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'No point meeting' unless UK ministers guarantee trade talks role

Welsh Brexit minister Jeremy Miles Credit: PA, Jane Barlow

The Welsh Government’s Brexit minister has said there's 'no point' holding a further meeting of Brexit ministers until the UK Government guarantees a "meaningful" say in future negotiations.

Ministers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland avoided an all-out confrontation with the UK Government at a meeting in Cardiff last week, but with a warning that those ministers in London must listen to the concerns of the devolved nations.

Jeremy Miles, who is Brexit Minister and Counsel General, told last night’s Sharp End programme that representatives of the devolved administrations agreed that before any further meeting is held, "progress has to happen in these areas."

The standoff began when the UK Government pressed ahead with its Withdrawal Agreement Bill - the law implementing Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal - despite votes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland refusing to give consent in areas which are devolved.

The UK Government is not legally obliged to act on such consent votes but, in all but one previous case, has recognised them. To override the views of all three devolved institutions is unprecedented, and ministers insisted it was a one-off because of the unique circumstances of Brexit.

Last week leaders and ministers of all four governments met in Cardiff for talks as part of the Joint Ministerial Committee system.

Jeremy Miles said that "we were very clear that we want Wales and the Welsh Government to have a real and meaningful voice in the choices which face Wales and the UK in the months ahead."

He added, "We made some progress, the UK Government brought forward some proposals but the essential principle at the heart of that - that they should seek agreement with us on issues which are devolved to Wales - hasn’t yet been agreed and we absolutely must have that agreed."

He said there would be "no point holding another meeting" unless there are practical proposals.

We’ve said in the coming weeks before another JMC is called, progress has to happen in these areas. What we often have in these discussions is a discussion where principles are talked about and people talk about listening to devolved govt but actually what we need is a mechanism which can reach agreement or at least tries to reach agreement. We just think that’s a very practical way forward.

– Jeremy Miles AM, Brexit minister and Counsel General

When I suggested that that sounded like the devolved administrations would go on strike, he told me "I wouldn’t put it quite like that, but we want to see more progress on things we’ve been pressing for for some months."

I also asked Jeremy Miles about his own future. At Westminster, the Department for Exiting the European Union has been abolished and the Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay’s job has ended.

Although he has another role as Counsel General would Jeremy Miles stop being Brexit minister?

"There’s a ton of work to do", he told me. "Obviously how the Welsh Government is organised to do that is completely up to the First Minister."