How are the Welsh Government preparing for a “No Deal Brexit”?

(Title Image: Welsh Government)

In something quite unprecedented, nearly all of yesterday afternoon’s plenary session in the Senedd was turned over to a single subject: No Deal Brexit and how individual Welsh Government departments were preparing for it.

The Welsh Government have also launched a special Brexit preparedness website – outlined above – which they say will be updated as the situation changes.

“Parliament needs to explore every way of delivering an outcome to the Brexit process that simultaneously respects the referendum and protects us from damage to our economy and the fabric of our society….the debate in Parliament over the next week is the last opportunity to rally around that form of Brexit….based around continued participation in the single market and a customs union. Llywydd, if that cannot be done, the severity of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is such that, if Parliament cannot agree on a majority position that secures our long-term interests, the only option that then remains is a single public vote to break the deadlock.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth): The Impact of a No-Deal Brexit on our Health and Care Services

What are the main issues?

There’s concern over medicines imports – especially radioisotopes used in radiology and cancer treatment (mainly due to regulatory restrictions as the UK will be leaving Euratom) – and the Minister said there were “no assurances” from the UK Government that they can prevent disruption. A “No Deal” will also lead to what the Minister described as a “tighter” health and social care labour market, making it hard to compete for staff (particularly at the lower-end in care) – possibly leading to delayed discharges from hospital.

What does the Minister intend to do to prepare?

Ipsos MORI has been commissioned to do a study of the social care labour market to identify who works where and how many are from the EU to help workforce planning. The UK Government are making arrangements to secure medicine and medical device supplies and the Welsh Government have some idea as to where shortages might be. Public Health Wales recently published an impact assessment – the only one in the UK – on how Brexit will affect health, which the Minister described as “invaluable”.

Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South): The Impact of a No-Deal Brexit on Transportation

What are the main issues?

The main concern surrounds Welsh ports, particularly ferry ports handling large volumes of road freight (Holyhead, Milford Haven, Fishguard etc.) – container ports like Cardiff, Port Talbot and Newport are less likely to face disruption. Checks on goods going into Ireland are likely to cause disruption on the roads around ports.

UK citizens will need an international driving permit/green card to legally drive within the EU. Direct flights between the UK and EU will stop after 12 months (March 2020) unless a long-term agreement on air access is reached.

What does the Minister intend to do to prepare?

The UK Government have said they won’t undertake any customs or border checks on EU imports on a temporary basis if there’s a “No Deal”, but a long-term agreement is still needed. The Welsh Government continues to press for devolution of air passenger duty to improve the long-term prospects of Cardiff Airport.

Any delays at Fishguard and Milford Haven are likely to be dealt with within the port, but at Holyhead, special traffic management plans will be put in place with holding areas located at the Roadking truckstop and Parc Cybi; in a worst-case scenario, lorries could be “stacked” on the A55 itself.

Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham): The Impact of a No-Deal Brexit on the Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries

What are the main issues?

96% of Welsh meat exports and 97% of Welsh shellfish exports go to the EU. Under a “No Deal”, tariffs of anything between 15%-50% will be applied to food exports and imports, and a drop in the value of the pound could lead to an increase in food prices people pay in the shops.

There’ll also be additional customs, animal health and environmental checks which currently don’t happen – potentially ruining fresh food and live shellfish.

A “large number” of EU workers also work in the Welsh and British food processing industry.

What does the Minister intend to do to prepare?

About 1,200 pieces of legislation are being reviewed and amended in preparation for Brexit; the systems needed for chemicals, animal health and food exports are expected to be in place in the event of a “No Deal”. The Welsh Government are working with UK counterparts to ensure food and energy supplies face minimal disruption.

Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West): Preparing our Public Services for a No-Deal Brexit – Civil Contingencies

What are the main issues?

Brexit has caused tensions relating to race, religion and nationality with a resulting increase in recorded hate crimes. Everything mentioned earlier could potentially lead to disruption and requires a co-ordinated government and local government response.

What does the Minister intend to do to prepare?

Civil contingency preparations are a normal part of government business – usually in relation to bad weather and major events – and nobody should panic.

The Welsh Government are working with the emergency services and local resilience forums to deal with any potential Brexit-related civil contingencies; a full risk assessment has been produced. Everyone knows what needs to happen and when. The Welsh Government’s emergency coordination centre will also be brought into action if needed.

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