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Labour Senedd Member slams party’s new Brexit policy ‘disaster’ after Keir Starmer says no to EU

05 Jul 2022 7 minute read
Alun Davies on Senedd TV. Keir Starmer by Peter Byrne / PA images

A former minister in the Welsh government has slammed the party’s new Brexit policy, after party leader Keir Starmer ruled out rejoining the EU or the single market if Labour comes to power.

Blaenau Gwent Senedd member Alun Davies said that the policy was a “disaster” and suggested that Keir Starmer’s new point of view was “dishonest”.

Yesterday Keir Starmer said that he would not join a customs union under his party’s leadership, as he set out a five-point plan to “make Brexit work”.

Sir Keir said Labour is “claiming the centre ground of British politics once again”, not from a “mushy place of compromise”, but driven by “purpose” and “optimism”.

But in a series of online messages, former local government minister Alun Davies said that Brexit could not work and that the new stance was a “series of meaningless slogans”.

“This is not a policy that has any credibility at all,” he said. Pointing to statistics showing that Brexit cost the UK £100bn in lost economic output, he added: “This is why – whatever the platitudes – Brexit will not work.

“And the poorest and most vulnerable will pay the greatest price. To pretend otherwise is simply dishonest.”

He added that he was watching Newsnight and “about Labour’s Brexit disaster whilst hiding behind the settee like I used to watch Dr Who”.

“We cannot ask people to vote for a Johnson-lite policy on the EU.”

‘Division’

Keir Starmer said that he would say more about how it intends to get the country’s economy growing again “in the weeks and months to come”, but the first step is to make a success of leaving the EU.

In a speech to the Centre for European Reform at an event at the Irish Embassy in London, he said: “There are some who say, ‘We don’t need to make Brexit work – we need to reverse it’. I couldn’t disagree more.

“Because you cannot move forward or grow the country or deliver change or win back the trust of those who have lost faith in politics if you’re constantly focused on the arguments of the past.

“We cannot afford to look back over our shoulder because all the time we are doing that we are missing what is ahead of us.

“So let me be very clear. Under Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU. We will not be joining the single market. We will not be joining a customs union.”

Sir Keir claimed the country is “stuck” with a UK Government without a plan – one that was elected on a promise to get Brexit done but “has now decided to re-open those old divisions” to keep Prime Minister Boris Johnson in charge.

He acknowledged some may not want to hear Britain would not return to the single market or a customs union under Labour, but added “it is my job to be frank and honest”.

“Nothing about revisiting those rows will help stimulate growth or bring down food prices or help British business thrive in the modern world,” he said.

“It would simply be a recipe for more division, it would distract us from taking on the challenges facing people and it would ensure Britain remained stuck for another decade.”

Sir Keir said the “starting point” of Labour’s plan for making Brexit work is to “sort out the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

The party would eliminate “most border checks created by the Tory Brexit deal”, he said, and implement a “new veterinary agreement for Agri-products between the UK and EU”.

It would also work with business to put in place a “better scheme” to allow low-risk goods to enter Northern Ireland without “unnecessary checks”, he said.

‘Barrier’

The Labour leader however admitted Britain would not be able to deliver “completely frictionless trade” with the EU outside of the bloc, but said there are “things we can do” to ease the process.

“Labour would extend that new veterinary agreement to cover all the UK, seeking to build on agreements and mechanisms already in place between the EU and other countries – benefiting our exporters at a stroke,” he said.

He pointed to a “hulking ‘fatberg’ of red tape and bureaucracy” under the deal brokered by the Conservatives, claiming this is “hampering the flow of British business”.

“We will break that barrier down, unclog the arteries of our economy and allow trade to flourish once more,” he added.

It comes amid a fierce row over the Government’s plans to overwrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol to allay concerns over its impact on the UK.

Legislation to grant ministers the necessary powers to see this through cleared its first Commons hurdle last week, with no Tory MPs voting against it despite warnings the plans are illegal.

‘Narrow’

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson claimed few global leaders raised the issue of the post-Brexit treaty with him at recent summits.

In response to questioning from Sir Keir, he said: “He talks about the UK’s diplomatic ability to win people over.

“It was very striking in the conversations I had with leaders from around the world how few of them, if any, raised the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol and how much people want to see common sense and no new barriers to trade.

“What the UK is doing is trying to reduce pointless barriers to trade and you’d have thought that he would support that.”

The remainder of Labour’s plan would see Britain’s industries supported by “mutual recognition of professional qualifications” and restored access to funding and research programmes, new security arrangements to defend the nation’s borders, and the delivery of “good, clean jobs of the future to our shores”.

