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Y Pwyllgor Materion Allanol a Deddfwriaeth Ychwanegol

External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee

04/02/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Alun Davies AM
David Melding AM
David Rees AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Huw Irranca-Davies AM
Joyce Watson AM
Mark Reckless AM
Michelle Brown AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dr Robert Parry Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Jeremy Miles AM Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a'r Gweinidog Brexit
Counsel General and Brexit Minister
Simon Brindle Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Alun Davidson Clerc
Clerk
Claire Fiddes Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Manon George Ymchwilydd
Researcher

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.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:00.

The meeting began at 14:00.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Good afternoon. Can I welcome Members and the public to this afternoon's evidence session for the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee? Before we get into our business, can I remind Members, please, that the meeting is bilingual? If you require simultaneous translation from Welsh to English, that's available on the headphones via channel 1. If you require amplification, that's available on the headphones via channel 0. There is no scheduled fire alarm today, so, if one does take place, please follow the directions of the ushers to a safe place. Can I also remind Members to turn their mobile phones off or on silent so that they don't interfere with the equipment? We've received no apologies this afternoon. I'm pleased to see we're all here. Do any Members wish to declare an interest at this point in time? 

Chair, I'd just draw Members' attention to a register of interest on my chairing of the Wales programme monitoring committee and the European advisory group as well. 

Thank you for that, Huw. As a consequence, we have had a discussion and you will not be asking questions in relation to funding aspects. 

2. Sesiwn graffu ar waith y Gweinidog Brexit
2. Scrutiny session with the Brexit Minister

Moving to item 2 on the agenda, then, it's a session with the Minister for Brexit and Counsel General, Jeremy Miles. Welcome this afternoon, as a former member of the committee.

So, you know what's to come. Do you want to introduce your officials first, please?

Certainly, Chair. I have Simon Brindle, who's director of European transition policy, and Robert Parry, deputy director of legislation. 

Thank you for that. I do apologise, in the sense that you will be asked to speak an awful lot, as I understand your voice is still causing you difficulties, but it is important that we get some answers to some of the questions we wish to clarify in relation to events. We're fully aware of what's going on in Westminster and the speed of events, but we also want to try and understand the Welsh Government's position on all of this and the Welsh Government's involvement in some of the issues. So, I will open up the questions and transfer to Huw.

Thank you, Chair. Minister, good afternoon. After the UK Parliament's deliberations last week, the Prime Minister has said that she's setting off to renegotiate with the EU around some elements of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Do you think it's realistic? Do you think we're closer to a Brexit deal? Is she going to have success? What's your take?

Well, I think every day that passes without a deal brings us closer to a 'no deal' exit, to state the obvious, on one level. I think the events in Parliament last week, when we were hoping for clarity, actually just muddied the water, and what we saw, I think, was a strategy that continues down that line of seeking a narrow coalition rather than the broadest possible coalition, and I think, whilst the Prime Minister holds on to red lines, we aren't going to get to the kind of stable, broad-based consensus that she will need for taking that forward. 

Thank you, Minister. But if I can put 'no deal' to one side for a moment, I wonder, if—and it is a huge 'if'—the Prime Minister is genuine not only in her intentions of going back to the EU, but in some anticipation that EU partners—I think I can still call them partners at the moment—EU nations will actually say to her, 'Yes, we're willing to look at this', is the UK Government making approaches to Welsh Government now to say, 'Well, what do you want out of this minor renegotiating that we're doing?' Have they directly approached or are they just winging away across to Brussels? 

Well, the First Minister met the Prime Minister last week or the week before last and made it clear what the Welsh Government's position is in relation to this. In terms of what we expect out of the negotiations, the Brady amendment, I'm not sure where that will get the Prime Minister. Clearly, you have to factor in a degree of negotiation tactics in all of this, but the—. Excuse me. 

Take your time. If it's of help to Members, by the way, the earphones can amplify in English as well as in Welsh. 

But the EU's been clear that it will not approach the backstop again whilst her red lines remain in place. In the discussions with the First Minister, she indicated she was going to seek a negotiation on the backstop but didn't give a broader indication of what else she might have in mind. 

So, I know other colleagues will want to come in on this, but, from the Welsh Government's position, is there anything to go back and renegotiate? When you look at the backstop, when you look at the commitment of the Welsh Government to be in a customs union of some description, in reality, is there anything that you can see that she can come back with, based on her current agreement, with some tweaking, that will satisfy Welsh Government?

14:05

Not on the basis of her current red lines, certainly. We've said that the withdrawal agreement contains the backstop, and whilst we don't think that's unproblematic, clearly, in the context of the kind of post-Brexit relationship that the Welsh Government has advocated, there would be no need for the backstop. So, the issue really is about renegotiating the political declaration, because that's where most of the problems lie. The agreement itself is not without problems, but most of the challenges lie in the political declaration. 

And do you think that, if there was some agreement to amend that declaration, in some way we can't quite see at the moment, would that be something that would be worth consideration by Welsh Government or not?

That would require the Prime Minister to move from her red lines. 

I'm interested, Minister, in how the Welsh Government sees the next few weeks playing out. You've, this afternoon, been pretty candid in your assessment of the Prime Minister's negotiating position, and the First Minister was, I think, equally candid, you'll be pleased to hear, in his press conference this morning. But he also said something quite interesting this morning. He said that the motion passed by the National Assembly, and the Welsh Government's position, as explained last week, would be to look for this agreement that you've described, and then, if that is not possible, we would seek a people's vote, a second referendum, and preparations should start on that immediately to enable that to happen. What is the timeline that you would anticipate for this, because, clearly, there is a point at which the Prime Minister's negotiating strategy no longer has a shred of credibility left? There are going to be further votes in the House of Commons, I think, at the end of next week. So, at what point do you believe the capacity for a deal, which would rule out a second referendum, becomes impossible? What timeline would you put on that?

Well, I think it's impossible to be specific about that at this point, because, as we've seen, things move in both directions in Parliament, don't they? What's clear to me is that any of the ways forward, if I can put it like that, require an extension to article 50, which we have called for here, but the Prime Minister's shown no enthusiasm for that route at this point. But it seems to me that that is an essential component of almost any of the ways forward. 

I agree with you on that. And until when would you anticipate an extension of article 50? 

