UK ministers slammed for ‘unacceptable’ lack of engagement with Welsh Government
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething has slammed UK ministers for being ‘disrespectful’ to the Welsh Government and says Westminster’s lack of engagement with the UK’s devolved governments in terms of decision making is ‘completely unacceptable’.
In a statement to the Senedd responding to last week’s decision to delay border checks on goods imported from the European Union for a fourth time, Mr Gething revealed he, and the relevant ministers from the other devolved governments were called to a meeting which was called at the last minute and lasted ‘no more than half an hour’ to be told the further introduction of controls would be suspended until the end of next year.
Mr Gething said: “I’m disappointed to say this is something that has not been discussed beforehand at Ministerial level with Devolved Governments.
“I have made clear to UK Ministers that the Welsh Government would need time to consider the full implications of the UK Government’s decision and its impact for Wales.
“Specifically, we need to understand the UK Government’s detailed proposals on how to treat goods from the island of Ireland. Just as importantly, we need to work together on how to ensure biosecurity. We know the dreadful consequences of an outbreak of animal or plant disease.
“In addition, the Welsh Government needs urgent sight of draft legislation the UK Government plan to bring forward, which must come into force before 30 June. This is key to determining whether we will need to introduce our own legislation for Wales. There is now very little time left in order to do so. I call on the UK Government to work with us urgently to end this uncertainly.
“This is essential for the Welsh Government and this Senedd to discharge our responsibilities, in line with our established procedures.”
Checks on imports from the EU should originally have been introduced in January 2021 when the Brexit transition period came to an end, but the failure of the UK government to prepare border inspection posts meant they were not implemented at that time and have been delayed three times in the subsequent 28 months.
A total of 30 BCPs are set to be built across the UK to enable physical checks to be carried out on certain goods entering the UK from the EU as required under the Brexit trade deal.
Mr Gething added”…the last few months has been an incredibly frustrating period for the Welsh Government, for our ports and for Welsh businesses.
“I’m afraid to say that whilst we’ve been planning for the introduction of Border Controls we’ve been hampered throughout due to a vacuum of information.
“There have been repeated postponements of joint meetings with the UK Government and the other Devolved Governments in this area, while UK Ministers have failed to respond to a series of letters I have sent in recent months.
“I remind Members that the Welsh Government inherited the UK Government’s policy commitment to develop inland Border Control Posts where ports could not accommodate them; and we were getting on with the job of being ready by 1 July.
“That has taken up hundreds of hours of Civil Servants time and a great deal of Ministerial time. We have spent £6m of public money on this programme of work so far.
“The UK Government’s engagement with the Devolved Governments in terms of decision making has been completely unacceptable. It is wholly at odds with the ways of working envisaged in the Inter-Governmental Relations Review and the Common Frameworks.”
“…this is, frankly, disrespectful to a Devolved Government and to this Senedd that holds us to account.
“Moving forward I want to work collaboratively with the UK Government to ensure we have the right system in place for importing goods which is safe, secure and efficient. That requires a genuine change in attitude and engagement.
“If a safe, secure and efficient import system can be achieved through harnessing innovative new technologies to streamline processes and reduce frictions, then this is something the Welsh Government can support.
“But equally we will want to be assured that our long term strategic responsibilities to protect the health of people, animals and plants in this country are given sufficient weight.”
The controls due in July which have been abandoned included prohibitions and restrictions on the import of chilled meats from the EU, safety and security declarations, and changes to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on plant and animal products.
Goods moving from the UK will continue to be subject to checks in the EU despite the Government deciding not to introduce the controls in Britain.
Controls which have already been introduced in the UK will also remain in place.
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