More than 60 Welsh MPs, Assembly Members, and other pro-EU campaign leaders have published an open letter to First Minister Mark Drakeford, urging him to press the UK Government and the Labour leadership to back a new referendum on the final Brexit deal.
They say that the ‘paralysis’ and ‘chaos’ at Westminster poses ‘a severe threat to the people, economy and communities of Wales’ and that a new referendum is ‘the only way out of the Parliamentary impasse’.
The open letter is backed by several Welsh Labour backbenchers at Westminster, including Owen Smith and Stephen Doughty, plus Plaid Cymru’s four MPs, 13 backbench Assembly members drawn from the Plaid and Labour groups, including the Plaid leader, Adam Price, as well as the leaders of five local authorities in Wales.
It has also been supported by the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Jane Dodds, the Leader of the Wales Green Party, Anthony Slaughter, and the chair of Wales for Europe, Geraint Talfan Davies, as well as representatives of 16 local ‘for Europe’ groups that now cover every local authority area in Wales.
Also backing the letter are the former Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev. Barry Morgan and Hywel Ceri Jones, a former senior EU official and a member of the Welsh Government’s European Advisory Group.
Recent polls have shown an overwhelming majority amongst both Labour supporters and voters for a new referendum. Figures released by the ESRC-funded Party Members Project suggest 73% of people currently identifying as Labour supporters think that the UK was wrong to vote to leave the EU, rising to 89% among Labour members.
Drakeford, who succeeded Carwyn Jones as First Minister last month, has already called for an extension of the Article 50 period beyond the 29 March deadline, but the open letter now urges him “to use your new office to its utmost to demand – of both the UK Government and the Leadership of the [Labour] party – a new People’s Vote in which continued membership of the European Union would be an option on the ballot.”
The letter says ‘a new public vote is necessary regardless of whether or not a General Election is called’.
In a personal appeal to Mark Drakeford, it says: “You have come to office as First Minister of Wales at a crossroads in our history. The UK faces its most serious peacetime crisis in a century or more. Government, parties and people are divided. Parliament seems paralysed by faction. Political chaos is an accurate description of what we see. The threat this poses to the people, economy and communities of Wales is particularly severe.
“As Welsh Europeans, we deeply regret the result of the 2016 referendum, but the disaffection and disillusionment it expressed about our economic and social circumstances will not be allayed by Brexit. Instead, Brexit will make it much more difficult to address the many issues that impact most directly on our lives.
“Far from ‘taking back control’, in a world of continental powers this deal would make us a perpetual supplicant,” it adds.
The letter also dismisses the ‘political declaration’ part of the Prime Minister’s deal with the EU as “a 27-page list of unresolved issues and sometimes conflicting aspirations”. “It does not end the uncertainty, it prolongs it. It is no basis on which to abandon the security of our current EU membership,” it adds.
It also warns that a “calamitous ‘no deal’ crash out of the EU is a real danger.”
“The gravity of our situation requires brave leadership and clarity – from the Opposition as much as Government – as well as time to consult the public again. This is the only way out of the Parliamentary impasse.”
Geraint Talfan Davies, Chair of Wales for Europe, said: “It is becoming clearer every day that this issue has to be put back to the people. Too much has happened since 2016 for us to stake the future of Wales and the whole of the UK on a deal yet to be made. A new democratic People’s Vote based on today’s facts cannot be undemocratic. The First Minister must use all his new influence to bring this about.”
Pontypridd MP Owen Smith said: ‘Mark Drakeford has already demonstrated real leadership in calling for the Article 50 period to be extended because he knows Wales would be devastated by a No Deal Brexit.
“But we hope Mark will also listen to the majority of Labour members and representatives from across Wales who want him to go one step further and endorse our call for a People’s Vote. That’s the only way we can test whether people in Wales still support Brexit or whether they’ve changed their mind and would now prefer to remain part of the EU,” he added.
Plaid Cymru Leader, Adam Price, said: “Time is running out. The Labour First Minister must finally do the right thing for the country he represents – without caveat or qualification, he must come out to support a People’s Vote.
“With an impasse in Westminster and a No Deal Brexit on the horizon, Labour must stop playing party political games and give the people of Wales the voice they want and deserve. Plaid Cymru has time and again put a People’s Vote on the table, it’s time for other parties to step up to the plate.”
Assembly Member, Lynne Neagle said: “A people’s vote will not be a repeat of the referendum but a vote on the actual deal. We should have the right to say that what is being offered is not good enough compared to what we have today.”
Liberal Democrat Leader, Jane Dodds, said: “We know Brexit will be disastrous for Wales and it will be our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens who are worst hit. I urge the First Minister to help prevent this suffering by joining us in supporting a People’s Vote.”
Welsh Greens Leader, Anthony Slaughter, said: “Crashing out of the EU without a deal is rapidly becoming a likely outcome of the current Brexit deadlock. This would have catastrophic consequences for Wales. We ask that the First Minister shows clear and urgent leadership by demanding a People’s Vote for the people of Wales. Democracy did not end in June 2016. People in Wales deserve to have a final say to determine the direction we want our country to take.”