Well, I think you need to look at this in the context of a number of factors. Perhaps the first factor is the constitution of the new European Parliament at the beginning of July. So, it seems to me that an extension to that period—. Well, let's take a step back. For there to be an extension, it has to be requested. That's the first point, to state the obvious. And whilst I say that it states the obvious, it isn't clear to me that there's a sufficient appreciation at this point that we aren't completely in control of our destiny in relation to this question. And the longer we leave requesting an extension to article 50, the more problematic it becomes, because the more likely it becomes that the sorts of things that individual member states, all of whom have a veto over it, might require in return for their agreement become more difficult to respond to. So, the later we leave it, the less leverage we have in very simple terms. So, the first thing to do is to request it.

Now, I think it seems problematic to me that going beyond July—I'm not saying it's—. My personal reflection is that it doesn't seem to be impossible, with political will, but clearly, the bar is set higher after that point because of the European Parliament being reconstituted at that point, it seems to me. 

So, you would say an extension to 1 July, the day before the new Parliament—

I'm just commenting on what's the most realistic, what's at the less problematic end of the spectrum to achieve.

I accept that completely. And given the analysis you've described in terms of the ability of the United Kingdom to actually gain such an extension, on which I completely agree with you in your analysis, all of what you've said this afternoon points towards a decision point towards the end of this month. 

14:10

For either a potential agreement that would satisfy the Welsh Government's position, or to move the Welsh Government to a position whereby a second vote becomes the only option it can pursue.

Well, clearly, we're running out of time. What I would also say, however, is that an extension to July might not be sufficient to deliver a second referendum, if that is what's required to break the deadlock. So, there are a number of potential obstacles in the road to the solution that I know the Member favours himself.

Can I ask a question in that sense? Over the weekend, we've heard a Secretary of State—a member of the Cabinet—saying on the possibility of an extension, they could see that, actually, there might be a need for an extension, because of the time factor. And then, yesterday, the Prime Minister states clearly in the paper that she believes that she will deliver by 29 March. In your discussions with representatives of the UK Government, are you getting confused messages?

Well, I think there's a sort of common sense to me to this, in a sense. I don't know if the committee has seen the paper the Institute for Government published this month, which describes just the practical challenges of getting legislation through the House of Commons by 29 March.

We'll be asking you that question afterwards—don't worry.

But are you seeing the confusion? Because, clearly, there are mixed messages coming out—that's one of the reasons why there's so much uncertainty for business. But are you getting those mixed messages in your discussions you're having with UK Government officials?

I have not, in my own discussions, had anybody embracing the prospect of extending the deadline.

I just wanted to ask: it was suggested over the weekend that the backstop was a problem because the agreement is one-sided, and would be the first time in British history we'd entered into a treaty arrangement with anybody else in which there was no right to leave, as it would be a decision that could only be made by the other side. Is that a sentiment you agree with?

What we've been clear about is that, if the Prime Minister brought back this sort of deal that we've advocated here, the challenges in the backstop would not be problematic.

So, you don't agree with those comments by the leader of your party.

Well, I didn't quite catch the entirety of the comments, if I may say. Could you repeat them?

The comment was that the backstop was a problem, the agreement is one-sided, and would be the first time in British history we'd entered into a treaty arrangement with anybody else in which there was no right to leave, because it would be a decision that could only be made by the other side. Do you agree with Mr Corbyn that that's a problem?

I don't know if it's the first time in history that's happened. But, clearly, the backstop is not straightforward. It's a perfectly legitimate ask, by the way, in the context of wanting to address the situation in Northern Ireland. The point is, there is an alternative way forward that does not put the backstop in the centre of the discussions, and that's the sort of arrangement that we've been advocating as a Welsh Government, together with Plaid Cymru.

And the UK Government is seeking to negotiate with the EU alternative arrangements, the possibility of a unilateral exit, or an end date. Who's side are you on in that discussion?

I think I've made the point a few times this afternoon, that, whilst the Prime Minister's red lines remain in place, which we don't think are in the right place, it is for her to move her red lines. It is not surprising that there's going to be a reluctance to change the backstop, given that the priorities the UK Government has set out remain where they were.

I think it's completely unsurprising they're taking the view that they're taking.

Can I just clarify—? You are still supporting the position the Welsh Government had with Plaid Cymru in 'Securing Wales' Future', which is, as you say, if it had been enacted for the future relationship, then the backstop would not be a problem?

We'll move on to more constructive questioning, I think, but this business of the Prime Minister's red lines are what are stopping a deal—I mean, you have six red lines. So how come your red lines, which some people argue amount to a Father Christmas Brexit—Brexit without cost or trade-off—how does that help our current situation?

Well, I think the point of—the red lines are the kind of deal that the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have together said we think are in the interests of Wales in the post-Brexit relationship. There ought to have been, at this point, a range of exploratory discussions across the House of Commons, which have not taken place, to see whether the alternative characteristics for a deal could gain the support of the House of Commons. Because of the way the Prime Minister has approached those discussions, I don't think the potential for ascertaining that has yet been explored fully. And I hope that there will be a chance for that to happen.

The deal is not just the UK Government's deal—it's the EU's deal, and they're very firm for it, and they believe they've conceded a lot, so that the deal in its current form is offered to the United Kingdom. It's clear that the broad centre of Parliament is at least open to that deal, it may not be convinced yet, but there is a clear level of support for something around that deal. If that doesn't happen, we will either have a second referendum with all the consequences for our democratic credibility or no deal. So, why are you, like the Brexiteers in Westminster, pushing towards what seems to me a fairly extreme scenario of running a referendum, of all things, on a major constitutional principle before it's implemented?

14:15

On the first point that David Melding made, the deal was defeated by the largest parliamentary majority ever, I think I'm right in saying. So, it seems unclear to me that there is a centre of gravity in the House of Commons for that deal. In relation to the question of all the other alternatives, we've been absolutely clear that 'no deal' is not an option. And, as I've made the point already today, there is an alternative way through this, in our opinion, which is a different kind of deal, but that does require the Prime Minister to move from the red lines that she has and explore the possibility of that deal. We know from seeing EU figures that, if that were the case, there'd be greater willingness to discuss. They've been, I think, clear that the position they're taking is taken on the basis that the red lines remain in place.

A very short question. Everybody outside here—industry, wider civic stakeholders in Wales—will be hoping now that there is absolutely exemplary engagement between UK Government and Welsh Government and other nations and regions of the UK as we approach a climactic moment. If 10 was exemplary and zero was disastrous, how would you score the level of engagement between you, your officials and UK Government at the moment?

