Boris Johnson: Regularly meeting Welsh Government during Covid would have been 'wrong'

The Prime Minister submitted a witness statement as part of the UK Covid-19 inquiry. Credit: PA Images

Boris Johnson says he thought it would be "wrong" to meet regularly with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, and other leaders of the devolved nations during the pandemic.

The former Prime Minister made the comments as part of a written statement on 31 August 2023, which has now been submitted to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

In the statement, he said: "It is optically wrong, in the first place, for the UK Prime Minister to hold regular meetings with other [devolved administration] First Ministers."

The former Conservative leader said he worried the UK was becoming "a kind of mini EU of four nations" and that "we were meeting as a 'council' in a federal structure."

"That is not, in my view, how devolution is meant to work."

During the pandemic, the Welsh Government were able to make its own decisions about controlling the spread of the virus.

In October 2020, unlike England, Wales entered a "circuit-breaker" lockdown.

The Welsh Governments had their own powers in enforce lockdowns in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: PA Images

The evidence also reveals that Mr Johnson was reluctant to work directly with devolved governments because of a fear of nationalism.

He wrote: "I am afraid I was conscious that I tended to be a particular target of nationalist ire.

"Rather than provoking the SNP I wanted to mollify and gain consent. I believed Michael [Gove] would do a good job."

The Covid Inquiry heard evidence from Mark Drakeford and Vaughan Gething earlier this year. Credit: PA Images

Evidence also submitted as part of the inquiry shows that Mark Drakeford raised concern, in a COBR meeting in October 2021, about "cross-border travel between areas of England with high infection levels and Wales".

The chair of the meeting told the First Minister "regulations would be challenging to enforce".

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry will start investigations into Welsh core decision-making and political governance in February 2024.

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