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Breakup of the union looking ‘more attractive and inevitable’ says Labour Senedd member

31 Dec 2020 5 minute read
Mick Antoniw. Picture by the SeneddCC BY 2.0)

A Labour MS has said that the breakup of the union is looking “more attractive and inevitable”.

Mick Antoniw, the Member of the Senedd for Pontypridd, made the comments in a debate about the UK’s trade deal with the EU, which he says will “concentrate enormous power in the hands” of UK government ministers, and is an “insult” to the Welsh Parliament.

He accused the Tories of being “hapless cheerleaders” to the breakup of the UK and took aim at “Anglo-British nationalists” who were happy to see Wales “neutered” and to become “little more than a region of England.”

The MS also called the UK government’s decision to ditch the Erasmus student exchange scheme “cultural vandalism” and called on the Welsh Government to explore reaching its own agreement with the EU to take part in it.

Mr Antoniw said: “The clock is now ticking on the future of the UK, with a Tory Government that has no interest in Wales. The Tories have become the hapless cheerleaders for the break-up of the UK, which appears to me more and more attractive and inevitable month by month.

“So, it is now imperative that socialists, liberals and progressives across Wales have to come together to plan a new future for Wales and for the other nations and regions of the UK, and I say that we have to do this before it is actually too late.”


‘Concentrate enormous power’ 

On the implications of the deal, he added: “They impact on the exercise of power in Wales and the UK, and they concentrate enormous power in the hands of Government Ministers, particularly in Westminster.

“Now, this, in my view, is a contempt of Parliament, and it’s an insult to this Welsh Parliament and the people of Wales, because it prevents us from being able to consider the issue of legislative consent.

“That undermines the Sewel convention, and it undermines the Wales Act 2017, which gave Sewel a legislative status. So, the way the UK Government has handled this further undermines parliamentary democracy across the UK.

“It represents a really bad deal for Wales and the UK, and, again, it just exposes the incompetence of the leadership of the Tory Government.

“The abolition of Erasmus has already been described as educational and cultural vandalism, and I urge the Welsh Government to explore as far as it can the establishment of our own Wales-EU Erasmus agreement.122

“Wales doesn’t feature in this deal—it is an afterthought. The bypassing of Welsh interests is consolidated by the internal market Act, which brings and end to the Sewel convention and recentralises power in a small number of hands in No. 10 Downing Street, even bypassing the UK Parliament.

“So, this week, we have seen the circulation in our communities of an offensive far-right leaflet calling for the abolition of the Welsh Parliament.

“Now, the connivance in this project of the right wing of the Welsh Tory party is there for all to see. These are the same people who were behind the Brexit campaign—Anglo-British nationalists who are happy to see Scotland leave the UK and for Wales to be neutered.


‘Abolish Wales’

“Were they ever to succeed, it would be the end of Wales, which would become little more than a region of England, because these people don’t just want to abolish the Senedd, they want to abolish Wales, with the connivance of the Welsh Tories, whose actions, I have to say, will go down in history as one of the great betrayals of this country.”

Senedd Members ultimately voted 28 to 24 in favour of a Welsh Government motion noting the agreement between the UK government and the EU on their future relationship.

A motion stating that the agreement is less damaging than leaving the transition period without a trade deal was also accepted, but a decision on it had already effectively been made in Westminster by the UK government.

Because of that, they were not asked to approve the deal because Welsh ministers argued that there wasn’t time as the text of the deal had only been provided to them at the last minute.

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Paul Davies, has welcomed the deal with the EU.

He said: “The news this afternoon ends years of discussions over the UK’s future with the EU and I’m delighted that the UK Government has been able to secure a deal.

“Crucially, this means that we can add the EU to the list of nearly 60 trade deals that have been secured around the World, which come into place as we enter the New Year, enabling the UK to start our new journey as a strong independent nation.

“I have no doubt, that despite the challenges of Covid-19, across the UK, and especially in Wales, people and businesses will take up the opportunities that these deals provide, helping Welsh businesses to grow and kick start the Welsh economy.”

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