i oblygiadau i Gymru wedi Brexit.
Just one final point—there is a lot of discussion about the governance now, regarding the arrangements, because of the complexities. What would the scenario be if we didn't have to discuss those, if the arrangements were smoother? Perhaps more emphasis would be placed on the implications of EU policies for Wales, for organisations that continue to trade and to do business and so forth. So, I would suggest trying to ensure that sufficient attention is placed on the agenda developing in the EU, because of the economic, environmental, social impacts. And perhaps that's not for your committee, but for other committees in the Senedd, but how is it possible to ensure the agenda of the European Union and its implications for Wales following Brexit are clearly kept in sight.
Diolch yn fawr.
Diolch, Peredur. I think we've covered such a large amount of ground there already, I just want to check with colleagues if there are any other questions that they have. I'm going to come to you for any final thoughts you might have, but one of the things I was going to ask was whether in this—constrained within the terms of it, but—in the review of the TCA, are you and others, both in academia that focuses on this area, or in other relationships you have with others in this sphere, are you likely to be submitting your thoughts yourselves to what should go into that review, some of the things we've talked about in terms of governance, meaningful engagement, time for consultation? Are you likely to do that? Yes, I can see Dr Royles is nodding. Dr Whitten, are you likely to put your two penn'orth in as well, or are you working with others in Northern Ireland or across the UK to put some thoughts in?
Yes, working with others and the team as well. Of course, my immediate team in Queen's come from somewhat of a Northern Ireland perspective or lens, but, yes, we're looking at the TCA and the relationship with the WA as well.
And Professor Lock.
Well, if there is a call for opinions, I'd be more than happy to put in my 5c worth.
Okay, that's interesting. Sorry, leave that with us, because I think one of the things we're going to have to consider as a committee is whether people like yourselves with clearly well-informed views have specific practical recommendations that they would want to see in this, what seems to be a window of opportunity, as we have the run-up to the next general election and whatever Government of whatever political hue coming in afterwards has a moment to just take a breath and think, 'Right, and now where do we go?' plus the review itself going on, plus the learning experiences we have to date. So, I think those practical suggestions on what could we do now that we're trying to come out of the white-water rafting period and into something a bit more long lasting, how would we make it work. If you don't mind, we might come back to you, if you have any thoughts, or the organisations that you work with, others that you work with in this sphere, if you have any thoughts going forward.
Colleagues, no other questions. Just back to you, because we have a couple of minutes. Are there any other closing thoughts you want to leave with us before we end the session? If not—. No. In which case, can I thank you all very much indeed for joining us and for what has been, again, a very illuminating session for us? It's been very helpful. We will send you the transcript, just so you can check for factual accuracy, as per normal, but otherwise thank you very much indeed, and I apologise in advance if we get back in touch with you for further information, because we might well do that. Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi i gyd.
Thank you so much.
Thank you. Okay. So, colleagues, if you're happy, what we'll do once again now is just take a short adjournment here, both for our panellists to leave and also to swap over with officials as well. So, a short adjournment, and we'll reconvene at quarter past. Diolch.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 15:07 a 15:15.
The meeting adjourned between 15:07 and 15:15.
Good afternoon. Welcome back. We're returning after a short break following our second evidence session this afternoon. But we go now into our regular business, and we've got a fair bit in front of us this afternoon in public session. So, if we turn, first of all, to item 4, which is instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3. The first of these is item 4.1, SL(6)364, the Animal By-Products, Pet Passport and Animal Health (Fees) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2023. Principally, these regulations amend the Animal By-Products and Pet Passport (Fees) (Wales) Regulations 2018 and the Animal Health (Miscellaneous Fees) (Wales) Regulations 2018. The amendments modify the fees payable to Welsh Ministers under the 2018 regulations for services provided in the field of animal health by the Animal and Plant Health Agency to reflect the full cost recovery of those services. Our lawyers have identified five technical reporting points and four merits reporting points. Kate.
Thank you. The first technical point seeks an explanation from the Welsh Government as to the approach taken to amending a definition in the Welsh language text of the animal health regulations. The remaining four technical points identify potentially defective drafting.
The first merits point is just noting that the regulations make modifications to fees payable to the Welsh Ministers in relation to services delivered by the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The second and third merits points identify places where the accessibility of the regulations could have been improved. And then, finally, the last merits point asks the Welsh Government to clarify whether or not there has been any consultation in relation to these regulations, because the explanatory memorandum is not clear. We're waiting for the Welsh Government's response.
Subject to the Welsh Government's response, we're happy to agree those reporting points? We are.
That takes us on to the next instrument we have in front of us this afternoon, under item 5. It's item 5.1. It's an instrument that raises issues to be reported to the Senedd under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3 that we have previously considered. Under item 5.1, it's SL(6)362, the Equality Act 2010 (Relevant Welsh Authorities) (Amendment) Regulations 2023. In our pack, we have a report and the Welsh Government response as well. We looked at this as a committee at our meeting last week, and we laid our report the same day. I just invite colleagues to note the Welsh Government response that has since been received. Kate, is there anything to note on this?