I think it's a varied picture. I'm going to resist giving you a number, I'm afraid, Huw. It's a varied picture is the truth of it. If you look at the question of preparedness and the arrangements that Governments in different parts of the UK are making in order to deal with any kind of Brexit, including a 'no deal' Brexit, the level of engagement has improved, certainly, but it's still patchy. I think it's fair to say, broadly speaking—

In what areas is it patchy? Because I think that's of interest. 

But I do want to acknowledge the improvement, because there has been improvement. I think, generally speaking, you can say that departments that have the longest standing relationship to devolved competencies have the track record, if you like, and a greater understanding of the value of interaction, and those that have least have had to come on a longer journey, if I can put it like that. 

On some issues, the Treasury has been very supportive of our position, actually, in a number of ways. But, if you look at the separate question of negotiations, for example, the Prime Minister made it clear in a statement that she foresees a greater role for devolved administrations in negotiations. Obviously, the point of the Joint Ministerial Committee, for example, was to agree a position in relation to those negotiations, and while those terms of reference are good, they've not always lived up to their billing, if I can put it like that, and there's a long way to go before we feel that we have the full role in those negotiations that we feel the devolved administrations should have.

I'm sure we'll come to detail on that, but are you content with the level of engagement currently, overall?

I think there should be better engagement than there is, but there has been improvement. 

I think most of us were interested when the Prime Minister said she wanted to involve the devolved administrations more greatly in these negotiations. There are a number of obvious points that could be made. What proposals did she make in order to achieve that objective?

The First Minister has been invited to a trilateral discussion, as you know, recently. What we are looking for is greater clarity around what the UK Government has in mind for that in particular. So, as I say, there are arrangements in place for involving the devolved administrations in terms of preparedness, and we want to see similar parallel arrangements in place in relation to negotiations. So, for example, there's a review currently of the inter-governmental machinery in general, which is intended to reset that, if you like, in particular in the context of the ministerial forum, which I attended last week. That is a sub-sub-committee of sorts, or—it sits under the JMC(EN).

14:20

It was the ministerial forum you attended last week, not a JMC(EN). 

That's right. We've done a review of the landscape, as it stands, to understand how it's been performing to date, and the next ministerial forum will look at a forward proposal of how that can work better to plug in the devolved administrations in the question of negotiations. But we still need clarity from the UK Government about what they have in mind in broader terms, and I raised that and the First Minister's raised that, and I raised that with David Lidington when I met him last week. 

But we don't have time, do we? The whole burden of our conversation this afternoon is that we don't have time to put in place a machinery of inter-governmental relations in order to cope with what are quite intense and intensive negotiations. Now, Mr Parry will know, from his time in Brussels, that much of this is managed at an official level, and that the negotiations will involve principles at a particular point in time, but most of it is done at official level with, I would have anticipated, Foreign Office and No. 10 officials leading  for the United Kingdom Government. The question is: to what extent are Welsh or Scottish Government officials involved in those conversations as well, because reporting back at a JMC, in my experience, is not involvement in negotiations, and neither does it enable any real influence to take place in terms of what the UK position actually is? 

Well, I'll bring Simon in in a second on that particular point, but just on the broader point you're making, it seems to me there are two tasks that lie ahead. One is to make sure that that machinery works in a way that properly involves the devolved administrations in forming negotiating positions. But, as you say in your question, as you imply, things are fast moving, and we need to be able to respond nimbly, rather than simply through a process of formal meetings. So, absolutely that is one of the things that I want to see happening—ministerial relationships able to deal with some of those faster negotiations supported by officials outside the confines of that periodic meeting, if that's what's needed. 

But we need officials in the room as well, I would suggest, rather than hearing reports from somebody else's officials on what was said and done there.  

Absolutely, and I've made that point several times. Simon, do you want to—? 

Thank you, yes. The committee might find it useful to hear some of the developments since the new year in terms of inter-governmental working on preparedness. The Cabinet Secretary of the UK civil service is chairing a Permanent Secretary's group. Welsh Government is fully involved in all of those meetings and getting full sight of the information that is being prepared there for their Cabinet committee, which Ministers from Welsh Government are invited to attend, and that is identifying any issues, particularly at departmental levels, with a strong direction out to those departments to engage and strengthen their links in with the devolved administrations. 

In terms of legislation, the inter-governmental agreement, the process has improved markedly in terms of the joint working that happens with devolved administrations and the relevant departments. On the negotiations—the main issues—the discussions haven't got going in substance yet; most of the focus is on the terms of exit. There's been significant joint working on the longer term future policy arrangements around the frameworks, where actually a lot of positive work has happened in that space. 

Can I clarify—? I understand what you're saying, and this committee's been calling, not for months but years, actually, for greater involvement, greater accountability, in a sense, about negotiations and a position for Welsh Ministers in such a process. I understand there have been some changes, but perhaps there's the cynic in me who says, 'Oh, I see the sudden change since you lost the vote by 230', and worry about what will happen if she gets a deal and we go back to a situation to a long periods of time where we're not involved again. What agreements will you have in place to ensure that the Welsh Government, which is currently having those regular meetings, will continue to have those regular meetings and be able to have its voice heard? 

Well, there are two points to that, Chair, if I may. Firstly, there's a difference between engagement and actual integrated involvement, isn't there? So, engagement is great and it's an opportunity for the Welsh Government to put its—

There is a difference on how you define engagement. 

Yes, indeed, and I'm about to just give you colour to that. So, taking those opportunities to go to those forums, to make Welsh Government's position clear, and to test the positions of the UK Government is a level of engagement. But, actually, what we want is to be involved in agreeing positions in those negotiations where they engage devolved matters, and to be in the room in negotiations where they involve devolved matters. There are very good examples of this already operating very satisfactorily in the fisheries space and in the agriculture space, and that's the sort of model that we think is the better model when devolved matters are engaged.

14:25

We fully agree with you, and this is what you want—you've said this is what you want. 

How close are you to actually having that agreed by the UK Government that that's what will happen?

