AMs updated on Welsh Government “No Deal Brexit” preparations

(Title Image: Cardiff University)

Nearly all of yesterday’s plenary session was turned over to Welsh Government ministers for them to update AMs on preparations for a “No Deal Brexit”, which is set to happen on October 31st 2019.

A similar series of statements were issued during January 2019 in preparation for a March Brexit day but, of course, that didn’t happen.

“In January, when we provided Assembly Members with an in-depth review of our ‘no deal’ preparations, I’m sure none of us would have imagined that the political situation in the UK, and the constitutional situation, would be in such turmoil. In his first two months in power, Boris Johnson has lost seven major votes in the Commons, lost his working majority, broken the law by trying to suspend Parliament, and has misled the monarch.”
– Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles (Lab, Neath)

Brexit Minister & Counsel General, Jeremy Miles: Update on the UK Government’s proposals for the UK’s exit from the EU

What are the main issues?

While there’s a UK Act in place (aka. Benn Act) which is supposed to prevent a “No Deal” happening, it’s unclear whether Boris Johnson intends to comply with it. It seems unlikely that an agreement can be reached with the EU before October 19th (when the Benn Act is supposed to come into effect).

What does the Minister intend to do to prepare?

The Welsh Government will continue to work in good faith with the UK Government to mitigate any possible negative impacts resulting from a “No Deal” – but the UK Government needs to be more willing to share information, as Welsh Ministers have been locked out of some “No Deal” meetings. The Welsh Government will be holding meetings with key stakeholders over the coming days to stress the importance of No Deal preparations.

Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham): Preparing the rural economy and fisheries sector for a “No Deal Brexit”

What are the main issues?

Brexit will introduce bureaucracy where none currently exists and could result in delays and additional costs to businesses. There may be a reduction in EU-sourced foods, but supermarkets have offered assurances that stores will be supplied “fairly” regardless of whether they’re in an urban or rural area. Tariffs will make it difficult for Welsh lamb to compete in the EU market.

What does the Minister intend to do to prepare?

The Minister is confident that an “operational system” in the food and fisheries sectors is ready to work from day one of Brexit. A loan scheme will pay up to 90% of unvalidated basic payment claims. All current legislative environmental safeguards will remain in place. “Intensive work” was underway to ensure vulnerable sectors (like Welsh lamb farming) won’t be severely damaged after Brexit, but this is dependent on UK Government funding. An extra 90 vets have been taken on to work on animal health certification.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth): Preparing health and care services for a “No Deal Brexit”

What are the main issues?

The Minister is pressing for assurances from London on the flow of goods and settled status for EU citizens (particularly those working in health and social care). There’s already been a reduction in overseas health and social care recruitment. An earnings threshold of £30,000 for new immigrants after Brexit would be “disastrous” for social care where average earnings are £17,000.

What does the Minister intend to do to prepare?

At least £11million has been spent on stockpiling of essential supplies and there are arrangements in place to monitor medicine stocks with a UK-wide system in place to deal with any potential shortages (East Midlands Airport being a hub for medical supplies, though it may be too far away for supplies with short shelf lives like radioisotopes). The Minister has asked the health and care sector to consider how to deliver meals in the event of food supply issues without compromising nutritional standards.

Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West): Preparing our public services for a “No Deal Brexit”

What are the main issues?

Disruptions to imports may impact food supplies to schools and council-run care homes. There have been increased community tensions and an increase in reported hate crimes.

What does the Minister intend to do to prepare?

£50million has been allocated to the housing sector to mitigate against a “No Deal” and £2million has been announced to address food poverty. Citizens Advice has been funded to support EU citizens to apply for settled status. Four local resilience forums have identified local risks and the Welsh Government has fully co-operated with UK Government “Yellowhammer” plans.

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