Assembly to debate Wales’ Future Relationship with the EU

Published 18/05/2018   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

On 27 March the Assembly's External Affairs Committee (@SeneddEAAL) launched its report on Wales’ Future Relationship with the EU (PDF 9MB). The report sets out the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions on what should be included in an agreement between the UK and EU to ensure it delivers for the economy, society and citizens in Wales. The Assembly will be debating the report and the Welsh Government’s response to it on 23 May 2018.

What were Committee’s conclusions?

The Committee gathered its evidence over a three-month period including hosting a conference in January 2018 and conducting visits to both Aston Martin and Toyota. The Committee heard from a wide range of businesses and organisations including those involved in the health, construction, culture, education, transport, voluntary, agriculture, food and environment sectors.

The Committee’s key findings were:

  • That the UK Government should prioritise preferential market access free from both tariff and non-tariff barriers;
  • That the Welsh Government should urge the UK Government to bring forward credible proposals for the UK’s future customs arrangements with the EU at the earliest opportunity;
  • That the Committee is not persuaded of the value of regulatory divergence after Brexit and notes that the evidence the Committee received overwhelmingly prioritises the maintenance of equivalent regulatory standards;
  • That the Welsh Government should seek clarity from the UK Government on the timescales for moving to a future immigration system;
  • That the Welsh Government should publish a list of European agencies it has identified as important to Wales in terms of continued involvement after Brexit; and
  • That the Welsh Government should map out the current EU networks and organisations that Welsh bodies are a part of by June 2018 and consult on which EU networks Wales should seek to remain a part of after Brexit by autumn 2018.

What does the Welsh Government say in response?

The Welsh Government has accepted 12 of the Committee’s recommendations in full and 6 in principle. In particular the Welsh Government accepted:

Recommendations 1 and 4 that call on it to urge the UK Government to prioritise preferential market access in their negotiations with the UK and urge the UK Government to come forward with credible customs proposals. The Welsh Government states in its response that it continues:

… to urge the UK Government for more clarity on future customs regimes both formally through the existing Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) architecture and in bilateral discussions.

Recommendation 7 that calls on the Welsh Government to publish a list of European agencies that is has identified as being important to Wales. The Welsh Government’s response states that it will ‘publish a list of those we believes are of particular importance to Wales’, but does not set out when this list will be published.

Recommendations 8 and 9 that calls on the Welsh Government to work with NHS bodies, public health organisations and bodies to identify links between these organisations and the EU’s exiting health agencies and schemes. The Welsh Government states that:

.. it is in favour of the UK remaining a member of the European Medicines Agency after Brexit, but this would involve a far closer relationship with the single market than the UK Government currently appears prepared to contemplate.

One of the recommendations the Welsh Government has accepted in principle is recommendation 5. The recommendation calls on the Welsh Government to consider in its ‘no deal’ scenario planning the impact alternative customs arrangements may have on Wales and any action it may need to prepare. The Welsh Government states that this is being carried out already in on-going discussions with UK Government and HMRC officials:

We are having regular, joined up discussions with HMG officials, including HMRC, and Welsh ports and airport, on customs and other border related issues. Within this forum we are considering the implications of alternative arrangements and what will need to be put in place for different potential scenarios, including infrastructure and systems at border locations, depending on the terms of EU exit. We will continue to work on these arrangements until it becomes clearer through the negotiations, exactly which scenario will apply.

Next steps

The Assembly will debates the Committee’s report and the Welsh Government’s response to it on 23 May. The Committee is also undertaking work into Part 2 of its inquiry into Wales’ Future Relationship with the EU. This will look in more detail at the relationships Wales and the Assembly should develop with European regions, networks and institutions after Brexit.

Article by Nia Moss, National Assembly for Wales Research Service