Well, there are two aspects to that. Obviously, we are currently engaged in a number of different fora, but, as you know now, as the committee will know, because you've commented on it as a committee in the past, there's a review under way of the—. If you're talking about the longer term, there's a review under way of the inter-governmental relationships generally, and the point of that is to reach agreement about how that works going forward. For the time being, that's probably making JMC work in a different way, in a better way. Who knows what the long-term destination is. I have a view in my mind about what would be ideal, but the point of that review is to put in place that agreed position.  

So, at this point, there's no clarity. We await the review, which may take still seven months, from what I understand, and we could well be out of the EU by that stage, and still just about to start negotiations, and we haven't yet got clarity as to what our role is in those negotiations. Is that correct?

The review will not put us in a position where we have that revised structure in place by departure.

Chair, thank you. I think people following this outside would be surprised that, as you just alluded to, in fisheries and agriculture negotiations and so on, of course the UK Government and the UK Minister are in pole position in the one seat at the top table and does the hard negotiation. But there is always in those discussions, negotiations, agreement to find a position on something as arcane as cod numbers in the North sea. All the devolved Ministers are there agreeing that before the UK Minister walks into those discussions. Now, I think people outside here would say, 'Well, it's preposterous that that happens in that field and is not happening as we're entering the final real detailed negotiations on our basic positions and so on.' We're not close to that.

I mentioned earlier that the experience is patchy. In some areas that works, in some areas it works less well. So, for example, in relation to the development of common frameworks, there's been good progress there. That's the meat of—.

Okay. Alun, a short one, and then David a short one, because I want to move on.

I have a dim memory of a memorandum of understanding that was agreed by William Hague on behalf of the United Kingdom Government—myself and Fiona Hyslop represented the Welsh and Scottish Governments—which outlined how Welsh and Scottish and Northern Irish Governments should be involved, both in representation at the European Council and in the way in which policy and the UK—speaking now for argument's sake—position was actually adopted. Is that still in force today?

Yes, it is.

Yes, it is. So, there is a structure that does exist in order to enable all devolved administration Ministers, both within the development of the UK position but also, and this is the point raised by my colleague here—. Welsh and Scottish Ministers in this case would have the opportunity to be represented in the room during negotiations. That's what that memorandum of understanding enabled. 

Yes, for the Council of Ministers meetings, yes.

But the principle could easily be extended to these conversations.

I think Mr Brindle made a good point that, so far, all we've been discussing really is the withdrawal process. Then we will have possibly quite intense and quick work if the backstop is going to be resolved through a trade agreement and new technology, or whatever is going to happen. That could happen very quickly. So, don't we need this review of inter-governmental relations to happen very quickly, otherwise we're not going to be upstream, as you indicated, when some of the very profound issues are discussed that will shape the long-term trade position? 

We need to have in place machinery that enables us to deal with this, as your question implies, in a way that is fast moving, really, because the pace, I think, and volume of activity, is going to increase, isn't it, for the reasons that you've identified? There's scope for the ministerial existing machinery to deal with some of that, but in our opinion as a Government it can't bear the full weight of what's required in order to be able to do that in the best possible way. There is also a role for ministerial fora, they're called 'quadrilaterals', between Ministers across the UK, and they exist in some departments but not in others. For example, environment and agriculture is an example where that is very well embedded and works very effectively. It seems to me that the best means of resolving some of the challenges that lie ahead is a mix of those two fora, if you like. But, again, we may come on to talk about common frameworks—one of the issues in those is how each of them looks at the governance mechanisms for moving forward, policy development in those areas, which will be frozen as of exit day, with a snapshot of EU law as it stands on exit, effectively.

14:30

Thank you. I want to move on, Minister. To me, it's amazing, 12 months ago, when the review was set up and we knew the deadline was coming, how everyone didn't seem to think that we needed to get this review done quickly so that we'd be in a position by 29 March actually to have all those structures in place. It just seems strange that that wasn't agreed. Don't comment, because your voice is hurting, I know, but it is something that I feel very surprised at—that urgency in getting that done, so that we would be in a position, post 29 March, to have structures that would allow us to have those in place. It didn't seem to come to fruition at this point. We know that it will take time. Joyce, do you want to move on to preparedness?

I do, and if we do crash out with a 'no deal' Brexit, what is obvious is: we have to be ready and prepared for that eventuality. So, are we ready and prepared for that eventuality?

If I could respond to that last point that you made, Chair, before I answer that—

Well, I will if I may. It was intended there would be a report back in March, and the First Minister has been pressing hard to make sure that progress is made on that. So, we've been absolutely clear, for the reasons that you give, that we need to make progress quickly on that. The challenge is: this requires four Governments to work together, and they're also dealing with other aspects of Brexit. That's just the practical reality of it. But the point you make is absolutely understood and shared.

On the question of preparedness, Joyce, we've been very clear that despite the steps that we are taking to deal with, in particular, the outcome of a 'no deal' Brexit, and I'll refer you to the statements that were made in the Chamber two weeks ago, no amount of preparation can mitigate for the damage that that will cause, and we shouldn't encourage people to think that is going to be the case. So, what we have been doing—we published the Paratoi Cymru website, as you will know, which describes the steps that the Welsh Government are taking, and, in some cases, those that the UK Government are also taking. We are taking steps that are purposeful and proactive, but we don't have, within the compass of Welsh Government resources and power, the ability to deal with all the potential consequences. We rely on activity undertaken by the UK Government as well—Wales can't prepare for this alone. So, we need a collaborative arrangement to make that work. But just to be clear: no amount of 'no deal' preparation can mitigate for the damage that will be caused.

Are you getting that collaboration? Are you satisfied that that is working?

As I started to mention earlier and didn't fully develop, there have been issues about transparency, getting information and so on, but that has been generally improving, and where we've had data we are now able to engage in a process of assurance for our own purposes, if you like. So, there are some areas where the UK Government will obviously lead, because it's a reserved matter or it's a UK-wide challenge, for example, and have made representations about the state of play, and we're in a process of evaluating that and seeking our own assurance.

You did say that the Welsh Government will be using civil contingency preparations for immediate emergencies, and any impact that they may have. Have you got any update on the details of what that might look like?

The point about civil contingencies is that you should make sure that your planning in other areas is sufficient that you don't need to spend on civil contingency planning. I think that's the first, I think, obvious point to make. You'll have heard the Minister for Housing and Local Government make a statement on this in the Chamber, which I'll refer you to again. The relationships we have are well-established across the UK in relation to these sorts of challenges. Although they're of a different nature, it's the sort of machinery that works for when there's a major weather event or a very large sporting event. Obviously, Brexit brings the possibility of a number of large challenges at the same time. We don't know at this point. But those processes are what is referred to when we talk about civil contingency planning.

