8 March 2022
Thank you for your request which I received on 8 February 2022. You asked for:
A list of meetings held by the Welsh Government Representative on Europe since their appointment, including any minutes taken and associated correspondence.
The information that you have requested is exempt from release under Section 27 (International Relations) and Section 28 (Relations within the UK) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Both of these are qualified exemptions and as such, the Public Interest Test has been applied. Reasons for withholding the information are detailed at Annex 1.
If you are dissatisfied with the Welsh Government’s handling of your request, you can ask for an internal review within 40 working days of the date of this response. Requests for an internal review should be addressed to the Welsh Government’s Freedom of Information Officer at:
Information Rights Unit
or e-mail: Freedom.firstname.lastname@example.org
Please remember to quote the ATISN reference number above.
You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
However, please note that the Commissioner will not normally investigate a complaint until it has been through our own internal review process.
Section 27 – International Relations
The exemption states:
Section 27(1) Information is exempt if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, harm UK interests which are set out in the exemption.
Sections 27(2) and (3) provide an exemption for information obtained in confidence from another state, international organisation or international court.
Section 27(4) provides an exemption from the duty to confirm or deny whether information is held if doing so would or would be likely to prejudice the interests protected by section 27(1) or would involve the disclosure of confidential information protected by section 27(2).
Section 28 – Relations with the United Kingdom
The exemption states:
28(1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice relations between any administration in the United Kingdom and any other such administration Prejudice Test.
Releasing the information at this time would be likely to affect the Welsh Government’s relations with the UK Government on the subject matters in question, which continue to be live matters of policy. If the Welsh Government were to release the information it would be likely to prejudice the on-going discussions with the UK Government on the matter.
Public interest arguments in favour of release
The Welsh Government acknowledges the general public interest in openness and transparency that release would engender. Further, we recognise that there is public interest in understanding the process by which the Welsh Government, discusses certain policy matters with the UK Government, and the governments of other countries, that the release of the information could lead to greater transparency and openness in the way the Welsh Government conducts business with other administrations, which can improve accountability and public trust.
Public interest arguments in favour of withholding
We have considered the information held and believe that its release would be prejudicial to Welsh Government’s future ability to have frank and open discussions with UK Government and international stakeholders and would affect Welsh Government’s ability to gather information to conduct effective policy making across a wide number of areas with countries where we have common interests. Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, it is important that we maintain a relationship with individual European governments and countries, in the same way as we do with other countries such as the USA or Japan. The release of this information will inhibit the openness of discussions and the full and frank exchange of ideas.
Disclosure of the information which was generated within this climate of trust and expectation of confidence would be likely to result in the same trust and confidence being eroded and a reluctance to share information which would be likely to prejudice relations between both parties on both this and other matters, particularly on this issue where the withheld information involves a subject matter which may still pertain to current and or future considerations by the Welsh Government, the UK Government and the governments of other countries. Such prejudice would not be in the public interest.
I believe therefore that the balance of the public interest falls in favour of withholding the withheld information for the reasons outlined above.