Eluned Morgan would act to ‘shore-up‘ Welsh industries following ‘catastrophic’ Brexit

Picture by Eluned Morgan/Twitter.

Ben Gwalchmai

Eluned Morgan would act to “shore-up” certain industries in Wales as First Minister if there was a “collapse” following Brexit.

In an interview with Nation.Cymru, Eluned Morgan – one of the three challengers for the job of Welsh Labour party leader and Welsh Government First Minister – said that she was “very concerned” about how some parts of the Welsh economy would cope.

“A No Deal Brexit would be catastrophic for Wales – it would wipe out 10% of our wealth – so whatever happens, we have to avoid that,” she said.

“I think the first thing to do is that we would need to shore up certain industries. We know, for example, that agriculture would be hit very hard and fast.

“We’d need a rapid-response mechanism to make sure we can address those kinds of issues – there are 58,000 people involved in agriculture in Wales and we’d need to make sure they’re supported.

“Also, we need to make sure our Public Services can cope if we saw a reduction in the number of people coming from the EU to help out in our hospitals and care services. Those are some of the priorities.

“Ultimately, we need to develop and grow the economy and what I can offer is international contacts for us to rebuild those relationships which I think will be essential if we are going to not turn in on ourselves as a nation.

“I think it’s really important that we remain an outward-looking nation.”

A No Deal Brexit would also open the door to more Tory austerity, she said.

“Austerity is a political choice,” she said. “I’d be much more in favour of stimulating the economy through Keynesian intervention and through investing.

“The way the Welsh Government has in our new schools and hospitals; really pumping billions into the economy – what we need to do is lock in more of that wealth locally.

“Ending austerity has to be a priority and is unlikely to happen unless we get a Labour [UK] government.

“I am in favour of a People’s Vote. Putting the negotiated compromise that the UK Gov said was going to be ‘so easy’ to negotiate with Brussels back to the people. We know that they’ve promised things that will not be delivered.

“I think a People’s Vote would make a lot more sense. At least we’d know exactly where we stood. What people need is stability and the last thing we need is more austerity.”

Power

Eluned Morgan’s first priority as First Minister, before asking for new powers, would be to ensure that the people of Wales understand what powers are currently held by the nation’s parliament, she said.

She said there was a troubling lack of knowledge in Wales about what the Welsh Assembly and Government do.

“I think what we need to do is embed the Assembly in people’s lives a lot more than it is,” she said.

“About 50% of people don’t even realize that the NHS is run by the Assembly and the Welsh Government.

“We’ve got a job of work to do first so my priority would be to ensure that we improve communication with the people of Wales so that they understand where the responsibilities lie, at the moment, before we charge into asking for more powers.”

Eluned Morgan did believe that more powers should be devolved, particularly related to economic, transport and justice.

“We need more powers in certain areas,” she said. “For example, I think we need to be able to borrow money to invest in people.

“There are other areas where I don’t like going cap in hand to ask for the right to ask for tax for particular areas so I think there are issues surrounding that.

“I’d like, for example, to be able to completely nationalize rail in Wales but at the moment the Tory government in Westminster is stopping us doing that.

“I think, in time, there’s no question about it – the kind of justice system, because our legal system will be diverging, that we’ll have to address that issue in time. I’m not sure if there’s an urgency for that at this time.”

‘Stronger together’

Asked about her preference for the constitutional future for Wales, she suggested support for present First Minister Carwyn Jones’ federal model of the UK.

“But I do think there are issues around a Federal system in the United Kingdom just because England is so massive,” she said.

“The balance would be very, very difficult because they’re so huge compared to us.

“What I would like to see is the House of Lords being changed into a democratically elected chamber that represents the nations and regions of the UK.

“That would be one of the things I’d like to see implemented. I think that would be a way of ensuring the voices of the UK are heard much more clearly in the corridors of power in Westminster.”

Independence for the Welsh Labour party from the UK Labour Party was also something to be avoided.

“I think we are stronger together, as a party, but I do think that we need to make sure that we have our own rules and regulations and we respond to what is right for Wales, within that party structure,” she said.

“I think we’ve got to ensure that that is something that is followed through but we respond to the needs and wishes of party members, locally.”

Priorities

Asked what her priorities would be as First Minister, Eluned Morgan said that she would focus firmly on the economy, health and the environment.

My number one priority is the economy because we now have tax-raising powers in Wales,” she said.

“Unless we raise more taxes, we will have to cut our services – that for me comes first and that’s something will need to change in the future simply because we’ve got these additional powers. Economy first.

“I think the NCS (National Care Service) is something I’m very committed to developing – I think that would take pressure off the NHS which is one the most important things for the people of Wales.

“I also think we need to take seriously the issue of climate change and the environment – we can’t wait any longer for that.

“We really need to start addressing that issue and I think we could do things like building smart eco-homes throughout Wales which would generate the local economies of Wales.

“If we specifically targeted these at the ageing population, where we understand that that is going to be an issue in the future, then I think it would be possible to deliver on those.

“Fuel poverty has always been one of the issues that I’ve focused on – I brought in a law that meant that every country in Europe would have to address the issue of fuel poverty.

“This is something that I think is unacceptable: that we live in a society where people have to choose between heating or eating. That is the situation at the moment for a lot of older people, in particular.”

General Election

Eluned Morgan also suggested that she disagreed with challenger Vaughan Gething’s assessment that there would be no Westminster General Election before 2022.

I think we’re living in extremely unpredictable times,” she said.

“I can’t see why people like Stephen Crabb in Pembrokeshire who only squeaked in by a margin of under 300 votes would stick his hand and vote for a General Election.

“But, potentially, there could be absolute chaos as a result of the Brexit negotiations and so it may come to a point where – actually – there is stalemate within the Conservative Party and they will simply not be able to govern.

“So I wouldn’t write off the possibility of a General Election simply because of ‘…events, dear boy’ but I think if we did ‘soldier on’ in some way, the Labour Party machine in Wales  – particularly with all these new very enthusiastic members –  has got a lot of energy now. It is possible to run one election after another.

“But we’ve got to heed the warnings of what happened in the EU referendum. We had the EU referendum a month after the Assembly elections and people were exhausted. People, on the whole, did not campaign and we’ve paid a huge price for that.”

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