How well is the Welsh Government preparing for Brexit?

(Title Image: Wales Online)

External Affairs Committee
How is the Welsh Government preparing for Brexit? (pdf)
Published: 5th February 2018

Chair’s Statement, David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon):

“Our inquiry….found that people across the public, private and third sectors in Wales need a stronger steer from the Welsh Government about how they should be preparing for Brexit. In particular businesses, like manufacturing and farming, would welcome more information on the potential impacts of Brexit.”

1. Not enough work is being done to prepare Wales for different Brexit scenarios

“Scenario planning” was said to have been a big focus of the inquiry. It was accepted by witnesses that the Welsh Government will find it difficult to prepare for Brexit because of uncertainty in the UK Government’s stance.

However, if key public organisations and business were given clear ideas of what different types of Brexit would mean for them, they can begin to prepare accordingly. That just isn’t happening at the moment, though the Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West) pointed to several policy white papers on post-Brexit policy produced by the Welsh Government recently.

There was particular concern from the public sector and major businesses surrounding a lack of clarity on what a “No Deal Brexit” (where the UK leaves the EU without any sort of agreement) would mean in practice.

Llanelli-based Calsonic Kansei said many businesses were delaying investment decisions due to the levels of uncertainty and the Welsh Government’s position that the UK should retain full access to the single market was something they agree with.

2. The Welsh Government should publish its own Brexit economic analyses

The Welsh Government has commissioned research from Cardiff Business School to better understand how big companies are preparing for Brexit (I think this was recently published).

In July 2017, the Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) told the Committee that nine sector-by-sector analyses have been undertaken by the civil service. Following calls for similar impact assessments to be published by the UK Government last year, the Committee believes the Welsh Government should follow suit.

3. Clear Brexit guidance needs to be issued to those on the front line of service delivery

Caerphilly Council believed more needs to be done to communicate with those currently responsible for delivering EU programmes; at the moment the WLGA was described as acting as a “go-between”.

Some witnesses said they were over-reliant on announcements in the press to give them an idea of how things were progressing and the latest developments. The Welsh Government currently discuss Brexit issues at what they describe as a “representative level” and accept there was difficulty in getting that information down to “operational level”

4. The UK Government needs to explain how the replacement for Objective One will work

The UK Government currently intends to replace regional structural funding (aka. Objective One) with a UK Shared Prosperity Fund. There were numerous concerns about a loss of access to EU funding after Brexit, and some witnesses argued that regional policy and funding should be administered by the Welsh Government instead of the UK Government and done so on a basis of need, not population share.

It’s still, as of yet, unclear whether Wales will receive the same amount of money as it would have if the UK stayed in the EU.

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