|David Melding AC|
|David Rees AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Jane Hutt AC|
|Mark Reckless AC|
|Steffan Lewis AC|
|Vikki Howells AC|
|Auriol Miller||Sefydliad Materion Cymreig|
|Institute of Welsh Affairs|
|Syr Emyr Jones Parry||Cymdeithas Ddysgedig Cymru|
|Learned Society of Wales|
|Walter May||Cymreig Byd-Eang|
|Elisabeth Jones||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Gareth David Thomas||Ymchwilydd|
|Rhys Morgan||Ail Glerc|
|Yan Thomas||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Perthynas Cymru ag Ewrop a'r byd yn y dyfodol—rhan dau—sesiwn dystiolaeth||2. Wales’ future relationship with Europe and the world—part two—evidence session|
|3. Papur i’w nodi||3. Paper to note|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod||4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:00.
The meeting began at 14:00.
Good afternoon, and can I welcome Members to this afternoon's meeting of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee?
Can I first of all remind you of some housekeeping? If you have a mobile phone or other electronic equipment that may make a noise or interfere with the broadcasting equipment, please either switch them off or put them on silent.
The meeting is bilingual. If you require simultaneous translation from Welsh to English, that's available on the headphones via channel 1. If you require amplification, that's available on the headphones via channel 0.
There are no scheduled fire alarms. So, if one does take place this afternoon, please follow the directions of the ushers to ensure that we move to a safe place.
Can I now put on record my thanks to Jenny Rathbone and to Jack Sargeant who were members of this committee and who have now moved to other committees? I want to put on record our thanks to them for their work during their time on this committee. And can I welcome Vikki Howells as one of the replacements for them? Hopefully you will enjoy the work that we do and understand some of the complexities that Brexit will bring to Wales. I also put on record a welcome to Joyce Watson, who unfortunately is delayed because she's with the Commission at this point in time.
We've also received apologies from Michelle Brown. There will be no substitute for Michelle today.
Can we go now into the evidence session this afternoon—item 2—which is continuing our work on the future relationship of Wales with Europe and the wider world? Can I welcome our witnesses and, for the record, please can you introduce yourselves and the organisations you represent, going from my left to right?
I'm Walter May from GlobalWelsh.
Emyr Jones Parry, the Learned Society of Wales.
Auriol Miller from the Institute of Welsh Affairs.
Thank you. Previously, obviously, the Institute of Welsh Affairs has submitted written evidence. Thank you for that. I understand that you might wish to make some opening remarks. If you do, please feel free, as long as you keep it to a couple of minutes so we can go on with the questions, but if you don't, that's not a problem. So, if we again go from left to right—Mr May.
Yes, because we are quite a new organisation, I just wanted to make sure you understood a little bit about the origins and the background to GlobalWelsh. So, there are couple of things to point out. We are a grass-roots initiative. We're an initiative based on evidence—a piece of research that I carried out in 2015—and we are completely private sector-funded. So far, we've had private sector funding from individuals and stakeholders to the tune of £0.25 million. Our whole ethos is to stay a private sector-funded initiative.
Gadeirydd, diolch am y cyfle i fod yma y prynhawn yma. Rwy'n llywydd Cymdeithas Ddysgedig Cymru—
Chair, thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon. I'm the president of the Learned Society of Wales—
Don't worry, I'll go into English straight away.
Ond diolch am y cyfle.
But thank you very much for the opportunity.
The Learned Society of Wales is the national academy of Wales. Eight years in existence, 350-something years later than the Royal Society or the Royal Society of Edinburgh, but nonetheless representing the sector, representing academic excellence, promoting research and, crucially, serving the nation, which is why I am here.
I'll confine myself to these remarks, Chairman: Brexit is going to be traumatic, is traumatic, for all of the United Kingdom. It's going to be especially difficult for Wales. We are going to suffer as much as the worst in any part of the kingdom. We need, therefore, an engaged nation—all of us, not just Government; it's the whole business of Wales speaking for Wales in a much louder way than has been the case in the past.
In terms of our future external representation, for me, the crucial one is with London—it's persuading London that devolution exists, that Wales has interests and getting the British Government to co-operate with the devolved administrations where it should and has to, but also, in what it does externally, that it represents the interests of Wales as much as it does for other parts of the kingdom. That impact of Wales on policy is crucial. We need a strategy, and, crucially, what do we want? What are our assets? How can we influence? Where is soft power? And how do we prioritise? That's the challenge for the nation.
Thank you. I think you've highlighted some of the points we wish to explore this afternoon. Ms Miller.
Thank you very much indeed. Just in terms of the IWA's particular focus, we've done pieces of work over the last couple of years that have highlighted key issues in relation to this inquiry's area of interest, particularly providing a platform for independent research that has come to the fore, one paper being Geraint Talfan Davies's 'The Single Market of the Mind' and the impact of Brexit on higher education and further education funding in Wales. We also, in collaboration with the British Council, ran an event in April of this year looking at Wales's soft power and the opportunities for that. I'd be happy to share both the report that the British Council produced, the 'Wales Soft Power Barometer', and the event note of the discussions at that event.
Areas of interest for us are things that other organisations either can't or won't or aren't able to do, in part because of our unique position, independent of Government and also as a membership organisation, but funded by members, conferences and events that we put on, and research from independent trusts and foundations. I'm picking up on a point that Sir Emyr Jones Parry just made around devolution and the twin tracks of both devolution and changes that will come at us because of Brexit, and a particular area of focus for us, I anticipate, in the future will be about inter-parliamentary relations. So, there are things that we are certainly interested in, and I'd be happy to have a conversation as well, following this, to give you more detail.
Thank you. Again, you've picked up some points that committee has also been discussing in the past as well.
We move on to questions, therefore, and I'll start with David Melding.
It's interesting you focus on London in talking about the relations that Wales needs, and that one with the UK Government is key. By extension, should we be focusing on London as a global city, and, if Wales has a big presence in London, we don't need to have small little places all around the world where we hot desk, or whatever, and try to convince people to come and see Wales. We could actually, through—I don't know what you envisage—some sort of beefed-up presence of the Welsh Government in London have that wider, ambassadorial concept. Or is your focus strictly on how the UK is going to govern itself rather than those wider objectives?
I don't think it's either/or, Chairman. It's a question of where our priorities are and can we do both. My answer is that we've got to do both.
Why I concentrate on the British Government is because the decisions that the British Government will take, and what Parliament will endorse, the international agreements that the British enter into—and they have the competence; it is they who will enter into those agreements—will have a dramatic effect on what happens in Wales. I've just been in a meeting with another Minister who said in passing that the difficulty of dealing with some Government departments today, 20 years after devolution, is that they're still making announcements and they've forgotten that there are devolved administrations. That is totally unacceptable. So, the international aspects—I won't go into the details of future trade arrangements and everything else—where the Welsh interests are actually significantly different from English or British interests, how do we cover those? But at the same time, if you have a Minister—a Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—who makes statements about the future trends of agriculture and environment and doesn't seem to notice, to be aware, that he's only the Minister responsible for England, it's just unacceptable. How we maintain, for example, an internal market within the United Kingdom post Brexit is a real challenge, because powers have been devolved in a whole series of areas where, if we all actually took legislation of a different sort, we would break the internal market of the UK. The internal market of the UK is preserved at the moment because we're part of the EU internal market, which enforces the market in the United Kingdom. Take that constraint away, and how's it going to work? Is it going to be a dictate from London? Well, in today's world, I don't think that's acceptable.