Yes. If I could just draw your attention to the Welsh Government's response to the second technical reporting point. This reporting point identified potentially defective drafting on the basis that regulation 2(b) fails to identify with sufficient certainty where the new body should be inserted into the list in Schedule 19 of the Equality Act. In response, the Welsh Government has agreed with the reporting point that it would have been preferable to include more detail as to the placement of the entry, but it says that it does not propose to amend this on the basis that it has no impact on the legal meaning of the provision. And so we just note that, although it's true that, for the purposes of legal effect, it doesn't matter where in the list the body appears, the Welsh Government's approach means that there's uncertainty as to the text of primary legislation. And so there's also a risk of further confusion every time that list in Schedule 19 is amended, because there's this entry that's sitting somewhere uncertain. And so, on that basis, the committee might wish to remind the Welsh Government that it's important to be precise when drafting regulations that amend primary legislation.
Would we be happy to do that?
There we are. We'll do that. Thank you very much, Kate.
We move to item 6, common frameworks. Under item 6.1 we have correspondence from the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution in respect of our committee's report on common frameworks. The Counsel General notes that he's not able to respond formally to the recommendations within our report until scrutiny has been completed by all four UK legislatures. The Counsel General confirms that this is a position that has been adopted by the four UK Governments. So, this is consistent. He notes as well that he'll write to us again once the recommendations have been received from all four UK legislatures and the four Governments have reached agreement on the changes to be made to the frameworks in response to these. And just to remind Members as well, there's a Plenary debate on the committee's report scheduled to take place on 12 July, and the Counsel General tells us that he's looking forward to this debate.
That's good to hear.
We might return to some of these items in private session as well.
If you're happy with that, we'll turn to item number 7, notifications and correspondence under the inter-institutional relations agreement. Under item 7.1, we have a written statement and correspondence from the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution in respect of the Interministerial Standing Committee and his attendance at the fourth meeting of this committee, on 17 May. And just for public record, the Counsel General notes that the attendees discussed, amongst other things, the retained EU law Bill, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, and the Strikes (Minimum Services Levels) Bill. The Counsel General also requested that consideration be given to how they address the gap in inter-governmental relations relating to the work of the Department for Work and Pensions. The Counsel General also states that he raised concerns around the UK Government's approach to the Sewel convention. The next meeting will be chaired by the Scottish Government, and the Counsel General has committed to providing us with a written update in due course.
If you're happy to note that, we also have then, under item 7.2, correspondence from the Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip in respect of an upcoming meeting of the Interministerial Group for Safety, Security and Migration, which will be held on Tuesday 11 July. The Minister notes that the meeting will be chaired by the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP. It's been agreed that the meeting will focus on safe and legal migration routes, specifically discussing the UK Government's Illegal Migration Bill and asylum dispersal. The Minister has confirmed that a communiqué will be published after the meeting, and we'll be notified of this in due course.
That takes us, if colleagues are happy, to item 8, which is papers to note. Item 8.1—we have correspondence from the Secretary of State for Business and Trade in response to our report on the Welsh Government's legislative consent memoranda on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. The Secretary of State has responded to the committee's conclusions and recommendations,
'as well as clarifying points of detail regarding the government amendments in relation to the Committee's concerns.'
Again, this might be one that we want to come back to later in the session, on item 14, when we'll be discussing matters related to that Bill.
The only recommendation she unequivocally says she supports was a recommendation on the Welsh Government not the UK Government.
On legislative consent, she does say:
'Despite our close work with the Welsh Government'.
That's sometimes at odds to what we're being told by Welsh Government Ministers—that they're not having close working with the UK Government. So, it's yet again a point that it's half a dozen of one and half a dozen of the other here as well.
Yes, where we hear from one Minister it's not working well, and another Minister says, 'Well, it's working really well'. So, we'll have to continue exploring that. Thank you very much for that, James. But again, item 14 will give us the opportunity to come back to that in some detail as well.
Item 8.2—we have a written statement and correspondence from the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution in respect of the White Paper 'A New Tribunal System for Wales', something of great interest to us. The Counsel General notes that the White Paper builds on the recommendations by the Commission on Justice in Wales and the Law Commission, and it seeks views on a suite of reforms to the tribunal structures. He notes that the consultation on the White Paper will close on 2 October, and that responses will be used to inform the ongoing approach to the development of policy and legislation.
Item 8.3—we have correspondence from the Minister for Education and Welsh Language to the Children, Young People and Education Committee in respect of the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Act 2022 and the establishment of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research. Members will want to note that, during the summer recess period, the Minister will be making the second commencement Order of the Act, which will enable the commission to exercise certain functions between September 2023 and April 2024. So, that is moving ahead.
Item 9, a very important item here. This is an unusual piece of business. It's a motion to elect a temporary Chair under Standing Order 17.22 for the committee meeting on 3 July. We've discussed this a little amongst the committee. I'm attending the next meeting of the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly on that date. So, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, could I ask colleagues for nominations for a temporary Chair, please? James.
Peredur, are you happy? Alun, are you happy to take on that role, please? Thank you very much for that. So, if we can formally confirm that Alun has been appointed temporary Chair for that meeting on 3 July. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Penodwyd Alun Davies yn Gadeirydd dros dro ar gyfer y cyfarfod ar 3 Gorffennaf.
Alun Davies was appointed temporary Chair for the meeting on 3 July.
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.
That brings us to the close of the public business today, but we've got lots to get on with in private. So, under Standing Order 17.42, could I ask, colleagues, if you're happy to exclude the public now for the remainder of the meeting? We are, and we move into private, please.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:26.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:26.