Ministers try to rebuild broken relationships at four-nation Covid summit

The First Minister attended the virtual summit on Thursday. Credit: Twitter: @fmwales

A four-nation Covid recovery summit held by the Prime Minister has been described as a good start to efforts to repair relationships which have become increasingly tense. 

The First Minister said the meeting was "worth while" but that it came among a series of aggressive attacks on devolution which made him sceptical about the UK Government’s commitment to the joint approach. 

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, said that while the governments may not agree on everything, "these differences should not prevent us from working together to ensure a strong recovery for all parts of the country."

The Prime Minister held the four-nation Covid summit. Credit: PA Images

The summit had a rocky beginning. Boris Johnson had promised to hold it following election victories for Labour in Wales and the SNP in Scotland. 

But it was postponed after Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon claimed that it was unclear what it was meant to be about.

At today’s rescheduled meeting, UK Government ministers led by the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, set out how they thought the UK had worked well together during the pandemic, highlighting the furlough scheme and the use of the military in the vaccine rollout. 

The First Minister says he "remained sceptical" following the summit. Credit: PA Images

Mark Drakeford told me that it was "definitely worth while" but he remained sceptical. 

"As a first meeting it was worthwhile. The real proof will come in the actions of flow from it, and whether this is start of a sustained process, rather than a one off or ad hoc get together.

"I have some grounds for scepticism given the history of the last 12 months but you've got to be optimistic as well. 

"This was the Prime Minister's initiative and he said today that this would not be the last of these meetings.

"What I always want to see is a regularity of engagement between the four nations, a proper forum in which we all understand the rules, we are all able to put items on the agenda for discussion, and where we can see the results of those discussion making a difference."

However he said there were "far too many examples" of actions by the UK Government aimed, he said, at bypassing or undermining the devolved governments. 

But he ended on a note of optimism and said "today’s a fresh start."