14:35

Okay. You have said to people—we've all heard the messages—that, 'You don't need to change anything in your day-to-day lives because we're ready and we're prepared', but you only have to see a sprinkling of snow to see what happens on supermarket shelves. So, whilst those messages are being said, I don't think people are necessarily going to listen to them. So, that being the case, what is the advice that you're now giving, say, to businesses and manufacturers to deal with those stresses and strains that could be felt very, very early on should that happen? Because people will panic. 

Well, I just want to distinguish two things here. You're right to say we've said to people in their day-to-day lives not to do anything different today than they were doing yesterday, for the reasons you give: that can cause unexpected consequences in itself. But it's different with businesses because we think that businesses need to ensure they are aware of the challenges that lie ahead and are able to respond to them as best they can. So, we've established an online portal that we are directing businesses to that has a tool that enables businesses to ascertain for themselves the extent to which they are ready for Brexit. It covers six or seven areas—finance, exports, workforce planning, that sort of thing, and asks businesses to consider a number of questions and points them in the direction of advice based on the answers that they give. I think we've had about 800 businesses downloading that tool, which is not a small number, but, when you think that there are tens of thousands of businesses in Wales, obviously, there's much further to go in relation to that. But we are absolutely seeking to get the message out that businesses need to engage fully with the changing landscape and take whatever measures they can. Again, I just think we need to be very clear that it's not going to be possible for Government to be able to compensate or mitigate or support businesses in their entirety through this process, so it's really important that they seek those resources that are available to ascertain for themselves what the challenges are and to address them as best they can. 

We've also established a resilience fund that enables businesses to bid for sums of money between £10,000 and £100,000—which is a match funded fund, essentially, so they need to put in the balance—to help them with transition-specific projects to get through at least the short term consequences of Brexit and try and make their businesses more resilient for the other side, for the changed landscape beyond. 

Can I ask, on that point, are you also supporting local authorities who help smaller businesses who may not have the numbers of staff you're talking about, but actually have a big input and still export either to businesses that depend upon the European market or actually to the European market themselves? 

We have provided a modest amount of money to the WLGA to develop a suite of tools to support individual local authorities. Some of that is around understanding the challenges of Brexit for councils. Some of it is around broader strategic challenges. We've also funded interventions in the social care sector, for example, which obviously is a significant part of local government delivery, and there are also discussions under way at the moment about what further support can be provided to councils in relation to Brexit generally to handle the change. 

One of the probably most disconcerting areas of concern for people is that they are going to be able to be assured that they're going to get their medicines and their medical devices. We're already seeing that there's been some movement in the list of medicines expanding—disproportionately, I would say—in shortages of available medication, and there was a statement last week. So, whilst, again, the message is out there, 'Don't stockpile your personal medication', how prepared do you think that we will be in Wales to deal with this and to give confidence back to the people that they will be okay?

14:40

Yes. It's obviously a very important area for people, isn't it? Again, Vaughan Gething made a statement, as you mentioned, which sets out the Government's current analysis of the position. The UK Government has been leading on this, with our involvement as a Government, our engagement as a Government. The reason for that is that these are UK-wide supply chains, and a number of the levers are in UK Government hands. There are some reserved powers that are relevant to this, which, obviously, we don't by definition have. We've been engaging in a detailed analysis with them of what the risks are.

As you will know, the UK Government have sought assurances from pharmaceutical companies. They're in a position to have a six-week buffer on a rolling basis for some months, and that assurance, we understand, has been forthcoming from the majority. There are some where that level of assurance isn't yet in place, and we've been testing those assumptions ourselves as a Government. We are absolutely clear, though, that we don't want individuals to stockpile medicines. There is no cause for GPs to give longer prescriptions or for pharmacies or for individual hospitals to be stockpiling medicines. The way to deal with this is on a UK-wide basis and in an ordered and systematic way. And the reason we've been working with the UK Government on this is because it's important to have one set of signals and one set of discussions that engage the devolved administrations in the obvious interests that we have.

Just to supplement that, if I may, the health Minister is establishing a sounding group here in Wales, which will evaluate the measures that the UK Government is taking to ascertain whether they're all appropriate in Wales, and there will be an emergency planning pharmacist recruited to support the Welsh Government's efforts in relation to that.

Well, that's great, and I hope that people feel absolutely reassured by that. Running alongside that, of course, is food supply. People want to keep well but they'd also like to eat. There is a key role here for the Welsh Government in the ports to make sure that our food, such as it is that we import—and we do import more than we export—actually arrives in a timely fashion and without any delays, particularly in the fresh food supply, and there have been warnings about those possibilities. Are you confident that everything that can be done is being done? And are you able to say for sure that people will be able to have their food on their plate post 29 March?

There are two questions in there. One is in relation to the ports. Ports engage both devolved and reserved matters, obviously, so we've been working with the UK Government in relation to Holyhead in particular but other ports in Wales as well. Issues around customs and delays in ports are something the Welsh Government is not able to control. That's about security and customs and that's entirely in the hands of the UK Government. We have an interest in making sure that, where modelling suggests that there are going to be delays at ports, we have the ability to manage that within the port infrastructure as far as possible. And she will know, as Ken Skates indicated in the Chamber two weeks ago, that there have been discussions under way, in particular around Holyhead, around alternative truck stop HGV areas.

On the question of food supply more broadly, again, not least because supply chains are very fractured in many ways, and these operate again on a UK-wide basis, again the UK Government has been leading on that, but Welsh Government and trade bodies and retailers are engaged in liaison groups around that work. What we understand to be the case is that we are being told there's no threat to the food supply overall. Although, in relation to fresh foods, there is a significant possibility—a likelihood—of there being a restriction of choice in some of those areas, as food is brought in from mainland Europe. So, obviously, that's not the sort of thing that residents can or, obviously, should stockpile anyway. So, we are being given that assurance; we are in the process of pressing for more information and testing that, but that is our current understanding. She'll have seen the letter from the British Retail Consortium, which, again, focuses mainly on the availability of choice in the fresh food sector.

14:45

And my final question is an all-encompassing one: is the Welsh Government relying too heavily on the UK Government to make preparations for Brexit, or the likelihood of crashing out? That's my question.