So, my argument is that the crucial priority is London. This idea that, somehow, if you establish an office somewhere, that that creates influence and suddenly everything will happen—my experience of Welsh offices abroad doesn't suggest that immediately happens. What you need is to work out a strategy of, 'What are we trying to achieve, with whom, by whom, what are the assets that we have, how are we going to—all of us—? And it's not just Government; it's your responsibility and this committee, it's business, it's the university sector—you name it. In Wales, we all need to be with a louder voice trying to exert influence on behalf of Welsh interests. In my view, that's not happening, hasn't been happening with anything like a loud enough voice, but it needs to do so, but on the basis of clear objectives worked out. That includes, of course, selected places outside the UK and doing what we can.
But don't imagine that setting up an office, having somebody there, is a panacea. It isn't. If you're the representative of, say, the British Government sitting in Brussels, it's very easy relatively. You've got a role; you sit at the table. It's much more difficult if you're somebody in an office somewhere in the outskirts of Brussels and asked to exert influence on this huge machine. In the end, you can get a certain amount of information, but how well you succeed depends on the individuals but also on the propensity, actually, to want to work with you. I've had experience of working in London where people have wanted to come, but after a while you decide, 'Well, in terms of my priorities in life, am I going to get anything out of this meeting?' There are some where clearly you do, others you don't, and in the scarce resource of time you say, 'Well, I'm sorry but I can't see X'. What we've got to ensure is that Welsh representatives, wherever they are, are in a position actually to get access for a purpose, with a back-up, which means you're trying to achieve something.
So, is it fair for me to infer, if the relationship we have with the UK Government is key in terms of UK governance, but also how we influence UK foreign policy, that, in terms of our wider presence in Europe and the world, it's the UK Government's networks that we should really be ensuring, either directly by complementary presence of ourselves, or through better education and co-operation with diplomats, the trade experts and all these people in embassies for them to understand Wales? Is that fair?
You're stopping your sentence too soon. You're saying we should; I agree we should ensure those, but we should do other things as well, and there are creative things that one can do. In a very strict sense, foreign policy is not the preserve of devolved administrations, but what Wales has done in parts of Africa is actually very positive. In its own right, I'd say that's something we ought to be doing. It doesn't actually produce much benefit for Wales, so what I want to see is where we identify those things where Wales can profit from them and we then do those outside and creatively. It's not the either/or again if we are agreed on what we should be doing. If you're picking on regions of Europe—if we said Bavaria or Catalunya—I'd say, 'Yes'. Wales ought to work out what it wants but also ought to be persuading the British Government with its offices in these places to help Wales get what it wants, as well as what we ourselves can do. You've got to do both.
Complementary, and you maximise every resource you can.
And what about the other two witnesses? Does that make sense to you, or should we be a bit more upfront and centre in what we're trying to do, and pick certain areas where we absolutely do need a commanding presence?
Shall I pick up on that? I certainly agree that the understanding and awareness of Wales and the relationship with London is key, but we also can't sit in London and expect the world to come to us in London. So, certainly, the event that we held in April on soft power made the distinction around public diplomacy, and Sir Emyr Jones Parry has picked up around the foreign policy angle. But the other angle of soft power is around communicating a nation's ideals, beliefs and values, political heritage and culture. And an opportunity for that, and the common understanding of relationships across borders, is very much through education, tourism, exchange programmes and business partnerships, as I know that you've already seen through the evidence that you've received.
So, I think it is a both/and approach. I totally agree in terms of having a clear strategy—and I would argue at the moment that that's not necessarily the case—a strategy of objectives, and also an awareness and channels for different parts of the public, private, and third sectors, academia and civil society to engage with that strategy, and for that to be abundantly clear in terms of the opportunities for so doing. And I think that some of the evidence in the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee report that came out last week gives some examples of where that could potentially be improved. So, I'm sure that you'll be looking at the results of that inquiry as well. So, I think that's important, too.
A really important point around the importance of the people doing those roles as well and their ability to build relationships and maintain those relationships, even when they've moved on from that particular role, because that's where networks are reinforced, and opportunities are—because it's abundantly clear we're all human. The ability to then pick up on those opportunities and come back to things that can be done that would support a strategy are much more likely if those are positive and—positive, and relationships that have been nurtured.
So, I think that's also a point. So, there's a tension here, or a balance to be struck, more to the point, in terms of how you maintain those relationships, because they've got different focuses.
I guess our focus, and the narrative of GlobalWelsh, is more about the individual. We know that our most valuable export is not goods or services, it's talent; we haemorrhage talent every year. Most people who leave Wales don't come back. They seek opportunities and their Welsh success is much greater than the success we have within the borders of Wales. So, we are very much focused on the individual. We are indifferent as to where they're located. So, we are reaching out to the 3 million friends of Wales. Many of them still have an emotional attachment to this country and a propensity to want to help. So, it's London, yes; it could be anywhere in the world. So, we want to tap into those people's propensity to want to contribute back to Wales. And it's seeking out a win-win, so, a win for them and a win for us. The question for us when we identify someone in the diaspora is, 'What is their propensity to want to give back, and what is their capacity to give back?' And then, 'What is it that we can do for them?' That's the first question. And if we get an answer to that, then we certainly have a chance of them actually contributing, whether they're based in London or anywhere else in the world. So, it's all about seeking out the talent that we've lost, identifying what they've achieved in their careers, and aligning that with the needs and desires of Wales, essentially.
And we are very much focused on economic development and wealth creation, but we're also involved in lots of other things. That's our key focus, because, if you look at the origins of GlobalWelsh, four entrepreneurs—well, six entrepreneurs, actually, plus myself—started this initiative. And so, we're very much focused on: how can Wales be more prosperous; how can we create more businesses; how can those businesses become more successful internationally? And we have a wealth of knowledge and talent within our diaspora that can make a huge impact on our future success. Consider them the cavalry waiting for the clarion call, if you like. There are a lot of people out there who want to help us, but we have to identify them and we have to ask for that help. So, that's really what we're about; it's about the individual, not necessarily the location.
Let's focus on Europe. Are there any particular networks that are currently operating that you feel ought to be a priority for Wales to remain, if that's feasible, part of? I suppose not all of them are EU, but most of them probably are.
Is that for me?
Okay. Well, very briefly, there are Welsh societies all over the world, including Europe—no surprise. Unfortunately, not many of them have an economic development or a wealth creation element of what they do. It's often about culture, language, landscape, and sports. So, we want to bring that missing element to each of those Welsh societies and help them be more successful and to share our knowledge and processes with them. So, there are many around the globe, which is great, but I think they just need to up their game and modernise, and that's what we are about, to see GlobalWelsh as the hub, and each of these Welsh societies as a spoke.
You say, 'They need to up their game'. Is it they who need to up their game, or is it the Welsh Government that need to up their game in their relationship with these organisations?
I think we all need to up our game and bring that element of—. A piece of research that I did, I shared it with a professor at Cardiff University, and he endorsed my finding, which was these societies contribute in ways that really don't benefit Wales economically. We want to try and bring that economic development, because each of these Welsh societies have influential diaspora within them, but they tend to be sharing things that are nothing to do with economics.
