(Title Image: UN Human Rights Blog)
There’s an “unmistakable sense of crisis” – that was the verdict of the First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West), as he updated AMs yesterday on Brexit transition ahead of a vote on the UK Prime Minister’s deal in London next week.
He accused the UK Government of making no attempt to build a cross-party consensus. The prospect of leaving the EU without a deal would, in his mind, be “catastrophic for Wales and the whole of the United Kingdom” – though how yesterday’s defeat for the UK Government affects the prospects for a no deal remain to be seen.
“In the short term, we now face the prospect of chaos and privation if we leave the EU without a deal in 10 weeks time. The prospect is increasingly and alarmingly real and we are doing whatever we are able to prepare for it while remaining clear that there is no deal, no plan, however good, which can simply wipe away the harm that a crash-out Brexit will create.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford
The Welsh Government’s priorities continue to be tariff-free trade, a fair migration system and, finally, to preserve social, environmental and labour market rights.
A disappointing stance
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), remained disappointed at the Welsh Government’s position on Theresa May’s deal – which the Senedd voted to reject in December. He continues to back it:
“Now, as you would expect, I’ve met a number of businesses recently and the message is abundantly clear: they want a deal. They say that a no deal will have a grossly negative impact on business and the impact would be far-reaching and damaging. If the vote is carried next week in Parliament – and I sincerely hope it is – then businesses say they can plan for the next stages.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM
Nonetheless, the First Minister told the chamber he expects the deal to be rejected in the House of Commons and Tory MPs will be the ones who sink it.
Call for clarity
Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr), asked for two things: clarity on the Welsh Government’s Brexit position and an action plan to avoid any issues resulting from a no deal Brexit.
He told the chamber policy should’ve been decided after December’s vote: membership of the single market and customs union.
“Continuing within the EU customs union would mean that exporters could continue to trade with the European Union as they do now without having to face tariffs or non-tariff barriers, and some other options of an alternative customs union would place us in the same position as Turkey, having to steer through new, expensive barriers such as rule of origin to continue to export to the EU.”
– Adam Price AM
The First Minister was somewhat disappointed with Adam Price’s response and wanted to focus on the fundamentals to which there is an agreement between Labour and Plaid, not argue over differences. His preferred way out would be the creation of a UK-EU customs union identical to but separate from the EU’s customs union (which is only open to member states).
The final three contributions from Labour backbenchers focused on different issues related technical preparations for Brexit.
David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) wanted clarity on the timescales for the legislation needed prior to Brexit – if there’s No Deal there’s be no transition period until December 2020. Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) asked if the option of extending Article 50 was on the table. Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) asked about maintaining relations with EU institutions after Brexit.
The First Minister doubted that everything will be in place by March 29th – though that didn’t mean efforts weren’t being made behind the scenes. He added that the new Minister for International Relations, Eluned Morgan (Lab, Mid & West Wales), will be responsible for maintaining a Welsh presence in Europe.