The Welsh Government has criticised the trade deal struck by the EU and UK, saying that it was not what Wales was promised when the country voted for Brexit in 2016.
The European Union Commission and UK Government announced that they had finally struck a free trade deal today, just days before the end of the Brexit transition period.
Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles, however, said that “whatever the spin” it was not a good deal.
“This eleventh hour agreement avoids the catastrophe of a no trade deal exit, but it’s not a good deal, it’s not the future we wanted for Wales, nor that Wales was promised, whatever the spin,” he said.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said that any deal was better than no deal but it was “appalling” that Welsh businesses had to wait so long.
“Clearly, we need to receive a copy of the draft Treaty and analyse its terms before commenting in detail,” he said.
“But at every stage of the negotiations we have argued for a deal which would allow us to maintain the closest possible relationship with the EU. The evidence tells us this is the way to protect the economy and jobs.
“Faced with a binary choice between no deal and this – indeed any deal – we would prefer a deal.
“However it is appalling that it has taken until a week before we leave the transition period to give the first indication of the terms on which we will trade with our most important trading partner. This will only add to the enormous challenges facing our businesses.
“And while we don’t have any of the detail we know this deal is not the one we would have negotiated – after 31 December, Welsh businesses will still face major new barriers to trade; Welsh citizens will no longer be able to travel freely in Europe; and there will be little in it for service sector businesses.
“Even so, this deal is better than the catastrophe which would have been a no-deal. It means we have preserved our relationship with our nearest and most important trading partners. It provides a platform from which better arrangements can be negotiated in the future.
“The Welsh Government will continue to work with all partners, businesses, communities and people across Wales to prepare for and help navigate the end of the transition period and the new relationship with the EU.”
Paul Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, however, said that he very much welcomed that the UK has secured a trade deal with the EU.
“The news this afternoon ends years of discussions over the UK’s future with the EU and I’m delighted that the UK Government has been able to secure a deal,” he said.
“Crucially, this means that we can add the EU to the list of nearly 60 trade deals that have been secured around the World, which come into place as we enter the New Year, enabling the UK to start our new journey as a strong independent nation.
“I have no doubt, that despite the challenges of Covid-19, across the UK, and especially in Wales, people and businesses will take up the opportunities that these deals provide, helping Welsh businesses to grow and kick start the Welsh economy.”
Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, said that that the deal agreed between the UK and EU is “worlds away from what was promised to Wales”.
She said the Conservatives had “broken their promises to Wales” as this agreement will see “new costs and complex bureaucracy” imposed on Welsh businesses.
The agreement takes the UK out of the Single Market and Customs Union, which UK Government modelling estimates will reduce Wales’s economic growth by 5.5% over 15 years.
She urged both sides to use the agreement as a basis upon which to build a “deep and sustainable partnership” for the future and emphasised that “Wales is a proud European nation” despite Brexit.
Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “It is clear is that this agreement is worlds away from what was promised to Wales, both in the 2016 referendum and the 2019 election. Wales was told that we would continue to have the exact same benefits, that we would not receive a penny less, and that our farmers would be able to sell their produce to the rest of Europe as before.
“The Conservatives have broken their promises to Wales. This agreement will impose significant new costs and complex bureaucracy on Welsh businesses. It will threaten the futures of our young people and removes many of our rights as citizens. A free trade deal of this kind – ripping us out of the Single Market and Customs Union – is expected to lead to a 5.5% fall in Wales’s economic growth. That is not something to celebrate.
“Nevertheless, an agreement does give minimal stability after so many years of wrangling. No-deal would have been calamitous for Wales, so news that agreement has been secured will be a relief to many.
“It is now vital that both sides use this agreement as a basis upon which to build a deep and sustainable partnership. Even outside the EU, Wales is a proud European nation that will always cherish our relationships with our neighbours across the continent.”