It sounds as if the Welsh Government, to date, hasn't really been active in developing those—
I'd agree with that, yes.
In fairness to the Government, I'd say they haven't been active enough, perhaps. But, it's also quite difficult. Don't underestimate how much of a problem it is. Where I would be looking is organisations that we can be members of where it would be profitable—try and identify them. The Vanguard Initiative is the one that brings together regions in Europe, and, specifically, they work on particular sectors. I know Scotland has been active with somebody else doing IT, and, presumably, will come up with something that will be useful for Europe, but beneficial for Scotland as well. So, it's organisations like that that we can get into, the links that already exist with five or six of the regions, try and build on those. Where you can get a formal observer status in a body, and the body is useful, take it. We're not going to get formal observer status in any of the EU bodies, but, around the margins of Brussels, there are different organisations.
Let me throw out one suggestion, which is, in the end, depending on what Britain ends up with as a future relationship with the EU, it doesn't exclude, in my view, having a Wales relationship with bits of the EU. I'll elaborate that with an example. I don't know how research and development is going to work because it's much more complicated than, at first sight, it appears. If those links are to continue, great, but they may not. I don't see why Wales couldn't have its own participation in Horizon Europe, post 2020. You'll say Wales is not a nation state in an international sense. No, but legally it's my view that if the British Government didn't object and if the European Commission were prepared to recommend, you could have a Wales agreement with parts of the EU. I think that's well worth looking at to see if somehow we can insinuate ourselves into processes that are taking place.
Well, you'd have to. You're not going to get anything for nothing.
So, that's quite a gamble, though, isn't it, where you pay. Because we won't be a decision maker, presumably, whatever relationship—
And that's why the UK participation in that programme is very problematic, although the advantages of doing so in the present arrangements are overwhelming.
You'd say Horizon is one where, despite the fact that, compared to what we have now, any participation would be on a less advantageous basis, still, the overriding purpose is strong enough to make you think seriously about staying in.
If I could stay in on present terms, I'd bite their hands off. The Commission proposal says, though, that, for third countries, there's a hierarchy and the United Kingdom would be fourth out of four, which is not positive. The proposal is that anybody who's not a member of the EU should not be allowed to get out more than they put in, and that's a big disincentive, and no share in decision making either for the strategy or for individual projects—and you're now getting down to a point where it's becoming very unattractive. So, I'm not arguing necessarily for it, what I'm saying is that it may be worth exploring possibilities.
I understand, this is why I want to follow it. So, if we do—let's just take Horizon or whatever the successor programme is. If we're in it on pay and play, we will know that we can never get out more than we pay in, but we could well get less than we pay in—that's the nature of these programmes—and there would then be certain intangibles that would still make up for that financial deficit, in your view.
They may do, but I'd like to look at—
But I want to extend that. Are there areas of agricultural policy—? You won't get a trade agreement between Wales and—but you may set up a basis of exchange of information that will actually be very helpful to our industry.
We've got to be very creative because, putting it frankly, we don't have that many resources. I want to be as positive as I can be, but I'm also realistic. And against the realism factor, there are not many things going for us. So, initiative, using the resources we have, soft power—and soft power includes not just Auriol's list, but things like sport.
Sport in China—. When the Wales football team wins 6-0 in China, there is a huge impact on China. We've got to see—what do we then do in consequence in China, where does that fit into inward investment and so on? But it needs the creativity in approaching it as a whole.
Auriol had such strategic priorities. There are current European networks that you would seek to preserve, even on a pay-and-play basis.
That's interesting; we've not done a piece of work on it. What we have done is, as I've, in conversation with the clerk to the committee—we've all gone out to our members and asked them the series of questions anticipated for today. As you can imagine, the areas that those members who responded prioritised were relationships within the education field, HE and FE institutions, Erasmus, Erasmus+ and other programmes and things like Creative Europe and other areas that keep us in precisely the kinds of things that Jones Parry has been talking about in terms of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and research.
So, I think there are two angles here. One is: what is the overarching objective and strategy for Welsh Government and, indeed, for the National Assembly, in terms of that big picture? Because there will always be relationships that individual organisations and institutions will wish to maintain for their own reasons and for their own interests, depending on what they do.
We don't represent a trade or a sector. We want what's best for Wales and, therefore, from our perspective, it's a both/and situation. The things that came through in terms of the soft power index that the British Council did in April were our digital expertise, our entrepreneurialism, and sport as a clear priority.
The other thing that came through from conversations with our members was around our focus on sustainability as a country, and our engagements in networks around sustainability. So, what is it that we are doing that is world leading and how can we make the most of that, and use that as a way to pull in expertise and attention, and in all sort of different areas? So, I think those are the angles for us.
Can I just clarify something before I ask Steffan, who wants to ask a quick question? You talked about there, Sir Emyr, how you might not get out what you've put in, and you won't get out more than you put in in that type of scheme. But, surely, in situations like that, sometimes, you might get out a lot more in other forms in one sense—through reputation, through enhancements, through kudos for the ability to undertake those types of projects and work. So, whereas financially it might not be beneficial, you might end up reputationally and otherwise, getting more out of it as a consequence of that. So, what I want to ask you is, you talked an awful lot about profitability and what is profitable for you: how do you define profitability? How do you define what's good for you, because it might not always be a financial situation?
I hope I used the term 'benefit' rather than 'profit', but the same thing—it's not just financial; you're absolutely right. The whole pattern of research co-operation in British universities has been transformed in the last 40 years. Sixteen per cent, 17 per cent of academics in British universities come from the EU. The student exchanges—they've all enriched the experience across the board. Welsh universities are not insular, they are part of a global membership, they attract students from all over. It's a far deeper experience, a richer experience, than it used to be, and the EU has contributed to that, in my view. You're absolutely right, Chair, that there are other benefits. Against the harsh reality of HM Treasury and the United Kingdom Research and Innovation council, when they're looking at 'How are we going to spend our money?', they may put more emphasis on the tangible than the intangible. That's my worry.
Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to go back to the point I made earlier, Sir Emyr, regarding the priority for Welsh Government being to influence the UK Government. Surely, after 20 years of devolution, if they're not interested in really listening to Wales now, what would be the incentive, at this time of great fragility for the British state, to heed what devolved Governments have to say? I mean, they've made it quite clear throughout this process that devolved establishments are there as consultees and nothing more. In the coming weeks, the Scottish Government will be dragged before the courts by the British Government over whether or not to continue with its current levels of devolution, for example. We've had evidence from Welsh Government Ministers here who repeatedly say that Welsh Government is kept out from discussions on things like the Chequers plan. We're not even in the room next door when it comes to the negotiations with Brussels, so isn't—? When you talk about being realistic, and about the political leverage we do have or we don't have, isn't that a futile road to go down, albeit that we have to continue, of course, making clear what Wales's priority of national interest is, but to expect the British Government to change its mind and to heed devolved administrations, isn't that a bit far-fetched?
I'm not a fan of futility—let me be quite clear—and I've no exorbitant, exaggerated sense of 'Wales insists and therefore the United Kingdom must do.' But the suggestion that because the future is uncertain and even the status of the kingdom is uncertain and that therefore they shouldn't pay attention to devolution is actually to compound the problem. Because if they're not going to listen, the risk to the kingdom becomes much greater.