Okay. As I mentioned in brief earlier, we can't prepare for this alone. A number of these issues are UK-wide challenges. The delays in ports, for example, are something that the UK Government—it's its responsibility to address that insofar as it can. What we need, obviously, is a genuinely joined-up approach so that we have the best chance possible of being able to deal with the range of possible scenarios. That means that we need to work together. There are a number of projects where that is happening, but there are also a number of projects that are Wales specific, if you like, where the particular features of the Welsh economy or our geography mean that we have particular areas of focus and concern. Generally speaking, those are the sorts of projects that you will have seen being supported by the European transition fund. So, in particular, we've a high number of, a high proportion of, SMEs in Wales. So, that sort of intervention; the social care workforce, again, being supported through that fund. So, there's a range of Wales-specific interventions that we are making as a Government, but then, as you would expect, there are a range of things where we work together with the UK Government—and devolved administrations elsewhere.

I want to move on, Minister, to legislation that strategically combines your role as Counsel General, in one sense, with your role as Minister for Brexit. We've often highlighted the concern about the number of article instruments that would be required, the capacity within Welsh Government to actually deliver, and the ability of the Assembly to scrutinise the various pieces of legislation that come through. Now, the First Minister, in his response to the Llywydd, to a letter that we have in papers to note, seems to indicate that he understands the difficulties, but he believes it's the appropriate way, sending so much to the UK Government, because we wouldn't have the time to do it all here; we'd have less time to scrutinise something. Well, I put it to you that we'll probably have no time to scrutinise anything if it goes continually to the UK Government, and the Assembly, therefore, needs the opportunity to scrutinise legislation that affects us here in Wales. How much actually is going to be delivered in Wales and how much are you going to allow the UK Government to actually do, where we have less opportunity to scrutinise?

Well, our aim has been that where Welsh-made law—law made by the Assembly or Welsh Ministers—is involved, our objective has been to make sure that all of that is dealt with by way of scrutiny here in the Assembly. But the scale of the broader challenge is, bluntly, unprecedented. The number of primary Bills and SIs that the Assembly would need to pass, if the Assembly was to deal with the entirety of the workload, would be greater in six months than the Assembly has ever passed in 12 months. So, it would only be conceivably possible, I would suggest, with a fast-tracked scrutiny procedure anyway. So, this isn't a question of marginal convenience; the Government takes very seriously the role of the Assembly in scrutinising change. So, the principles, really, that we have adopted have attempted to prioritise those things where the Assembly—where there's a policy change, for example, or where there's a high degree of political interest for other reasons. Where those haven't been factors, we've asked the UK Government to make those changes on our behalf. They're technical changes, by and large, or ones where there are no policy choices of any significance, or any meaningful choices. There have been a lot of those. I think we've consented to around 95 of them at this point and we expect about 140 in all, and those have been subject to a separate process. Clearly, they have been subject to written statements, and where they have amended primary legislation, there's been a statutory instrument consent memorandum as well, and we saw one of those being discussed in the Chamber two weeks ago on the basis of a motion by Suzy Davies. We expect there'll be a few more of those coming forward. We've, I think, laid 15 of those to date. We expect to lay a few more of those where they amend primary legislation.

Where you're talking about Welsh-made law being amended, obviously there's a process that has been agreed with the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee where there's a fortnightly forward look and then there's a process where CLAC scrutinises and makes a recommendation about how that's dealt with in the Assembly. And I think, obviously, there is a series of discussions with CLAC about one or two of those in particular. I think there's one about animal health in particular, which CLAC has recommended should be dealt with by way of the affirmative procedure. But it's not a question of us going out of our way to limit scrutiny, it's a question of the practicalities of what is deliverable given the capacity, both of Government and the Assembly.

14:50

And when you do not give consent—I think for the state-aid ones, the Welsh Government did not give consent—what is the next stage scenario on that? Because, you have technically been asked for your consent and you don't give it, what next?

In relation to that, the UK Government doesn't accept that it's devolved. So, that, in a sense, is an outlier; our view is that it's devolved. So, whilst we agree—. It's an inverse of the situation that we were talking about a minute ago. We think the broad policy direction is the right direction—dynamic alignment with the EU on state-aid rules, generally. The objection is the approach that has been taken, i.e. we think it's devolved, the UK Government thinks it's reserved. So, in that case, we haven't given our consent to the SI because we believe that it should be something that they ought not to have been doing without formally asking for our consent.

So, it's a clear example of—the structure should've been in place to allow this resolution to take effect, because here, we have a situation where you disagree with one another, but there's no resolution of that.

Well, we've asked for their legal analysis and we haven't received it yet, but I'm not sure that some of these things are—. Clearly, it would be great to think that that was capable of resolution, but it's not a difference of opinion that has changed as a consequence of Brexit; it's just a difference of opinion. What I would say to you, Chair, if I may, is that the approach we've taken is consistent. Scottish Government is taking the same approach and is doing it in the same spirit. It would be great if we were able to do it in a different way, but the practical challenges have meant that we've had to prioritise in a way that brings policy issues before the Assembly for proper scrutiny.

Thank you, Chair. Coming back to what you said about the SIs that you're objecting to, would you otherwise have accepted those SIs? Is it just the fact that it should've been decided in Wales? Is it just a point of principle or are there other things about those SIs that you're unhappy with? 

Well, we didn't consent to it, but the broad direction of travel in that SI in terms of policy outcome was about, essentially, alignment for us on state-aid rules with the European Union, which is an approach that we would support. So, in that case, it wasn't a policy difference, but there are other reasons why I didn't think it was appropriate to consent to it.

Can I just clarify and ask Jeremy—you said, 'We would support' and I assume that you're referring to Welsh Government, but is that the policy of the UK Labour Party? I'm astonished that it's suggested that Jeremy Corbyn supports dynamic alignment on state-aid rules of the European Union.

No, Mark. The SIs we've been talking about are actually a Welsh Government issue and the Welsh Government's decision, not a Labour Party decision, so this is a question as to what Welsh Government is doing and how we, as an Assembly, scrutinise Welsh Government action. So, on that point, I'll stick to that. Michelle.

Thank you. Coming back to the SI point again, you said there were other reasons that you were objecting to it; would you be able to go into those?

Well, we believe it was devolved, not reserved, so there's a fundamental difference of opinion there.

