WELSH First Minister Mark Drakeford has criticised the UK Government for taking a “Big Brother” approach to international meetings held by devolved governments.

During his final international engagement in post in Brussels, Drakeford said UK Government officials should not have an automatic right to sit in on meetings held by Welsh ministers abroad.

At the end of last year, Foreign Secretary David Cameron sent a letter to Scottish External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson threatening to withdraw UK Government support from international engagement which Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said he “supports 100%”.

A row erupted after First Minister Humza Yousaf met with Turkey’s President Erdogan at COP28, without a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) official present.

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As a result, Cameron threatened to withdraw support for several Scottish Government international development offices based in Foreign Office embassies.

He said the meeting breached devolution protocols as a UK official was not given “sufficient advance notice” of the location of the meeting to be able to attend.

James Cleverly has also said all meetings by Scottish or Welsh ministers must be organised through and attended by UK officials. 

Speaking to Nation.Cymru, Drakeford said: “It’s very unfortunate that the UK Government has chosen to act in that way.

The National:

“There’s no evidence at all on the ground, as far as Wales is concerned, that we haven’t always acted entirely cooperatively with the Foreign Office and staff of the UK Government.

“I cannot possibly sign-up to a proposition that says that if I visit a part of the world, or Welsh ministers do, and we choose to have a meeting, then the UK Government has some sort of automatic right to sit in the room.

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“Almost always we’re very glad to have them there but that’s because we choose to have them there and that’s different. We choose to have them there because we always think it’s in our interests.

“But there’s a difference between doing that in a cooperative and collaborative way and a Big Brother way.”

Drakeford added he was not prepared to put up with the UK Government “using” Wales in a “a quarrel with the Scots”.

He said: “I want to continue the relationship we have with the UK Government, it has been very productive.

“But if the UK Government want to use it in some sort of picking a quarrel with the Scots and think that we’re going to be collateral damage, well we won’t allow ourselves to be in that position.”

The Welsh Labour leader admitted last month Welsh independence was "viable" providing the people of the country back the move in an interview with the Institute for Government. 

Drakeford was at the centre of a diplomatic spat in 2019 with the UK Government during his first visit to Brussels as First Minister.

The Foreign Office initially refused to provide an official car for his visit amid accusations the Welsh Government would undermine the UK Government’s Brexit policy.

Since then, Drakeford has travelled to Brussels every year, outside of Covid restrictions, around St David’s Day.