Wales' First Minister: Post-Brexit deal 'thin' but better than no deal

  • Video report by ITV Wales' political editor Adrian Masters

Wales' First Minister has described the post-Brexit deal reached between the UK Government and the European Union as "thin".

Mark Drakeford reaffirmed that any deal is better than no deal, but said it was "not the one we would have negotiated".

In a statement, Mr Drakeford said: “Clearly, we need to receive a copy of the draft Treaty and analyse its terms before commenting in detail.

“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.”

  • Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford responds to news of post-Brexit deal

Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru said that that the deal agreed between the UK and EU is “worlds away from what was promised to Wales”.

Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “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."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen have stressed the deal is "fair and balanced" for both sides.

Mark Drakeford said the Prime Minister's deal with the EU is "not the one we would have negotiated". Credit: PA Images

Supporters of Brexit in the Conservative party are officially reserving judgement. A group of legally-trained members of the strongly pro-Brexit European Research Group will go through the deal line by line in the coming days.

However one Welsh Conservative MP told ITV Wales that the early signs were that "it looks very good" and was "a remarkable achievement by Boris and [David] Frost."

The staunchly Brexit-supporting former leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, tweeted a single word: "Delivered."

Meanwhile Paul Davies MS, leader of the opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has welcomed news of a deal.

Mr Davies said: “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.

“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.”

We have agreed a deal with the EU which is good for Wales and the rest of the UK and which delivers on the outcome of the 2016 referendum.

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “Our deal provides Welsh businesses with the access they need to the EU’s market and creates a new relationship between the UK and the EU based on friendly cooperation between equals.

“Wales has a bright future outside the EU and the new opportunities this deal offers to people and businesses are the result of Wales’ integral place in the United Kingdom.”  

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