Going global: Senedd to debate inaugural international relations report

Published 23/02/2024   |   Reading Time minutes

The Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee launched its inaugural international relations report on 24 November 2023.  

The report traces key moments in the Committee’s scrutiny of the Welsh Government – from its International Strategy and priority relationships, to funding and legislation. It issued six conclusions and 13 recommendations designed to uncover more about the Welsh Government’s international priorities and to improve information in the public domain.  

This article sets out the Committee’s findings in the last 12 months and why it believes this work is important ahead of the Senedd debate on 28 February 2024. 

International relations 

In devolution, international relations is a reserved matter. A closer look, however, reveals that many aspects fall to the devolved nations, which have their own international histories, partners and approaches. For example, the Welsh and Scottish governments have their own international strategies and non-binding agreements with other countries and regions.  

International relations moved to the First Minister’s portfolio in 2021 after a decision not to reappoint a minister for international relations to the Cabinet. In the report’s foreword, Committee Chair Delyth Jewell MS, says: 

In the few short years since the Committee was established in June 2021, our world has changed dramatically at a breathtaking pace.  

In Wales, the loss of a dedicated minister for international relations in 2021 means it is all the more important that the topic remains on the political agenda and in the public eye.  

After all, Wales’s relevance to the world has not diminished. 

The Committee decided to publish annual reports to enhance transparency and to play its part in Wales’ international story.  

International Strategy 

In May 2023, the First Minister announced that the Welsh Government’s 2020-2025 International Strategy will be refreshed to cover the remaining time before the 2026 Senedd elections. The Committee welcomes his offer to discuss this with Members and encourages the Welsh Government to extend this invitation to interested parties. 

The strategy has five action plans with short and medium term actions. The First Minister agreed to the Committee’s recommendation asking for a progress update on the delivery of these actions. It’s still waiting for this information.     

Priority relationships 

The Welsh Government lists its priority relationships in the International Strategy:  

Country: Germany, France, Ireland, US and Canada  

Regions: Basque Country, Brittany and Flanders. 

The Committee held an inquiry on Wales-Ireland relations in 2023, as summarised in our previous article. Its final report and the Welsh Government’s response were debated by the Senedd on 29 November 2023.  

The Committee said it’s clear that the EU also remains “an important priority” for the Welsh Government and stakeholders. However, the absence of dedicated strategies for UK-EU relations at both a UK and Wales level presents challenges when navigating, and providing effective scrutiny of, the post-Brexit relationship. It recommended that the Welsh Government should:  

  • produce a dedicated EU strategy, or if this is not accepted, be more explicit in setting out its UK-EU, and Wales-EU, priorities; 
  • explain how it will make the ‘European dimension’ of the International Strategy more explicit; 
  • include the EU as a priority relationship; and 
  • set out its approach to the 2025-26 review of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). 

The First Minister neither accepted nor rejected this group of recommendations.  He said that, while the Wales-EU economic relationship is “vital” and should be the “focus and foundation” of the future, improvements are realistically only possible after the next EU and UK elections.  

The First Minister does not agree that a separate EU strategy is needed but said that the European dimension of the International Strategy would be made more explicit via the “soft refresh”, described above.  

The First Minister said it’s “premature” for the Welsh Government to set out its approach to the TCA review, expected in 2025-26. Its focus in the meantime is on making the TCA work “as effectively as possible” and improving engagement with the UK Government.   


The report called for clarity on when costs of Ministerial overseas visits are routinely published. The First Minister says publication occurs as soon as possible after the end of the financial year and that the last costs were published in September 2023. 

On the Welsh Government’s budget, the Committee expressed disappointment that the First Minister again declined to give evidence in person for the 2024-25 Draft Budget.  

The First Minister sent written evidence on 20 December 2023 and 25 January 2024, after the Committee published its international relations report. In its report on the draft budget, the Committee said that the written information provided by the First Minister: 

… falls below the standard we expect and we are unable to consider the figures and calculations provided with confidence.  


The Committee considers relevant legislation to ascertain its potential implications for Wales’s international relations.   

For example, during scrutiny of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, the Committee secured agreement for the Welsh Government to provide regular updates on its impact on UK-EU relations, in light of the potential risks outlined by the Welsh Government to UK-EU data sharing.  

It requested and received the Welsh Government’s view of the Bill’s compliance with the TCA and called for analysis of UK-EU matters to be routinely included in relevant Legislative Consent Memorandums, which the First Minister accepted. 

Looking ahead 

The direction of Wales’s international relations will fall to the next First Minster – a fact the current First Minister’s acknowledged for UK-EU relations 

The Committee sets out a vision for its potential future work, including on Wales’s priority relationships and the UK-EU TCA review. This would be on top of its routine international relations scrutiny and its new inquiry on culture and the new UK-EU relationship 

Committee Chair, Delyth Jewell MS, is determined that: 

The Committee will play its part in ensuring the world continues to learn about our historic, beautiful and unique country. 

Article by Sara Moran, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament