Minister promises Welsh Brexit plan 'next week'

Mark Drakeford AM
Image caption "We will set out in full those matters that are of greatest significance to Wales" - Mark Drakeford on the Welsh Government's Brexit plan

Did the dog eat the Welsh Government's homework?

The snappily-acronymed JMC (EN) met in the Cabinet Office for almost two hours on Thursday morning; on the agenda, papers from the Scottish government and Northern Ireland executive on Brexit.

The Scottish paper sets out its demands for Scotland to stay in the single market and for more devolution. The Scottish government's Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe, Mike Russell, said as he entered the Cabinet Office: "I'm hopeful that we will take forward the options in the paper that we've submitted, in particular the options of Scotland remaining a member of the single market, of increasing devolution.

"Those are still realistic options, they've been well supported across the board."

The paper from Northern Ireland sets out its view on what happens to the border between it and the EU after Brexit.

'Substantive'

So where was the Welsh paper? I asked Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford if the Welsh Government was late with its homework.

He told me: "Our paper will be published next week. It will be a substantive item on the next JMC agenda early in February I think it will be helpful to us to be able to take into account what we say.

"We will know the position of the Scots and the north of Ireland are taking. We will know the prime minister's views of earlier this week. We will calibrate them in our paper but we will set out in full those matters that are of greatest significance to Wales and what we as a Welsh Government believe these negotiations need to focus on and deliver."

So we should know more next week. There was no disguising the frustration of the three devolved governments at the JMC (EN) process although each, understandably, has its own Brexit agenda and the frustration sounded rather well co-ordinated.

'Anxieties'

Sinn Fein, who face elections shortly, said they were considering whether to leave the committee unless the British government changed its tune, and Mike Russell complained that Theresa May's big speech was a breach of the process.

"We were meant to be involved in decisions, not being told what to do," he said.

Mr Drakeford made clear the Welsh Government would, whatever their "anxieties" over the JMC, not be following Sinn Fein out of the door.