Well, some may well do, but as I look at it, one of the reasons for Brexit is that London-dominated policies ignored the interests not just of the devolved administrations, but of middle England. They had no concept of the resentment that existed in England about the way large parts of England were being governed. And it came straight over into, 'We'll vote out of the EU' and it's the same in Wales. A lot of resentment, in my view, felt against Cardiff and Welsh Government, actually manifested itself in 'Despite all the cash that's come in from the EU, we'll vote against.' That's my personal view.
My argument is that in terms of the constitutional arrangements that exist in the United Kingdom, for the good of the kingdom and if those relationships are going to prosper, we need to have a relationship less based on London dictating, but on London understanding that the constitutional arrangements and real politics on the ground and all the commerce and trade in agriculture, et cetera, require people to co-operate and work out how we're going to do things. And if we're not prepared to do that, then the future becomes even more uncertain and unhelpful. So, I don't see it as something that London should give us as a privilege. It's actually common sense.
But with respect, that's how the United Kingdom constitution is constructed. Article 9 of the English bill of rights makes it quite clear, and that has been tested throughout this process, that this is a centralised state, and the Westminster Parliament is sovereign, and we know that the arguments being put by the UK Government to the Supreme Court on the question of the Scottish continuity Bill explicitly make it clear that the Westminster Parliament is sovereign and that will become ever more apparent, I suspect, when things like the arrangements for the internal market become clear. We are not in a federal state. We are not in a state that is built to share power and to reach consensus. We are in a centralised parliamentary state and there is no incentive for the centre of that state to change. It's worked for 300 years for them.
We are in a centrist state—I agree. If we'd had this discussion 40 years ago, I'd have agreed with what you just said. Today, I don't think the position of sovereignty is anything like as clear as it once was. Divine sovereignty of the sort that people have been arguing for went out with the Holy Roman Empire 400 years ago. Sovereignty for all of us is a much more nuanced existence even than the President of the United States has yet realised. The truth is that we have international obligations. We are all constrained by the things we sign up to. It's the same for the British Government and for England. At some stage, the penny will drop, and there will be a realisation that sovereignty in the terms we knew it has actually been nuanced within the UK. The institution we're sitting in has a legitimacy brought about by two referenda. That shifts the position from an absolute Westminster sovereignty, in my view, and as a minimum Westminster and the British Government have to understand that they have to deal with three devolved administrations and that they should do better dealing with the parts of England as well. Otherwise, self-interest is going to be very much damaged.
Shouldn't we focus on the things that we control, that we have, that we can decide on and do ourselves without any recourse to central Government? Diaspora engagement is actually one of those things. So, the reason that I am motivated to do this—and it was by accident, not design—was that a world expert in diaspora engagement, Kingsley Aikins, who's Irish, said to me that there could be as few as 20 people in the Welsh diaspora who could transform the Welsh economy. Now, that's nothing to do with institutions or nothing to do with Government, but it's something we can actually go and do ourselves independently. So, the question for us is: who are those people? Where are they? What are they doing? And what is their propensity and capacity to give back to Wales? So, we can do that as a Welsh nation. So, if it's not 20, it's 40, 60—. The point is it's a small number, and we estimate that we have 6,000 world-class Welsh people in the wider world outside of Wales. So, we want to identify those people, we want to connect with them, and we want to ensure that we provide them with the opportunities that they're looking for to give back to Wales. And if the statement by Kingsley's true, then that's something that we really need to get on and do and we'd like to do it quicker and faster.
So, Government institutions, they have their role, but I think we have a lot more autonomy to make Wales a more successful country economically and in other ways than we realise, and I think the diaspora—. I don't think the potential is fully understood. We are in the process of demonstrating via evidence that what Kingsley said is actually true, and we're doing that in four areas. So, we're looking to attract inward investment, so we have a programme to do that.
We're looking at helping businesses trade more internationally, and we have a plan to do that. We haven't done anything substantial in that space yet, although what we do know is—when I did the research I looked at Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, India and New Zealand very closely, to learn the lessons that they have learnt from doing this for many decades—that connecting Welsh businesses with members of the diaspora in the countries that they seek to trade in, who are experts in the vertical markets that they operate in, is a huge, huge help for businesses to start to expand internationally, and maybe—. And I'm very complimentary, I might say, regarding the typical things that Government do, which are trade missions. So, we would add to what already exists, not replace it.
The third thing is global mentoring. So, we have Welsh CEOs of major corporations all over the world, and if we can take Wales's brightest and best and give them an experience with those people in their businesses, it's a personal development opportunity for them, but it's also a major opportunity for them to bring back some best practice to their business. Two weeks ago, we had six entrepreneurs from Wales doing just that: they went to Los Angeles, they spent a week in a company called Pelican Products with a Welshman called Lyndon Faulkner, and it was massive for them individually. They came back so enthused, so empowered by what they'd learnt. They'll accelerate their development personally and they will bring some of that best practice into their businesses, and that will benefit the Welsh economy. We could do a lot more of those kinds of things.
And the fourth thing that we want to do is thought leadership: we want to bring these thought leaders—these very successful Welsh people—back to Wales to help us think more internationally, to maybe help us be more aspirational. Because we've got some fantastic Welsh businesses and there's a global market out there that we need to go and reach out to, and it isn't going to always be Europe; it's going to be other countries across the globe. And we have these friends of Wales out there, and we want to utilise that talent, that wealth, for us to all prosper. So I think, for me, let's just focus on what we can control, what we can influence, and I think it's huge, absolutely huge for us.
Can I pick up on the prospects and things and particularly going back to the devolution settlement and where things are? I was reading something that I think the constitutional affairs committee in Westminster put out in July, which was talking about how the Brexit vote had masked the anomalies of devolution and how things were operating therefore as a result. And it mirrored very closely, obviously, the call from the Llywydd for a Speakers' conference to start to unpick some of these issues around interparliamentary relations. So I think there's something there, and it picks up on what Sir Jones Parry was talking about in terms of—you don't go into anything thinking that nothing is going to be possible; you go into something thinking, 'Well, what is possible and how can we influence the outcome that we might wish for?' So, I think there is a space, and there's a space for this committee here in particular, to make some recommendations and some suggestions about what that could look like and what would feel appropriate for the National Assembly.
None of us knows how that's going to play out and none of us knows either, to my knowledge, how the constitutional affairs committee—what it's going to do next. But there is definitely a conversation and a space there for shaping what a more formal and more respectful way of operating could be.
We are aware of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, PACAC—
Thank you for correcting me on that.
—and their key proposal is to look at greater interparliamentary workings. And that's something we'll continue to have discussions with them on in meetings we have with the Chairs of the various committees across the UK. So, yes, it is something that we are looking at. Mark.
Sir Emyr, you emphasised earlier the extent to which Welsh interests are distinct from UK interests. I just wonder whether you could summarise the ways in which you consider that to be so.
I think I'd start on the basis that we're taken for granted and that the Welsh voice isn't loud enough, isn't heard clearly enough and that, therefore, we are distinct but in an adverse sense.