I couldn't put my hand on my heart and tell you that that was the only one. I'd need to check that, but clearly, that is a key point of difference.

How many do you think we still need to be making before 29 March, if we do leave without a deal—SIs or SICMs?

14:55

Here in Wales, yes. And I think 29 of those have been laid already, so there's—whatever the balance is remain left to be laid.

Thank you, Chair. Some of those, a number of them, are dependent on progress at the UK SI level, because they make amendments based on amended versions of the UK-wide regime, if you like.

And do we know whether the UK will actually be completing those ones prior to 29 March?

We are working very closely with the central co-ordinating team in Whitehall on this to make sure that those SIs are delivered so that we can lay our own SIs, and we've been making that point very strongly. Perhaps I should just say that we are currently projecting to make 42 SIs. That number may vary slightly as the process builds towards exit day, but we are on course to have laid for the sifting procedure by CLAC the 29 SIs that the Counsel General and Brexit Minister mentioned to give CLAC enough time to consider those, and then for them to be relaid as affirmative if that decision is made.

Now, clearly, we were anticipating a transition period, and therefore there was more time for us. I'm assuming you have undertaken a prioritisation analysis of all the legislation needed so that that which has to be done by the time we leave the EU will be done. Am I right in that assumption?

Yes, clearly, we're focusing on the ones that are the most pressing. But as I say, our ability to do everything in Wales that we want to do is dependent on what's happening at the UK level.

And if we end up with a withdrawal agreement, so that we don't leave, therefore, without a deal, we would anticipate as a committee to look at the withdrawal agreement Bill. Obviously, that is on hold whilst we await an agreement. Have you had discussions with the UK Government about a timeline for that Bill, because, again, that is a very tight timeline?

Yes, it is very tight, and 'yes' is the answer to your question. I'm very mindful that, in general terms, co-operation with the UK Government over that Bill has been positive, and it's involved early sharing of drafts and a high level of engagement so that we've been able to comment on issues in a timely fashion. There are some outstanding issues that still need to be resolved, but the UK Government are indicating discussion between officials to seek to progress those. We've been very clear that there needs to be adequate time, clearly, for there to be a consent process and determination of consent or otherwise here in the Assembly, and the UK Government has been clear: they believe it is a Bill that is subject to an LCM and that the usual conventions around that will be complied with. But we obviously made the point that the later it's left, the narrower the window for that to happen. Unless article 50 is extended to deal with it, the window would be closing. We want to avoid a situation where there's a narrowing of the opportunity for us to engage in the way we have so far with that legislation.

Thank you. We'll move on now. I'm conscious of time, Minister, and I'm also conscious of your voice. I don't want to extend it too much. Would you be prepared—because we still have quite a few questions left to go—would you still be prepared to be with us a little bit longer?

Chair, I can probably rattle through a few of my questions, and some of them have already been covered. JMC(EN) was cancelled, as far as I'm aware, and it's not been rescheduled. How irksome is that?

It's incredibly irksome. It has been rescheduled, so it's going to happen later on this week, I hope—

You say 'you hope'—has it been scheduled for this week or not?

Are you charitable, and you just think things are so fast-moving that that explains the postponement, or does it indicate a certain reluctance to use the JMC at a level we would prefer?

What happened in practice was there was a trilateral meeting the day before. The First Minister was there and David Lidington attended that meeting as well. The JMC(EN) was cancelled due to pressing diary commitments on his part. Clearly, that is not satisfactory, and when I met him on 28 January I made that point to him in person, and Michael Russell, who is the Scottish Government Minister who deals with Brexit issues, and I wrote to him jointly to make it absolutely clear that the JMC is a vital part of the mechanism for taking these issues forward. Actually, it's often at those points of greatest tension and activity that it's most needed rather than least needed.

15:00

And then, the final question on the inter-governmental relations. As far as I understand it, David Lidington says, certainly in the initial phase, we won't be looking at a statutory basis to any reform. Is that a problem for you? Is that irksome as well? 

I saw his letter to the committee, in which I think he says that, doesn't he? I think the Welsh Government said in 'Brexit and Devolution' that a statutory basis is something that should be explored. My personal view is that—I think I said this when I was a member of the committee, in fact—I think that would be the ideal way of establishing these relationships, but that isn't a point at which we're at at this point. We have four Governments that need to agree a set of mechanisms, and each has a slightly different perspective on these things for reasons that we will all understand. The key is to get mechanisms that work in practice to deliver what currently their terms of reference say they should deliver, which is a mechanism for agreeing positions. So, that is the priority, really.  

I understand. On the frameworks, I can roll a few questions into one. We've not had any yet, from our point of view, to scrutinise. Presumably, you're working on them, and your colleagues are, very hard, but it's not a very transparent process so far. How effective do you think the scrutiny is going to be when we eventually see some? And these frameworks are likely to be quite key, really, to the development of public policy now that it interacts both at a devolved—and yet we don't end up with a 'beggar thy neighbour' approach on a UK level.   

Yes, indeed, they are very important. My expectation is that the JMC(EN), probably in March, will get a report dealing with the development of the common frameworks. Obviously, it's not JMC(EN)'s role to actually negotiate the frameworks; it's about making sure that mechanisms are in place for moving that forward. They're obviously at different levels of development. There are some—not many, I think—that may require legislative underpinning; the vast majority don't. If you look at areas like nutrition, animal health and so on, those are probably at the more advanced end, really. But it's absolutely important that there'll be an opportunity for there to be full scrutiny by the Assembly, and I think once they've gone through JMC(EN) there'll be a process of assurance in that forum to ascertain whether they're properly developed. And after that, at some point, there'll be an opportunity for scrutiny, which is obviously an important part of the process. 

And whatever vehicle is used—whether it's a memorandum of understanding or full legislative approach—you'd expect a full scrutiny process here at committee and Plenary level. 

I don't know the answer to that question, bluntly, at this point, because it would be something that would need, I think, to be discussed and agreed probably at that kind of forum, at least in terms of principles. But we recognise how important these frameworks are for moving policy forward. Just to give a flavour of them, some will contain mechanisms for how we can agree things, what we'll do to resolve disagreement, so there'll be review mechanisms within a number of them anyway. So, we just need to think about what the best ways are for bringing all those strands together, really.  

