May I first of all thank the committee Chair for leading our discussions within the committee? And also, on the quality of his Welsh language contribution, he’s kept the quality of his Welsh very quiet since I’ve been here, so congratulations to you on that.
Now, what’s interesting about this report is that this report was drafted against an ever-changing backdrop; it was constantly moving. So, from the first draft to the final draft we saw the UK Government outlining its strategy and we saw the Welsh Government’s White Paper being published. So, a lot of very rapid redrafting had to happen. When there’s so much to say on Brexit, what is clear is that the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that leaving the EU single market would have a devastating effect on our economy. That’s due to our greater dependency on exports and, of course, these payments that we get from agricultural and structural funds. Now, that’s a point that’s made very clearly in the report. It’s a point that was emphasised again in the Demos report that was published yesterday.
And, of course, additional to that, the internal constitution of the UK is going to be severely tested in the light of Brexit, because the UK that joined the EEC in 1973 is not the same UK that will leave the EU in 2019. We’ve had devolution in that intervening period. And now, legally, we have a whole host of responsibilities in Wales on lots of different subject matters, which have hitherto been managed within that EU framework. Now, legally I am clear that agriculture will revert to the responsibility of the Assembly when we leave the EU, but, frankly, if the UK Government doesn’t give us the money, it’s going to be a pretty worthless power.
Now, I’m going to restrict myself to two short points that came out of the report that I found quite interesting. First of all, environmental law: what we know is that pollution doesn’t respect borders and I think that’s one of the great success stories of the EU. It’s the framework for the environment in which member states need to act. The fact is that, in the past, the European Court of Justice has been an incredibly powerful force to ensure compliance with environmental laws. Let’s not forget that many aspects of environmental law will be returned to Wales following Brexit. The fact is that in the EU there’s an inexpensive redress mechanism offered by EU institutions, which will no longer be there when we exit the EU. In future, private individuals and organisations will have to rely on expensive UK judicial review processes and they will have to pay for those proceedings themselves. I think that’s a step backwards for the environmental situation in this country. There may be also be no facility to challenge the UK, nor even the Welsh Government, if they fail to enforce the standards expected. That’s a huge hole that hardly anybody has considered yet in relation to this Brexit debate.
The second point I’d like to focus on is health. In Wales, we can boast a very healthy pharmaceutical industry but part of that success is because we work within a single EU framework, which allows new medicines to be brought quickly to market. In future, it may be that we will have to apply for authorisation in each individual member state. We don’t have a single UK market for this either. So, we’ll need to determine whether we want one. For rarer disease trials we need to be able to recruit from a large pool of patients across the EU, and that may change in future. So, we hope that legislation on this matter can be aligned across member states post Brexit.
We know that this week the starting gun will be fired on one of the most complex negotiating tasks that the UK Government has ever undertaken, led by a team of civil servants with almost no negotiating experience. Brexit is happening, but I still fear that the British public has opened Pandora’s box at a time when we’ve never seen such extreme political turmoil in the world as we do at the moment.