The second is that, looking at manufacturing capacity in Wales compared to the percentage in England, it's higher here. It's concentrated on two industries in particular, but each heavily dependent on trade with the European Union and the way trade flows, so it's particularly sensitive. I'd say that Welsh agriculture is quite specific and, again, if I extrapolate from what Mr Gove is saying for England, which may well be very sensible for England, but we would write off much of Welsh agriculture if we follow the same sorts of policies in Wales. So, how do we look after Powys if it has more sheep than New Zealand? What's the future for Powys, post Brexit? There are areas like that that really have to be looked upon.
But what else is distinct? Our values, I think, are slightly different. Certainly, our language and our culture give us a dimension that is not present in any other part of the United Kingdom, and we are quite distinct. I think we would join here quite quickly and say that the soft power that's represented by all of those is something we can do far better to encapsulate 'what is Wales'. I sat on the McKay Commission looking at the West Lothian question. I kept asking, 'What's different between England and Britain?' and nobody really gave us an answer because the two tend to be synonymous. Nobody's ever confused me with being English. Wales is distinct, we're different, and we need to realise that part of that is a big disadvantage economically and in other ways, but a lot of it is a richness, if we could catch it. It applies to our higher education sector and lots of other areas where Wales could profit from what we have, and these are the few resources that are really going for us as we look forward.
Diolch, Chair. I'd like to ask the panel where Wales can be looking for examples of best practice in terms of strengthening our relations both within the EU but also internationally. Mr May, you rattled off a whole list of nations just a few minutes ago. I wonder whether you'd be able to expand on what they're doing well that we could look to possibly emulate. Also, Sir Emyr, in your evidence earlier on you did mention briefly some links between Wales and Africa, and I'm wondering in your answer whether you'd be able to say what is there that's good about that. But also you did say that you didn't think Wales was gaining an awful lot from that. So, conversely, can we look, therefore, for some lessons?
Yes, I looked at the countries I mentioned earlier, and probably the exemplar for us is New Zealand. We share some similar characteristics to New Zealand. So, the things that they're doing that we've basically taken and said, 'Well, that would work for us'—. Two things. The first thing is they working are very hard to connect their diaspora up together. So, they want to connect to them, clearly, but they also want to connect them up as well. So, that's a really—. And with social media and with mobile technology, that is much more doable now than ever it has been. But one of the key areas is what they've done around world-class New Zealander. So, they have a world-class New Zealander network, which is a private network of high-achieving New Zealanders all over the globe, and they have 600 in that network—600 to 800—and they bring them to New Zealand every year and they have an event. They induct 12 to 15 world-class New Zealanders into that network every year. It sounds fantastic, and they get a lot of benefit from bringing those people together. The Prime Minister hosts the event in New Zealand, flies them in, and, when you get people of that ilk in a room together, magical things happen across the spectrum, not just economically.
But the other thing that they do is they sit down with New Zealand Government every so often and get engaged with what strategic initiatives does the Government have—international initiatives—and they link those initiatives to the existing world-class New Zealander network at an individual level. But they also recruit world-class New Zealanders based on future initiatives. So, if there's an initiative around, let's say, medical equipment exports into Argentina, then they will have, on what they call their watch list, roughly 1,500 people that are either already considered world-class at what they do, or on the trajectory where they will become world-class in the future. They consider students that have studied in New Zealand as part of their diaspora. They have a lot of Chinese students studying in New Zealand, surprisingly. They have people within—Kea is the name of the diaspora engagement network in New Zealand. They have people in China. They have people in London. And so they're investing for the long term, because, like they said to me, 'We know that in the future some of the Chinese students that studied here will be in influential positions in terms of investment', and they want to have that relationship for the long term, so that they can benefit from it.
So, a lot of learning from various organisations that I studied, but certainly New Zealand was probably the most significant. The other thing: diaspora engagement—how do you measure the impact? Well, in Scotland, they've got GlobalScot. It's been going for about 15, 20 years. They focus very much on international trade, and they had an impact study done and they measured an increase in GVA, a significant increase in GVA, as a result of GlobalScot. So, this isn't just, 'This is a fun thing to do'. It does have real economic benefits. I think we have learned from some of the best, but there are over 200 countries doing this, and they've been doing it for decades, so we have a lot of catching up to do. But the benefit for us, I think, is we've learned from the best and we have a clean sheet of paper and we're executing, I think, best practice across a number of areas. So, yes.
Just picking up, we asked some of our members, again, about good practice, looking at the strategies of regions such as Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Catalonia and the Basque Country—they were the top-line responses. I did notice that there is a Wales Audit Office event in, I think, December, looking particularly at the co-operative movement in the Basque Country and pulling together a number of panels. So, you may wish to send somebody to be part of that event.
So, my observation is that there are a number of sector-specific engagements with good practice. What is lacking is an overarching strategy in terms of pulling them together.
Chairman, Auriol has mentioned a number of regions. I'd add, as a country in Europe, Switzerland, because Switzerland has a specific series of agreements with the EU, which end up with a status not dissimilar from the European economic area, but with different obligations. New Zealand, I'll be honest, I agree with. In fact, the New Zealand academy is coming to Cardiff in a month's time, and we'll be talking about some of these issues with them.
As for Wales for Africa, I think it took a couple of years to persuade the Foreign Office that Wales should start on this initiative. What we've ended up with is something that is wholly good and, in about three countries, really is doing a specifically helpful job and, as well, is producing—. What I mean by 'benefit'—I was too quick to be thinking of economic benefit, because the benefit for the people who are involved in that co-operation, raising money, et cetera, an awareness of the situation in Africa, has been wholly beneficial for the individuals. It's an enriching experience there, but not for the nation. So, that's the distinction I draw. So, I don't see Africa as being really an area of priority in terms of what we're talking about here.
I do think the future generations Act is a priority as an exemplar of something in Wales that I don't think is replicated anywhere else yet and which is far-reaching in a way I'm not sure the authors always intended. But, looking at it, it's not just sustainability for Wales henceforth and an obligation to ensure that. It's not just what we are doing for ourselves; it's our contribution to something much wider. The seven priorities—if I'm right, it's seven—within the future generations Act are Wales's contribution, as it happens, to the fifteen priorities of the UN special development goals, and that's part of Wales's civic responsibility going far wider. That's a very positive thing that Wales is doing. If you can build on that and demonstrate to others that they should perhaps try and do something similar, you get yourself engaged in a series of processes, and, because by their nature they're forward-looking, if you can bring in all the future, the digital, the areas of priority—we haven't spoken about the development of culture, the arts, but they are priorities for Wales, where we are good at it—there are all sorts of things that might come together, and on which others would say, 'Well, little old Wales is actually doing rather well'.
Thank you, Sir Emyr, for raising those two latter points, because I think Wales for Africa is something—. In fact, this committee has been looking at this recently in terms of an international strategy, which we have to scrutinise and look at its impacts, but mutual benefit as well. But also, I think, as you say, with the points that you've made about how can we project our voice, Welsh voice, globally, I think you're right: the future generations Act is one way that people across the world are looking at that. I think Sophie Howe is probably on a worldwide tour with projecting what that can mean, particularly to civil society, and that's what I want to focus on: civil society and the participation of civil society in terms of our relationships. I'm struck particularly by the IWA evidence. We've had written evidence; Auriol, and also Rhea Stevens, came to our evidence-taking session. She made the point that we could see this as through civil society, enabling us to not only develop and sustain allies—because we have strong allies in civil society across not just our European partners in civil society, but globally. Now, we also had very strong evidence from Tom Jones, who's very much an icon of civil society in Wales. I don't think our colleagues who've joined us recently—they didn't have the real benefit of hearing from someone like Tom, who sat on the European Economic and Social Committee for many, many years. His view was that they want to just have business as usual. They want to keep those relationships going. They're waiting to be told they can't continue. Well, of course, they won't be able to continue in terms of the kind of representation that Tom's been able to give. But I think just, really, an opportunity for you to comment particularly on how we can support civil society in Wales to maintain those networks, how they can be allies for this stronger voice for Wales, and whether it's realistic to think that some of these networks with civil society and, indeed, the Assembly, can be business as usual—just comments, please.