Concluding his keynote speech, Sir Keir added: “In 2016, the British people voted for change. The very narrow question that was on the ballot paper – leaving or remaining in the EU – is now in the past.

“But the hope that underpinned that vote – the desire for a better, fairer, more equitable future for our country is no closer to being delivered.

“We will not return to freedom of movement to create short-term fixes, instead we will invest in our people and our places and deliver on the promise our country has.”

‘Half-cock’

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, suggested the party would not change its position on the matter even if public opinion shifted decisively against Brexit.

Asked on LBC’s Tonight With Andrew Marr if his party would think again if this were the case, he said: “We are not going to change our minds.”

Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Sir Keir of a “half-cock” attempt at copying the Conservatives’ plans.

Ahead of the Labour leader’s speech, he told LBC: “I’m fascinated by what he’s got to say, or reports of it … and what he wants to do, by and large, is things either that the Conservatives are doing (because) they want to change the Northern Ireland Protocol, so I hope he’ll support us on our Bill.

“And he wants recognition of qualifications, which we’ve already legislated for. So you do wonder if he was half asleep last year.

“I think all that Sir Keir is going to be saying later on today is that he wants to do what the Conservatives are doing but half-cock, so it’s not much of an announcement by him today.”

Earlier, during a round of broadcast interviews, Sir Keir said recent election results show Labour is making significant progress on the road to regaining power.

He told Sky News: “They (the Government) are on a downwards spiral and we are coming up.”


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Richard
Richard
5 months ago

Alun does tend to move his positions and party even around some what – but itay be worth checking his current Senedd seat mentioned above ?

Richard
Richard
5 months ago

Bridgend ?

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
5 months ago

Fine, now I won’t feel so bad when I don’t vote for English Labour at the next election. No matter where you stand on Brexit, when asked if leaving the E.U. meant leaving the single market and we were told “no”, everyone was lied to and now we are suffering severe economic pressure and the UK is on course to becoming a rogue state (this being the latest reason to want Independence, do you want to be part of a system that is a pariah on the world stage as it is, thanks to Boris Johnson’s era of Torykip, and… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition…that says it all…

Chas Stone
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Best decision was to leave .Why would you want to be dictated too by foreign countries who decide what we can and cannot do .Get real you upset remainer .

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
5 months ago
Reply to  Chas Stone

Wales is being dictated to by a foreign power: England.

They will claim it is an united kingdom, just the same as Russia would claim that Ukraine is not a country but part of the Russian empire.

Marc
Marc
5 months ago
Reply to  Chas Stone

Yeah let’s just have the English tell us what to do instead

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
5 months ago
Reply to  Chas Stone

Lol! You don’t see the irony of your comment do you?!

Erisian
Erisian
5 months ago

Is Starmer ever going to say or do anything useful?
When is Welsh Labour going to grow a spine and separate itself from the English party?

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

Answers ! Q.1 – No, Q.2 – never

Chas Stone
5 months ago

When will these Labour clowns at the Circus (WAG ) realise the people of Wales voted to leave the corrupt and incompetent EU .We do not want to re-join thank you very much

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
5 months ago
Reply to  Chas Stone

The Welsh farming industry and other industries have lost out on leaving the European single market. The EU is not perfect (nothing is), but there is a strong political force for democratic reform in the EU: The ALDE party in the EU parliament with the EFA (to which our own Plaid Cymru is affiliated) are fighting inside the parliament for democratic reform to give more rights to European citizens. The EU already HAS clause 50 that allows any member to withdraw from their union (to which the UK regime used to leave). The UK does NOT have any such clause… Read more »

Chas Stone
5 months ago

Plaid Cymru is Labour in disguise and cannot be trusted .They got into bed with labour knowing it was their only chance to get some power .The majority of Welsh people voted to leave, why are these Welsh Labour idiots trying to fight a lost cause .Leave means leave and no going back .

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
5 months ago

Keir Starmer is simply addressing an English only audience – It is an English party.

If Welsh Labour doesn’t breakaway from the UK and its political regime then Welsh Labour will decline just as Scottish Labour has done.

Our future is for an independent Wales with possible membership of EFTA.

I will never vote Labour unless it faces up to the fact that we are better in the European single market.

Llefain
Llefain
5 months ago

So, English Labour just gave a load of (especially young) voters to the Greens (or disillusionment) for life to try to win older Tory voters who would vote Lib Dem over them anyway just because they are not Labour. True LEADERSHIP! Great branding. Even more, the choice becomes Hard Tory (blue label), Basic Tory (orange label), or Tory Light (red label). Why would England buy Tory Light when they can have the “real thing”? Who represents the other 50%+? Nobody! So… Welsh devolution will be over with the next English “General” election. No, our minimal votes will change nothing, even… Read more »

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