Mark Drakeford AM
The UK has reached a critical point in its negotiations with the EU. What does or doesn’t happen will determine the future prosperity of Wales and the UK.
The Welsh Government regrets the result of the referendum, but we respect it, and now we have to work to secure the best possible outcome for Wales, one which preserves as much as we can of the extremely positive relationships we have built.
Against that backdrop we have been clear on our priorities. Continued full and unfettered access to the Single Market is fundamental to our future. 60% of Welsh goods exports are sent to the EU – a higher proportion than the rest of the UK and many of Wales’ most productive and best paid jobs are in sectors which are hugely reliant on the smooth operation of complex supply chains across Europe.
Our White Paper “Securing Wales’ Future” and our subsequent paper “Brexit and Fair Movement of People” uphold the principle of freedom of movement in a way that is consistent with our ambitions for full Single Market participation while highlighting measures that can and should be taken to crack down on the exploitation of workers. Wales welcomes the contribution of European workers and migrants to Welsh society and our economy, and we challenge the negative messages around immigration which have been allowed to dominate political discourse.
We need robust transitional arrangements and we are pleased that the UK Government has finally listened to our call for a period of transition. It is vital that the UK Government and the 27 members of the EU are able to agree such transition arrangements very quickly. The potential damage to our economies from a failure to do so makes the sums at stake in terms of the financial settlement for Brexit seem trivial.
At the heart of the Welsh Government’s negotiations with the UK is to consider how Wales can best secure a continued positive relationship with Europe. We are committed to ensuring Wales remains an outward looking and engaged player on the European stage post-Brexit.
We believe in retaining the current body of European law, known as the acquis, to the greatest extent possible. This is both for practical reasons – because we need to retain convergence in terms of the regulatory environment if we are genuinely to ensure a Brexit that puts jobs first; and out of principle – because the employment, social, environmental and consumer rights which the EU has developed, though far from perfect, help make our common society more civilised and more progressive than many others in the developed world.
We will oppose any attempt to move the UK away from the European social model, an approach which we fear would result in the diminishment of social and environmental standards; instead, we would rather see the UK preserving and enhancing these standards, and competing in a level playing field, on the basis of our ingenuity and skills. We have also called for the UK to continue to participate in a range of EU Programmes post-Brexit, such as Erasmus and Horizon 2020.We have seen the benefits of working collaboratively through these co-operation programmes
We need answers on fundamental questions on what will replace EU funding that supports businesses, communities, research and investment across the country. In total Wales receives around £680 million in EU funding annually. How this must be replaced and the approaches we take to regional investment post-Brexit are crucial and we will be setting out our vision shortly.
As the First Minister has repeatedly said, leaving the EU does not mean that we are leaving Europe. We all live in an increasingly interconnected world and we cannot afford to turn away from our international partners – it is vital that we preserve these relationships for the sake of our economy, environment and culture, as much as for politics and diplomacy.
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