I just want to move on, and I ask for questions to be kept very short and very keen because of time factors. Structural funds and the shared prosperity fund—on the latter, there's still a lot to be asked because we don't know much about it. Mark. 

Yes, the Wales European Funding Office's target of committing all the structural funds by March this year, do you expect that to happen? 

I'm pretty confident that it will. As of December, they'd committed about 90 per cent of it, which is about £1.8-something billion. So, I think they're on track. Actually, because the guarantees moved the point at which the UK Government will guarantee commitment to the end of 2020, I believe, then, in a sense, that March deadline doesn't have the same potency that it once had. But it obviously makes sense in terms of project management to commit those funds as soon as possible. 

And are you confident that that's the case in either a deal or a 'no deal' outcome in terms of the UK Government funding guarantee through to 2020, and what that implies? 

The Treasury guarantees in the circumstances of no deal, if there is a transition period then the usual rules apply, and the work managed the way through to the end of the structural fund planning round, which is to the end of 2020 in the normal course of business.  

Okay. Can I ask you, Counsel General, from your conversation with the Secretary of State on 14 January around consultation on the shared prosperity fund, are you getting a meaningful involvement in that consultation? What's come out of that call that you'd be able to share with us? 

15:05

I was clear in the call about the Welsh Government's priorities for the future of regional funding in Wales, which is around the quantum, and also that the decisions should be taken here in Wales by the Welsh Government. So, it was an opportunity to make those two points very, very clearly. I asked for there to be meaningful engagement in the consultation. By that I mean—and I think I offered this in terms—officials working with UK Government officials on developing the consultation itself, so that it describes and reflects the principles I've just put forward. That hasn't happened. I also made the point that the pre-consultation discussions that are under way at the moment ought to take account of the work the Welsh Government has already done in terms of consulting over the future of regional funding in Wales, and there has been a growing consensus in Wales about how these funds should be structured in future and that is what the Welsh Government believes should happen.   

And the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report you announced on the second, isn't that sort of in isolation really from this debate that you're having with the UK Government, when you're making plans in case you don't get the degree of devolution or money that you think? And how can this OECD study happen if it doesn't know what the level of devolution, as opposed to UK oversight, will be?

Just to be clear, we will keep the Prime Minister to her promise that there won't be any rowing back on devolution on this. So, we will keep her to that promise. We will press that point. But, on the broader point that you ask about, there's more to the regional investment strategy than the shared prosperity fund or future replacement of post-EU funding in Wales. There are all sorts of other dimensions to that as well, around skills support generally, the deployment of infrastructure investment. There's a whole panoply of other tools that Government uses to support regional development. So, the OECD picture looks at that broad picture and isn't dependent solely on the particular outcome of that set of discussions, though, just to be absolutely clear, we've been crystal clear, I think, at this point with the UK Government about what we expect and what we believe the people of Wales expect. 

Even if you hold them to commitments on devolution of economic development, that's not going to do Wales a great deal of good if we don't also have the money for that. And I just wondered if you had any thoughts about the discussions happening around the shared prosperity fund. In particular, Welsh Government says there should be a second referendum, but Labour MPs in England, in  particular post-industrial towns, it's suggested, are being offered shares or a shared prosperity, sort of, fund. What's your position on that?

It underlines the point that these are funds that need to be retained and dispersed in Wales. That's absolutely the point. But, just to be clear, I think that we've been very clear with the UK Government about what we need to see happening in terms of future regional funding. The Prime Minister's made commitments. We've also been clear not simply about the devolution boundary, but also that the quantum of funding needs to be sufficient and needs to reflect the current quantum and adjustment to the baseline to deal with that. And you may have seen the report from the committee of maritime nations [correction: the conference of peripheral maritime regions] about two weeks ago, which made clear that the use of those funds in Wales has enabled us to close the gap with, in particular, certain regions of England, but that the overall need of the UK, as a consequence of austerity policies, has increased. 

Thank you, Minister. Just one final point from me. At the beginning of the afternoon, we talked about the inter-governmental relationships and the hope that there would be a structure in place and more involvement of Welsh Government. You highlighted that there were some departments in Westminster that may still not get devolution very strongly, as others had. One of those departments that I would have thought that did get it was the Welsh Office, and yet you've just highlighted the fact that the Secretary of State has not responded to you request for meaningful engagement. Does that really reflect the concern you might have that all they're doing is talking and not actually acting in that relationship?

We have sought to be constructive in relation to this. I think the important thing is that we get an opportunity to feed in properly and shape the consultation around what happens to future regional funding in Wales. That is what I think, certainly, the Welsh Government wants, and I think that's what the Welsh people want as well. 

It's something that I'm sure we will come back to very often because it is an important aspect as to where we move forward with regional funding post leaving the EU and the loss of the European social fund and the European regional development fund.

Can I thank you for your time and the extension? It's much appreciated. I hope your voice lasts a little longer now. 

As you know, Minister, you will receive a copy of the transcript. If there are any factual inaccuracies, please let the clerking team know as soon as possible so we can correct them.

15:10
3. Papurau i’w nodi
3. Papers to note

We move on, as the Minister leaves, to the next item of the agenda, which is papers to note. We have five. The first one is the correspondence from the First Minister to the Llywydd regarding legislation. He's responding to a letter sent to his predecessor before Christmas. Are Members content to note the correspondence?

The second one is from the Minister for Economy and Transport regarding clarification of his original response to the report on ports' preparedness, where we questioned the point he highlighted of confidentiality and business, commercial sensitivity. And as you can see, he has highlighted he may be prepared to share data with the committee in confidence, and so that's something we'll probably pursue for the purpose of the committee to have an understanding of what he's been doing. Are Members content to note that?

The third one is from the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to Lord Boswell, who's chair of the EU Select Committee in the Lords, regarding international trade agreements. Are Members content to note that?

The fourth is from Lord Boswell, regarding the post-Brexit UK-EU inter-institutional relations, and that was received on 25 January. Are Members content to note that?

And the last one is from Stephen Kinnock MP—and I declare he's my MP—who actually chairs the all-party parliamentary group on post-Brexit funding for nations, and he has contained a report they had commissioned on UK shared prosperity. Are Members content to note that?

Thank you for that. Therefore, all those are noted.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

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.

Motion moved.

The next item is to have a Standing Order under 17.42(vi), to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Are Members content to do so? We will therefore move into private session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:12.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 15:12.

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