I think part of that is around clarity of purpose—you know, what's the point of maintaining these. And I think you're absolutely right about maintaining the allies as well that we currently have: who on earth in their right minds would throw away those relationships? We know that capacity is an issue as well for Welsh civil society to engage in things that are beyond the day job, depending on what that day job is, whether it's policy influencing, delivering immediate services or a.n.other, and there are others—and I'm sure WCVA will have a strong view on this as well, who are better placed to speak on that—but I think prioritising carefully which networks and institutions it can both continue to engage with and in terms of the mechanisms that Sir Jones Parry has talked about around whether it's observer status or not—. I think creativity, yes, needs to be the name of the game. The ways that—. And I hope that you would know this, and I'm sure you do know this already—opportunities for cultural exchange; Welsh theatre, film productions being showcased in lots of different places; scholarships for Welsh students to study in the EU and EU students in Wales and vice versa; inviting members of the European Parliament to Wales like they visit other third-party countries, such as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Montenegro or Ukraine; and, particularly, building and developing ties with Irish civil society as well.
So, at the moment, there is a plethora of opportunities and the challenge will be to focus resources in the places that will make the most sustained difference and have the greatest impact: so, looking at this issue from the point of view of a number of different priority sectors, both for Wales as a whole and for the Welsh Government, therefore, but also for civil society—because those may not necessarily be the same—and then deciding which institutions and networks are vital priorities. So, for example, there may be existing networks and relationships that exist across Europe, that may not necessarily be EU-owned specific, or to do with the mechanisms of the EU, but they may be European nonetheless, and it's through those formal and informal relationships that you can also effect change and provide a way for Welsh civil society to feed into EU debates through European partners. So, that's one possibility. Some of our members have come back with a couple of top-line suggestions. One is around how do we build our links with non-EU European countries to learn from their experience, and, if so, who would they be and why would we be going to them—so, thinking about that. And, again, that requires resources, but that assumes that we, or Welsh Government, know what the purpose is of building those links. So, it comes back to: what is that overarching strategy that connects up the various priorities of Welsh Government?
And I don't know whether, Walter—you've talked very much from the private sector—you feel this resonates in terms of civil society, because so much of the diaspora is engaged in many other realms of life and not just economic—
I think so, because our question to any of our diaspora is: what is it that Wales could do to help you fulfil an ambition yet unfulfilled? So, some of those ambitions will relate to civil society, possibly—so not necessarily to do with business and entrepreneurship and economic development. So, yes, absolutely. So, it's a question of what is it that they want and can we actually facilitate that in some way: is it an opportunity that we're already aware of, or is it something that we go and seek? So, yes, it's certainly part of what we do, but it has to start with what's in it for the diaspora member—what is it that we can do for them, really.
I mean, I think what the Welsh Government has suggested we could access, or civil society could access, is the EU transition fund that the Welsh Government has set up. I don't think, at this point in time—I think it's Welsh local Government and the private sector who have accessed it, but we need to make sure that the third sector and civil society are supported because it's a big task. And they are also short of resource, especially public sector resource. So, that's going to be a challenge for civil society. I don't know if, Emyr, you've got anything to add to that? It's important in terms of the stronger voice for Wales. It's always been there, hasn't it, through civil society?
And it catches the values of Wales. I don't know how many people are, one way or the other, involved in the voluntary sector in Wales, but it's probably 300,000 to 400,000, and that's the extent of it—harnessing that.
I just wanted to touch again on the question of, outside these islands, and in terms of exerting Welsh influence and soft power and so on, whether we should be looking at paradiplomacy as an intentional purpose of Welsh Government—part of its remit and intentions globally—particularly once the agreement, if there is to be one, with the European Union is known, and, in that sense, whether we should be looking at other nations yet to achieve independence, or regions that are part of federal structures, to see what they do. I've met with representatives of the Faroe Islands, who, of course, are not part of the European Union but the mother state is part of it—a very complicated set of arrangements, but they have their own relationships globally as well. I just wondered what you all felt that that could provide Wales.
The problem is, there are so many things that one might do—where's the prioritisation and what is it that's most likely to provide a tangible benefit? The reference to, for example, European states outside the EU—yes, but does that include those who have close relations, like Norway? Because if you exclude the European Economic Area, you're really heading way east, or you're going into the Balkans, because most of the others are in the EU, and I'm not quite sure that some of those are priorities. I could wax lyrical about the importance of relations with Argentina because of Patagonia, but at 39 pesos to the dollar today, the British interest there is absolutely [correction: is becoming] minimal, and the Welsh interest is more romantic than it is actual. When it comes down to it, the need to prioritise what is possible, where the real Welsh interest is, where we are most likely to have an effect, and what influence we can bring to bear in that market, that country, to have the effect—that's what's got to be worked out.
And do you see the Welsh Government making those priorities? The question you're asking is: are they there? Have they been undertaking that task? Are we in the process of being in a position, by 29 March, to be able to say, 'Well, we know what the priorities are, we know what they've been doing—we can help them do it'?
I don't think it's for me to comment on how well the Welsh Government's doing. I would say that the advice you could offer in this area, on the basis of a considered examination of the possibilities, would be very helpful to the Welsh Government.
[Inaudible.] Mr May? Again, with the diaspora question, it is a question of priorities.
I think so, and like I said earlier, we focus on the individual, irrespective of where they're located and their capacity and propensity to want to help Wales be more prosperous. I think what the Welsh Government could do for us is help us scale it, because there was an imperative to do what we're doing before Brexit, and this initiative has its origins in 2012. So, I think Brexit brings it much more into focus, and we can grow and develop GlobalWelsh, and we will. We are demonstrating impact every day in small ways, but we would love to scale this now, and we're beyond the start-up phase. And to scale it requires additional resource, different resource, which Welsh Government certainly have a major impact on—you know, to help us scale it. So, we can scale this within five to 10 years to be at its optimum, if you like, in terms of its ability to do what we set out to do, but we could probably get there within three to four years with Government help. And we wouldn't want Government help in terms of them sustaining GlobalWelsh, but just to scale it and to accelerate it. I think there's probably a very good return on investment for them to do that.
It's an interesting set of questions, Chair, and it's not something to which we've given any thought recently. I think that's all I would add to that. I think I agree in terms of the sense of priorities, but I have no further comment to make at the moment.
Can I just ask a bit more about the diaspora? What type of people are you trying to connect with in terms of what countries are they in—you mentioned in particular issues for London—but what countries are people living in and how long ago did they or their forebears leave Wales?
