Following the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Senedd committees, like so many other organisations, moved the emphasis of their work to focus on responding to the crisis.
For the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, this meant pausing some of our planned work while we found new ways of working.
The past ten weeks have given us the chance to adjust our working practices in line with Welsh Government guidelines and revise our work programme to reflect the wider situation.
While responding to the pandemic remains the Government’s number one priority, we must not forget that the UK is in a period of transition in exiting the European Union, and that as things currently stand we will have exited with or without a trade deal on 1 January 2021. For this reason, the Committee remains focussed on its remit to examine the implications for Wales of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
In order to achieve this, the Committee met remotely and informally in April to agree a way forward, and since then has held two remote formal meetings to discuss on-going work streams such as the UK Trade Bill, the UK-EU future relationship negotiations, and the trade continuity programme.
The Trade Bill 2019-21 is progressing though UK Parliament, and the Committee is preparing to report on the associated legislative consent memorandum in early July, building on its work on the previous iteration of the Trade Bill in March 2018 and March 2019.
We held our first virtual broadcast meeting on 2 June 2020 where we questioned the Counsel General and Minister for European Transition on the role that Welsh Government is able to play in the future relationship negotiations, and how the Welsh Government is preparing for the end of the transition period (if you missed it, you can watch a recording on Senedd.tv or read the transcript).
On 16 June 2020, the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language will appear before the Committee to discuss the Welsh Government’s involvement in the UK Government’s proposed programme of free trade agreements, in particular those with the USA and with Japan.
This meeting will be held via video conference and will be available to watch on senedd.tv both live and after the event.
As well as our role in scrutinising the Welsh Government, we cannot forget the impact of these negotiations on Wales more broadly.
To fully understand the implications for Wales of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, we must understand how Welsh businesses and organisations are preparing for the end of the transition period, particularly in the light of the impact of coronavirus.
Social distancing and travel restrictions mean that we can no longer hold the conference-style meeting that we had planned with stakeholders, but we hope to explore other ways to engage in the weeks ahead.
More information about this and all our work streams will be given on our website.