(Title Image: BBC Wales)
The Finance Secretary – and current favourite to succeed Carwyn Jones as the next Labour leader in Wales – Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West), recently poured cold water on calls for a second referendum on Brexit, saying the time “wasn’t right” and it was worth “keeping all options on the table”.
Yesterday, he appeared to make a minor U-turn, saying he would back a second vote if workers’ rights were threatened. However important workers’ rights might be, it’s a little peculiar that it would change his mind more so than trade or freedom of movement for labour.
His initial stance was different to a growing number of AMs from different parties who’ve either come out on the record in blanket support of a second referendum (dubbed a “People’s Vote”) or putting their names towards letters and petitions calling for one. The former includes Mark’s (to date) only rival for the Labour leadership in Wales – the Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth).
Mark Drakeford seems to be a pragmatic and thoughtful type. In light of the fact Wales voted Leave, it would perhaps be more in line with the electorate’s wishes to simply see the process through and try to secure as good a deal for Wales as possible.
That’s a perfectly valid position to take, particularly in light of the fact that Mark is the Minister who negotiated the controversial “deal” with the UK Government, which would see EU powers in devolved areas temporarily retained in London. It would be inconsistent to change tact.
My personal opinion is there should be a second referendum if we were faced with a “No Deal” – where the UK leaves the EU without an agreement – because not having any sort of formal trading relationship with the EU is the most extreme interpretation of the question that was put to us in 2016. Many prominent Leavers at the time, like Daniel Hannan and Nigel Farage, were talking up membership of the single market in a Norway-style deal.
The most curious thing about Mark’s statement was a comment about “keeping all options on the table”. The question being, “What options do you mean, Mark?”
I’m going to assume his hope is there’ll be an early UK General Election and change of government; except Labour have got enough problems as it is at the moment without effectively re-fighting the 2016 referendum.
Also, with the stench of Boris Johnson wafting in behind Theresa May, I suspect she will do her best stay in office for as long as humanly possible.
Given that Mark Drakeford has said himself he would prefer to see changes to how the UK works (video), I don’t think he sees independence as one of the options either.
Regardless of what might happen to us in the near future, Wales has handed the steering wheel to the UK Government. We hold no constitutional or political leverage.
Far from keeping things fluid and open, it doesn’t seem like there are very many options on the table for Wales at all other than crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.