Okay, so our goal is to connect to every member of the Welsh diaspora—ones who were born here and left but also ones who have ancestors here and who maybe have never visited the country, but the key thing is: do they still feel that emotional attachment? So, the mass of our diaspora is estimated to be 3 million, so we are using social media and digital methods to identify, reach out and connect to those people. We have a separate focus on the world-class Welsh members of our diaspora; we estimate there are 6,000 of them. So, there are 3 million, that's the mass, but then there's the focus on the 6,000.
In terms of countries, via our website, our community's being built—at least the large part of the community's being built around the website. We have members of the diaspora in our community today in excess of 32 countries, but we know there are circa 200 countries around the world. I suspect every country has Welsh people within it, so we want to track how many countries we have members in. We certainly want to reach out to them all. What kind of profile do they have? Well, wide and varied, as you'd expect. We find the majority of our diaspora are in North America—circa 2 million. We have a large number of them in the south-east of England, mainly London, and then we have them scattered all over Europe and the rest of the globe in hundreds of thousands, typically in some of the main countries. Across Europe, I would estimate 200,000, maybe 300,000. The research hasn't been done to actually nail that figure exactly, but it's a substantial size, our diaspora. New Zealand's diaspora is 1 million. So, we have a long way to go, clearly, to connect to them all, and it's an ongoing objective of ours to do that.
Are we handicapped, compared to, say, Ireland and perhaps even Scotland in that people in North America with Welsh forbears—a lower proportion of them perhaps being aware of that than those others—
—and given the scale of emigration in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century in particular? In Ireland, it's well known how people who left Ireland to go to America or, in some cases, Canada—there is very high awareness of that, of those descendents—. Are we handicapped by not having that to the same degree?
I don't think so. I think Welsh people seem to assimilate better or more thoroughly than maybe the Irish do. And quite why that's the case I don't know. I think we have to keep reminding ourselves that there's a small number of people in our diaspora who can have a disproportionate impact on the Welsh economy. Identifying those people is not that difficult. The bigger challenge is actually reaching out to them and connecting with them, building the relationship—at a distance, obviously—getting to know them to the extent where they'll reveal their ambitions, typically post the end of their careers. But we are achieving that, and we're learning as we do that. So, it's the Kingsley Aikins statement: there could be as few as 20 members of the Welsh diaspora that could fundamentally transform the Welsh economy. That really drives us, I think. Is it 20? It sounds a very low number to me. Maybe it's 40, maybe it's 60, maybe it's 80, but it's a small number, and we have already identified some of those people and have built relationships with them, and then it's about identifying what they want to contribute back to. We see it all the time in terms of the Irish diaspora, where members of their diaspora have been significant in them winning inward investment decisions. We know that. We also know that, if we can attract some back to Wales, which I think is a challenge—the example I would bring there is, when I did my research in Ireland, there was a piece of research done about five years ago that revealed that, of the top 100 software companies in Ireland, 75 of them were started by returning diaspora. So, that's massive, and we also know that there's global competition for talent, and we're not playing in that game at the moment. So, we, our diaspora, can play a role there as well. So, that's where we focus—the ones that have the most economic and disproportionate impact on the Welsh economy.
You spoke earlier, I think, of the New Zealand approach of having a certain number, a hundred world-class New Zealanders, who are brought back and 12 or 15 are inducted every year. Given your approval of that approach, is that something you would be looking to institute for Wales?
Absolutely, yes. And we've created a narrative around what that looks like, and it really focuses on the Welsh character, and what it is to be Welsh. So, we've written a narrative and we have a plan to do that, but we need resource to do it. But you can see, if you look at the New Zealand diaspora, Kea, the impact that that can have. So, they print examples of New Zealand companies that are no trading with large corporations, and the reason they're trading with these large corporations is because their world-class New Zealanders opened the doors for them, got them into a conversation, and those businesses are now scaling due to some key relationships being facilitated. So, it's huge, and we do have the cavalry out there. We have a huge challenge. No-one knows what Brexit's going to bring, we have new leaders of various parties in Wales, so I hope that those people will think outside the box and not continue to do what we've always done, because we may get the same result. So, I'm hoping that GlobalWelsh is something that's on their radar, to understand a bit more about what we do, what we're planning to do, and the potential this has, which is enormous. It's absolutely enormous.
Can I ask the other two witnesses whether you have any additional ideas about what more we might be doing to seek to benefit from the Welsh diaspora, and in particular, do you agree with what Walter said about it being important, at least for his organisation, for that to be a private organisation, or do you see a greater role for Welsh Government to push forward this agenda directly?
If I may, I don't think that what Walter is saying is that it should be taken over by Welsh Government, just supported by Welsh Government.
No, I inferred the same—it was the opposite he was emphasising, about the importance of being an independent, private organisation.
I think, to speak from personal experience, therefore, rather than from an IWA perspective, from my time working internationally, when you were looking at how investment happens in a country—and I've worked in five different countries around the world for sustained periods of time—the diaspora was crucially important in terms of mobilising resources and attention internationally, and also in terms of political change and policy change too. So, I think learning from international experience would be important from that perspective, and I see no reasons why it shouldn't be the same for Wales as for everybody else. Certainly, from an IWA perspective now, in the conversations that I've had with, I'm sure, some of the same people that Walter has also been speaking with and others, there is an expressed interest in engaging much more, and an interest in knowing the channels for doing that in the most appropriate way. The conversations that I've had very recently around some of the work for which, for instance, south-east Wales—and there are plenty of examples of this—is world leading on, compound semi-conductors being a key case in point, all the activity that is being undertaken to strengthen and reinforce that: where are things joined up and where aren't things joined up? I think that would be an interesting thing to look at.
We launched a report on Thursday last week looking at the Cardiff capital region and the opportunity for smart technology to influence people's well-being substantially, and made a series of short recommendations on that, but, again, clear in that there is plenty of really good stuff going on but not everybody in the region knows about it. So, if we're thinking that not everybody in the region knows about it, how are we getting that message out beyond Wales and internationally? So, I think you can infer things from that as well that this committee could look at.
Can I just add that what one's always trying to do is find people of influence and what are the best means of getting close to them? And then you use any technique that you can. If it's for diaspora, if there's a romantic or other attachment to Wales, if it's that they were educated in Wales, if they played sport against Wales, supported Swansea football club at a distance—whatever it might be, the trick is always to not be one of the many people knocking on doors, but to be someone to whom, when you knock on the door, the door is opened and they remember your visit; there is something about you that they say, 'Yes, I want to follow that up, I have an interest in it'. And, wherever you open an office or wherever you're looking for priorities, it's tapping into whatever the benefit might be—the thing that you can use to your advantage to lever up the link. And then, exactly what Walter was saying, if it's inward investment, trade opportunities, mentoring, whatever it might be, then trying to harness that in the right direction.
My only slight hesitation is that I'm not sure that there are so many people of that much influence that one can find; I think it's going to be a bigger scale, but what I'm clear about is the more one attacks all these different avenues, the more likely we are to succeed. The last point about the more you do the same thing and fail again, well, that's supposed to be a sign of insanity.
Thank you. If I can move on, as time's almost up, to two questions I have—maybe three. If we had had this discussion 12 months ago, we'd probably be a little bit more relaxed with an ambition of having certainty by now. We are now in a world where, nearly every day, we hear the term, 'no deal Brexit', has that had an impact upon your thinking about the way in which we're able to continue with our relationships post Brexit? And have you done any preparations? Is the Welsh Government, in your view, actually ready, in terms of its relationships with those networks and other groups in Europe and the wider world, for a situation where, on 30 March, we are out of the EU without a deal, therefore there is no transition, there is no continuation in Brussels, per se, then, and we are effectively a third nation in relation to Europe and we have to build all those new networks up? So, are we ready as a nation and is the Welsh Government doing enough as a nation? Because we are here to hold the Welsh Government to account.
