The leaders of the four governments of the United Kingdom have issued a rare joint statement vowing to work together more closely to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite close cooperation at the start of the outbreak, the governments have increasingly acted separately to each other when it comes to easing or tightening lockdown restrictions.
The First Minister has repeatedly criticised an erratic pattern of engagement and has called for regular talks at the highest level. He and Boris Johnson had their first detailed conversation since May ahead of the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Tuesday.
The UK Government’s emergency COBRA committee also held its first meeting since May last week.
Ministers in London have generally hit back at such claims, pointing out that the four Chief Medical Officers meet every week to decide the UK’s alert level. Officials and individual ministers have continued to hold talks too.
However, today’s joint statement is a recognition of the seriousness of the situation with Britain experiencing a second wave of coronavirus.
The leaders commit to “coordinating and cooperating as much as possible” but accept that there will be differences of approach in each nation.
They say: “Following our meeting at COBRA this week, we therefore reaffirm our shared commitment to suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there, while we strive to return life to as normal as possible for as many people as possible. We agree that our policy decisions should be consistent with this objective.”
And they set out a series of commitments:
Maintaining transparency and openness with the public
Coordinating and cooperating as much as possible across these islands while respecting differences of approach and clarifying where measures apply
Sharing and acting on the best data, research and science; ensuring our collective response delivers for all of the citizens we serve
Creating a sustainable legacy from our work on COVID-19, building back better and becoming more resilient in the face of future threats
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart welcomed the joint statement, saying: “Throughout this pandemic we have worked closely with the Welsh Government to control the impact of the virus and ensure our approaches are aligned where possible.
"Coronavirus has challenged the governments and health services of the UK in unprecedented ways, but it has also demonstrated the value of Wales being part of the Union in order to support people and businesses through the crisis.
"I welcome this reinforced commitment to working together, and will do everything I can to see it continue.”