(Title Image: David Holt via Flickr, Creative Commons Licence CC BY 2.0)
Following the EU Commission’s agreement to extend Brexit until April 12th at the earliest, the Chair of the External Affairs Committee, David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) tabled an emergency question asking for a statement from the Welsh Government.
See also: Theresa May’s Top 5 Brexit Blunders
“Weekend in chaos”
David Rees said the Prime Minister spent a “weekend in chaos” at Chequers talking to Brexiteers. There was a very real danger that when April 12th comes around we’ll be in the same situation; did the Welsh Government agree the time has come for Theresa May to reach out and work with opposition parties to find a way forward?
Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles AM (Lab, Neath), replied that it was “comforting” to have an extension and to see the UK House of Commons take control of the situation through a vote yesterday. He added it was incumbent on the Prime Minister to get a grip and it would be “deeply irresponsible” for her to pursue her agreement for the third time.
Shadow International Affairs Minister, Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West) defended the Prime Minister; she was getting on with the job of delivering the referendum result and it was time to put party politics to one side:
“So, let me be clear, Wales voted to leave the EU, and leave the EU we must. Both the UK and the Welsh governments must respect that decision and must work together to deliver on the outcome of the referendum. The people of Wales did not vote for further European elections. They did not vote for long periods of uncertainty. They want this uncertainty to come to an end.”
– Shadow International Affairs Minister, Darren Millar AM
The Brexit Minister repeated that had the Prime Minister built a broader coalition of support beyond the DUP, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Theresa May had to accept the will of the House of Commons.
Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) asked what the Welsh Government were willing to do to avoid a “No Deal” – which she likened to a bringing a train to an emergency stop. There were a number of options including revoking Article 50 and revisiting the UK’s relationship with the EU (via a second referendum) or extending Article 50 further to allow a renegotiation with the EU – which could mean the UK taking part in June’s European Parliament elections.
The Brexit Minister put paid to the first idea:
“The European Court of Justice has been very clear that it is not available to the UK Government to revoke Article 50 in order to seek another referendum. It is clear that the only basis on which that can be revoked is if there is a change of approach and that the UK intends to remain as a Member state of the EU.”
– Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles
He accepted that the public is unlikely to get wholly behind one option and he hoped that the kind of Brexit deal advocated by the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru – close alignment and strong partnership – would make its way onto the table.
Following last Saturday’s march in London, both Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen) and Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) asked whether the government supported a second referendum?
The Brexit Minister told them a second referendum was only one of a number of options, though if the UK Parliament believes a second referendum was needed it would have the Welsh Government’s support and if Remain were an option, the Welsh Government would argue in favour of that.