Ministers avoid all-confrontation after tense meeting in Cardiff

Ministers have been holding talks in Cardiff. Credit: PA

Ministers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have stepped away from an all-out confrontation with the UK Government but have warned that ministers in London must listen to the concerns of the devolved nations.

They've been holding talks in Cardiff at a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, which is the mechanism for inter-governmental discussions.

It was the first the time they had all met since all three devolved institutions rejected the UK Government's plans for a Brexit deal in a series of votes that was later overridden by London.

When UK laws are introduced, if they affect devolved areas, they must usually win the consent of the relevant assembly or parliament.

But in the case of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Irish Assembly and the Scottish parliament all held votes and all refused consent.

Mark Drakeford insisted on a say in future negotiations. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

After the meeting, First Minister Mark Drakeford told me that the UK Government 'will have understood today that to ignore the devolved administrations weakens their own position.'

But he said what he and other leaders insisted on today was a say in future trade negotiations, not just with the EU but other countries too.

What we were talking today was about negotiations beyond being a member of the EU and I think there's a recognition from the UK Government that if they carry on ignoring everybody else, when they go into that room with other countries they'll be on their own.

– Mark Drakeford, First Minister

I put it to him that he'd effectively given ministers in London a warning not to ignore the devolved administrations again.

He said, ''It's not good for them, it's not good for us, the Welsh Government wants to be in a position of trying to reach agreement, it's right for us it's right for them today I think was a reasonable rehearsal as to why that was the case.''

When I asked the UK Government's most senior representative at the talks, Michael Gove, if he'd granted that wish, he said 'Oh yes, absolutely.'

Michael Gove said the UK Government is right to press ahead with the withdrawal bill. Credit: PA

But he also insisted the UK Government was right to press ahead with the withdrawal bill despite the views of the assemblies and parliaments.

I think it's the case that when people in Wales voted for us to leave the EU I don't think they expected the process to take so long. I think this Friday people will be relieved that wrangling is over it's really important that parliament has its say, but ultimately what's most important is that the people's will is respected.

– Michael Gove MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Scotland's representative, the Brexit minister Mike Russell was starker in his assessment. He told me, ''We are still at a crisis point. These are a very serious set of circumstances and the UK Govt seemed to want to ignore that. It should not be possible to ride roughshod over the devolved administrations.’'

It seems all the UK's governments have avoided falling out completely at their meeting today.

But the truce remains a fragile one and a breakdown in relations could yet happen.