Lord Dafydd Wigley
The Brexit battle is not to be fought on the fields of party politics. This constitutional change will affect our collective future forever.
Our nation, our heritage, our principles, our very way of life is being thrown into the fray. The battle for Brexit transcends party lines.
We must approach it as people, as citizens, not as politicians with points to score.
As the only Plaid Cymru representative in the House of Lords, I know the true meaning of collaboration for the good of Wales.
Brexit is the biggest battle I have had in my political career. It is my privilege and my duty to protect Wales, preventing Westminster from turning us into an inward-looking little Britain and thereby undermining the devolution settlement for which my predecessors worked so hard to attain.
With that objective in mind, I tabled over twenty amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill during Committee Stage, some of which gained cross party support.
My amendments sought to:
- Ensure that Wales trades on existing customs union terms with single market access to safeguard our farms and factories;
- Guarantee that every citizen who so wishes, can retain their European citizenship and aren’t stripped, contrary to international law, of their existing rights;
- Safeguard that powers returned from Brussels on devolved matters, come directly to the Assembly, with a fair arbitration system to adjudicate on disputed areas – with no Westminster veto;
- Provide our students access to European schemes such as Erasmus, travel across Europe without hindrance, our universities continued co-operation with Horizon 2020 projects and access to European investment Bank funds;
- Insist that MPs can vote to reject a catastrophic no-deal Brexit; better still to give the voters a confirmatory vote – allowing them to vote against quitting Europe on a no deal basis;
- Facilitate European funding to be replaced by the UK Treasury on a needs basis and not on a Barnet-type distribution;
- Commit to not jeopardizing the Good Friday agreement with artificial hard borders between the north and south of Ireland.
I worked my fair share of gruelling 12-hour days to make sure Wales’s voice is represented in that Place. And although, as is common practice, no votes were taken, I garnered widespread support.
As the dust settles over the House during the Easter break, I will be readying myself for the most crucial battle yet: Report Stage.
This is where amendments can be voted on. My priorities will include, rallying against the illogical severing of ties with the Single Market and Customs Union.
In particular, I shall try to safeguard the National Assembly’s power in relation to functions currently exercised at an EU level. And I will, once again, be working collaboratively to defeat the Government on this issue.
I accept that the vote was to leave the European Union. I place no blame on people in down-trodden communities for raising a voice of desperate protest against an economic system that allows Kensington and Chelsea to have average income levels ten times that of Gwent and Gwynedd.
How can I blame people who were systematically fed an agenda of lies and distortions with the English tabloid press whipping up anti-foreigner hysteria and racist tensions where none existed?
However, I do not accept that we should turn our backs on our continent, cutting ourselves off from our European trading partners.
I do not accept that we sacrifice jobs and communities on the altar of backward looking imperial hankering for a bygone age and I do not accept that we dwindle into nothing more than an offshore tax-haven for the super-rich.
Our job is to give people new hope. My battle is to provide a positive alternative to the job-destroying Tory hard Brexit.
If the Government fail to negotiate a satisfactory compromise with Brussels, then the people must have the right to endorse or reject such an outcome.
Parliament must give those people, tricked by a cocktail of lies and half-truths two years ago, the final vote.
It was to enable Wales to play its part as a free nation within a Europe of the Peoples, that I entered the political fray a generation ago.
The vision of a free Wales in a united Europe, part of a Customs Union with our neighbours, trading in one mutually beneficial single market.
That dream will not surrender to any Westminster Government, and neither will I.
Dafydd Wigley is a Plaid Cymru peer