UK's devolved administrations should be involved in negotiations.
The Scottish and Welsh Governments have written jointly to the Brexit Secretary David Davis to ensure the UK’s devolved administrations are properly involved in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell, and Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford, set out a series of practical steps to improve engagement between the UK’s four governments.
They said the joint committee set up to provide oversight of the negotiations needed to be re-set so that meaningful discussions could take place and the committee’s remit could be met.
Text of the letter is as follows:
JOINT MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE (EU NEGOTIATIONS)
Congratulations on your reappointment as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. We look forward to working with you over the next few years, which are critical for the future prosperity of all parts of the United Kingdom.
It was inevitable that there would be a pause in the work of the JMC (EN) during the General Election campaign. In our view, now the Election is over, it is vital that we use the opportunity to re-set the work of the Committee, using the agreed Terms of Reference.
Our respective First Ministers have written to the Prime Minister asking for an urgent meeting of the JMC. We are now writing to provide further detail on how the process could move forward without prejudice to any more radical reshaping of the UK Government’s approach to building a broad-based consensus on the approach to the Brexit negotiations.
In our view, we need to:
- Agree how the Devolved Administrations will be represented in the negotiations. As you will know, both the Scottish and Welsh Governments believe that we should be at the table when devolved issues are discussed and in the room for other sessions.
- Resume our meetings at the earliest possibility: while we understand that the unresolved issues in Northern Ireland may be a difficulty, we strongly believe this should not prevent a meeting taking place and we note that a JMC (E) meeting has been arranged for 21 June despite the situation in Northern Ireland.
- Agree a forward programme of regular meetings of JMC (EN), scheduled to fit in with the cycle of negotiating meetings agreed with the European Commission and timed in such a way as to ensure that we both have meaningful discussions on the outcome of the most recent session and can collectively shape the UK’s negotiating position in advance of the subsequent session, in line with the terms of reference. This would allow us to fulfil our remit to provide oversight of the negotiations and to agree the approach to, and objectives for the negotiations.
- Set a clear forward agenda, which, alongside the items directly related to the negotiations, would address our remit to consider issues arising from the negotiation process which may impact on the Devolved Administrations.
- This should include:
- The proposed response to the EU Negotiation Guidelines and Directives;
- Full discussion of future constitutional arrangements around any joint frameworks which may be necessary and replacement funding for streams including EU Structural Funds and those under the Common Agricultural Policy;
- Future immigration policy; and
- Analysis of the economic impact of various scenarios, including ‘no deal’ and of reverting to WTO rules (which we both believe would be disastrous); leaving the Single Market and withdrawing from the Customs Union.
Alongside the JMC (EN) process involving all four administrations it will also be important to have bilateral meetings to discuss specific issues.
We also believe there are practical steps to improve the work of the JMC (EN). These include ensuring that agendas for each meeting are agreed at the previous meeting (in accordance with the overall work programme, which again should be agreed by all four administrations) and that papers are circulated at least five days in advance; and significantly reducing the number of attendees from the UK Government.
It is essential that the UK Government trust the Devolved Administrations to respect the confidential inter-governmental space that the JMC should fill. We want to use JMC (EN) as a forum in which we can have meaningful discussions of key issues, aimed at reaching agreement rather than an opportunity to rehearse well-established public positions. Unfortunately, this was not our experience of the way the Committee operated prior to the Election.
Finally, we need to reiterate that we are deeply concerned about the lack of engagement on the proposed Great Repeal Bill: we would welcome your assurances that we will have the opportunity to see and comment on any Bill well in advance of publication and be consulted more generally in advance about the content of both this Bill and other Brexit-related Bills e.g. on Trade, Customs and Migration).
We hope that this is useful in setting out our approach to the future work of the JMC (EN). We look forward to meeting again soon, and to getting started on this crucial work.
Mark Drakeford AM/AC Michael Russell MSP
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