It's a very big question, isn't it? Two very big questions. Are we doing enough? Do we know where we're going to be? No, we don't, clearly, and you're absolutely right—every day brings a new set of uncertainties to the table. From the IWA's perspective, it is not—. The areas of our focus of work are not dependent on it being—. It's difficult—they are multifaceted. So, our forward programme of work is currently around renewable energy. We want to be looking at land use post Brexit, we want to be looking at inter-parliamentary relations. These are strands of work within a whole ambit of possibilities. Where we are in terms of a 'no deal', or whatever deal then ends up being on the table, is part of that spectrum of possibilities, but the work that we are doing is because of Brexit more broadly, not because of the type of deal that is on the table. There are conversations that we're having in discussions with our economy policy group that look at some of the specificities of 'no deal', but, like everybody else, we don't have a crystal ball in terms of what that then could look like. Sir Emyr Jones Parry talked at the beginning about the potentially catastrophic impact on the Welsh economy of Brexit, and so our areas of work are on particular avenues.
Could I make three points, Chairman? The first is: it's very difficult for the Welsh Government to actually plan and do things in the present circumstances, and I do think that if you look at the quality of the work that's come out of Cardiff in the last two years, it has matched and exceeded that which has come out of any other capital within the United Kingdom. There's some exceedingly good work that's been done, but if people are not listening and are not prepared to consult and to share, it's very difficult.
My second point is: if we go out without a deal—'no deal is better than a bad deal'—I can't imagine a bad deal that is worse than crashing out. I can't. It will be a disaster on all sorts of scales, and I could go on for the next half hour, Chairman, and I won't, trying to explain some of the points. But they are very significant, and they would be very damaging, and they'll be particularly damaging for any future relations, because what will happen will be that the withdrawal Bill, and what it meant in terms of meeting obligations and paying £39 billion, et cetera—that'll crash out and the resentment that is left from a disintegrating relationship, an immediate divorce, will actually scar even more the future relationship with the EU.
So my third point is that, actually, in a situation where we crash out without a deal, or if there's some sort of deal patched up, my belief is still that there will be, for the third element, for the future relationship, a political declaration of a sort that will permit the three things to come together. I still think that's more likely, but in either scenario—some sort of botched deal or no deal—the need for Wales to actually really accelerate work in this area is very important under any scenario.
I'd say we could have done a lot more as a nation, as institutions as well as Government. This is an initiative that I think demonstrates the grass-roots, highly committed individuals that manage the risks associated with doing something like this, and manage that well and demonstrate impact. It's something that Government should want to try and support. I guess the good news is we started this in 2012, or the idea came in 2012. We've worked very diligently over many years—people with day jobs committing extra time to this, extra resource. So, the good news is we exist. Two hundred countries around the world have been doing it for decades. One of our nearest neighbours has demonstrated that it has a measurable impact on the economy. So, I think we haven't done enough, but we're in a position where we can accelerate all the things that have been spoken about, and there are obvious economic benefits from what we are doing. I'd like to hope that the new leaders of the various parties will look at this positively and come and help us, for all our benefit.
I'm also concerned about the protected names. We talk about the Welsh diaspora, but there's also the Welsh name, and then, obviously, the European Union has these protected names for various goods, and there's talk that there'll be a UK Government-type approach to that. Will that be of equivalent benefit to the Welsh name, to Welsh produce, or do we need to expand and work harder at getting that name outside, using our networks that currently exist? One I heard on the news this morning was Cenarth cheese, which was being talked about, but, obviously, we've got Halen Môn and others that are protected names with European status.
I have no specialist knowledge of that I'm afraid, but it would seem to make sense to me that we'd want to maintain that status.
The more we can identify with Wales, the better. I think products that are reaching out across the globe that are going to be identified as Welsh can only be a good thing, I think.
I've got one final question. Earlier in this afternoon's session, you talked about our overseas offices and not opening them up for the sake of opening them up, because they may be effective but, as you mentioned, it would rely very much upon the individual that may be within that office. That worries me a little bit, in the sense that, if we're opening offices, surely there should be a strategy and we should be building up networks, so that whoever becomes the individual within that office can build upon the work before and it's not dependent upon the individual skills and characteristics. Should the Welsh Government be ensuring that, when it opens offices, it has those networks and that they're in a place where those networks can exist and they can build upon them? Are those decisions—we've just opened one in Berlin, one in Dusseldorf—the right decisions for Wales?
In the first place, you need a strategy, clearly. The network is something that comes rather more when you're implementing the strategy; it's not there in the beginning, otherwise you'd never actually get to open an office. On the point about the individual, I've had past experience of representatives being chosen because they're brilliant academics, or otherwise shining intellectuals, but put them in front of a microphone to argue a case for something and they disintegrate. However good the strategy is and however good the underpinning is, the nature of the individual doing the networking has a direct impact, and you're not looking for some wallflower that will vanish into the corner of a reception; you need a presence, someone who can go out and do something. I would simply say that it's much easier to be that presence if you are X. I remember in a previous life somebody saying to me, 'Don't kid yourself as to why you're sitting at that table—you're just actually a trophy'. That's the reality. Once you're out of that office, don't imagine that it means anything—it doesn't—but if you're asking somebody who has no status to impinge, insinuate themselves into a community, into an interest, when people want to talk to others where there's a benefit and a role for them, but somebody's there speaking for Wales, it will take particular individuals with social skills, as well as everything else, to be able to sell the nation.
May I add to that, please? I think that he or she, Sir Emyr Jones Parry—
I said 'he' because of wallflower.
Sure. But I think it's also important to think about—. I've been in that situation, opening up an office for an organisation and having to initiate relations and represent the organisation with not just the Government, but with a multinational institution and a number of different partners and institutions. You learn very quickly how to both get your point across and to start to develop and nurture relationships. It's absolutely right that you have to have a strategy; you have to know what you are there to do and why you're there to do it, because that is fundamental to everything that you do. So, the point about having the skills, the competencies and the social skills, and the presence of mind and all the other things that go with being able to represent, whether it's an organisation or a country or a Government, absolutely holds firm.
I think it's less important to have a physical presence in some of these countries. It would be good to have a mobile office, if you like, and to—. I think these organisations, or these countries, need to have more of a digital presence as well. We're in the digital age and people connect digitally. Of course, from time to time, they want to get together physically, but that could be anywhere, in any country, not just a single location.
Thank you. Do any Members have any other questions? I see not. We've come to the end of our allotted time. Can I thank you all for your evidence this afternoon? You will receive a copy of the transcript for any factual inaccuracies. If you spot any, please let the clerking team know as soon as possible. So, once again, thank you very much for your time.
Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thank you very much.
I'll move on whilst our witnesses leave. Papers to note: we have one paper, which is correspondence from the Chair of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs regarding the UK Government's Agriculture Bill. Are Members content to note that paper? Thank you very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Now, item 4, a motion to move into private for the remainder of this session. Are Members content, under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of today's meeting?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:31.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:31.