Carwyn Jones, First Minister
On 9 November, together with the Counsel General, I represented the Welsh Government at the thirty-first Summit of the British-Irish Council (BIC) in the Isle of Man. The Summit was chaired by the Chief Minister Hon Howard Quayle MHK, of the Isle of Man Government. The Summit was attended by lead Ministers from the other BIC Member Administrations including;
• Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rt Hon David Lidington MP, of the UK Government;
• An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, of the Irish Government;
• First Minister, Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, of the Scottish Government;
• Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, of the Government of Jersey; and
• Chief Minister, Deputy Gavin St Pier of the Government of the Guernsey, was represented by Deputy Minister for Economic Development, Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen
The British-Irish Council Summit is an important opportunity for Member Administrations to collaborate and share good practice on the common issues we face. This Summit provided an opportunity for Member Administrations to further consider the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union on BIC Members and the work of all Member administrations in delivering digital inclusion.
This was my eighteenth and final Summit and I am grateful for the kind wishes I received at the meeting. The Council has an important role to play in the context of both the Good Friday Agreement and more recent constitutional change and I wish it every success in the future.
The Summit opened with a Ministerial meeting of the BIC Digital Inclusion work sector. The Counsel General represented Wales and reported back to the summit meeting. The Counsel General outlined that access to digital technologies is fundamental to social justice, and has intergenerational relationships at its core. Discussion highlighted that while recent evidence has shown that more people are getting online than ever before, there remains a number of barriers to inclusion, including issues of accessibility, digital skills, and motivation. The Counsel General outlined what we are doing to address this gap here in Wales, including reform of the education curriculum, the ‘Digital Heroes’ programme and our work in health and social care. Ministers discussed future challenges and identified priority issues for the British-Irish Council Digital Inclusion work sector including digital rights, digital skills and literacy and partnership working between the BIC Administrations.
The impact of the UK’s exit from the EU dominated discussions on the latest political developments. I highlighted the impact Brexit uncertainty was having on investment and jobs in Wales, and shared my concerns about the risks of the growing view from businesses that the UK would have to be treated as a separate market from the EU. I also emphasised the importance of ensuring that the UK Government’s future approach to migration protects labour supply for both professional and lower skilled jobs. I reaffirmed my view that failing to achieve a deal with the EU would be completely unacceptable. I reiterated the importance of the UK Government involving the devolved administrations when negotiating international agreements which have implications for devolved competence.
The key discussion points of the thirty-first Summit were published in a joint Communiqué:
https://www.britishirishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/communiquÃ©s/Thirty First Summit Comminique - Isle of Man_0.pdf