(Title Image: Cardiff University)
Yesterday, the Finance Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West) updated AMs on what’s happened as far as Brexit arrangements go ahead of the summer recess.
He pulled no punches. The UK Government was “in disarray” with questions raised daily over their basic competence. Nevertheless, he was satisfied that they were moving towards a sensible position with the Chequers Agreement (though it’s unclear how recent votes in the UK Parliament affects this).
He demanded urgency in the approach to negotiations and open dialogue as any slippage in timescales threatens to produce a chaotic Brexit.
Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) said it would be “regrettable” for the UK’s negotiating position to be undermined or weakened. He hinted that trade with the Commonwealth will be more important than mainland Europe because polls show the UK is more trusted in Commonwealth nations. Mark also made an odd statement that Plaid Cymru wanted to “destroy the British people” who “were Welsh”.
Steffan Lewis AM (Plaid, South Wales East) repeated calls from his party for contingency planning by the Welsh Government in the event of a “no deal” Brexit. Steffan also supported an extension of the Article 50 process given the current instability within the UK Government – which may make it a necessity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he called for the Welsh Government to reconsider its decision to repeal the Continuity Act as we all had to be wary of relying on UK Government goodwill.
Interestingly, on the latter point, the Finance Secretary said matters were “always kept under review” (though I wouldn’t get your hopes up).
Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales) – never wanting to be upstaged – all but said that Theresa May was the worst Prime Minister the UK’s ever had, comparing her unfavourably to Lord North (who infamously lost the American colonies). The lack of preparation for a “no deal” was the fundamental problem – the UK has negotiating weapons that should be used, including a trade deficit with the EU and the UK’s budget contributions.
Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) had particular concerns on food security and Wales’ capacity to produce home-grown vegetables. Jane Hutt AM (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan) wanted to know what was being done to safeguard workers’ rights and equalities obligations.
After suggestions of a US-UK trade deal, the Finance Secretary warned that Donald Trump’s “America First” doctrine could leave Wales with nothing more than crumbs from the table.