Support our Nation today - please donate here

Labour’s ambiguity on Brexit will push Wales’ economy off a cliff edge

17 Jan 2018 5 minute read
Picture: Chatham House (CC BY 2.0)

Hywel Williams, MP for Arfon

In February last year the Labour Party leader instructed his Labour MPs to march with the Tories through the voting lobbies and trigger Article 50.

He backed Theresa May’s hard Brexit, then tweeted, the “real fight starts now”.

Jeremy Corbyn was ridiculed for that tweet and rightly so. Twitter was quick to offer its take:

Today – almost a year later – the House of Commons is debating the EU (Withdrawal) Bill for the final time before it moves to the House of Lords.

The Labour leader has said he will oppose it. This shows a bit of progress on last year’s position. But by the time we vote on the Bill as a whole, the battle on much of the important details will have been lost.

Take the vote on Plaid Cymru’s amendment to give Wales an equal say with England on the Bill.

The 1972 European Communities Act impacts on Wales just as much as it does on England, Scotland and northern Ireland.

Our amendment would have given each of the UK’s countries an equal say on whether or not it should be repealed.

So our own national Parliament, which Labour effectively control, would have to endorse the Bill.

Despite it clearly being in the national interest, the Labour Party didn’t bother voting, allowing the Westminster Government to do as they please, regardless of the views of three out of the four members of the UK.

Another amendment would have kept our membership of the Customs Union on the table. It wouldn’t have forced us to stay, but would allow the option to do so.

That is, the option to maintain our ability to import from, and export to, more than 80 countries around the world without charge; and to safeguard the 200,000 jobs that depend on our place in the Customs Union.

The Government blocked us, thanks to Jeremy Corbyn instructing his MPs to vote with the Tories.

Empty chair

It’s easy to forget that it’s a minority Conservative government in Westminster, and one that is split on Brexit.

They should be on their knees under the pressure of opposition parties. But they’ve been defeated only once since the election.

And they get away with it because when push comes to shove they can always depend on their little helpers in the Labour Party.

So even with a substantial majority in the House of Commons for keeping our economic links with the EU through the Single Market and Customs Union, the Tories have had an easy time pulling us out of both.

Plaid Cymru in Wales along with the SNP in Scotland, and the Green Party and Liberal Democrats in England came together last week to co-ordinate our work to stop Westminster’s hard Brexit.

Labour’s leader was invited, but didn’t turn up.

Taking a stand

The Single Market and Customs Union are the arteries of trade and economic growth for our country.

In the end it’s families and workers, businesses and farmers who’ll pay the price if we cut ourselves off.

After voting to trigger Article 50 and so for the Tories’ hard Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would “use every opportunity to ensure Brexit protects jobs, living standards & the economy.”

But what he and the Labour Party have actually done is to make sure their position is as unclear as possible – being all things to all people.

They are in favour of Single Market and Customs Union membership and also against. Horrified at Westminster trying to reinstate its rule over Wales, but not horrified enough to turn up to vote against it.

Labour’s constructive ambiguity has allowed the Tories to take us down this needlessly damaging path out of Europe. It allows a minority Tory Government to deliver as hard a Brexit as they like.

Plaid Cymru, the SNP, the Greens and the Lib Dems will be pressing our joint amendment to the Bill today.

This would allow all four UK member countries to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union after Brexit.

There are plenty of sympathetic Tory backbench MPs. The Westminster Government could face defeat. But they’ll only be beaten if Labour turn up to vote.

So here’s a chance for Labour to get off the fence – to work with the other opposition parties, and to make good on Jeremy Corbyn’s promise.

Our spokesperson in the National Assembly, Steffan Lewis, is also introducing an Individual Members’ Proposal today in the Senedd, calling for a Continuity Bill to enshrine the relevant parts of EU law on devolved matters into Welsh law before the Westminster Government can get their hands on them.

If Labour AMs vote with us it sends a strong message to Westminster that Welsh democracy is not up for grabs.

If they abstain or vote against, Westminster will know they have an open door to reverse devolution.

Anything less than voting with Plaid Cymru today will make it clear where Labour stands: shoulder to shoulder with the Tories.

Pushing our country, our economy and our people’s standard of living over a cliff edge.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Benjiman L. Angwin
Benjiman L. Angwin
6 years ago

Mae Corbyn yn coleddu ideoleg uwchben ei wlad.

Peter Freeman
Peter Freeman
6 years ago

The situation in United Kingdom politics is that even when Labour has a partisan majority. The conservatives always have the philosophical majority

Jonathan Edwards Sir Benfro
Jonathan Edwards Sir Benfro
6 years ago

“constructive ambiguity”, Hywel? Labour’s position is not ambiguous at all. They are trying to appease the UKIP/Brexit tendency in many parts of England. For every Keir Starmer (down the line Remain, trying to get through somehow) there are twenty others who think “Labour/Labour voters – right or wrong.” It is just naive to think that Labour apply anything more sophisticated than this. Yes, they have middle-class intellectuals who can provide some intellectual veneer. But underneath the Labour way is brutal, cynical and very bad for Wales. And the UK. But we know all this, surely? What is so hard to… Read more »

6 years ago

Slightly bizarre reasoning by Jonathan Edwards ‘ally with the Tories’ we are in this mess because of the Tories. Nevertheless agree with most of the analysis, but we should be fighting against Brexit together and also being very clear about the reasons why many Welsh constituencies voted Leave and the actions needed to address this vote.

Our country in our hands
Our country in our hands
6 years ago

Ultimately, Brexit will severely damage Wales. Plaid has to be bold, it needs to join forces with other progressive parties in Wales such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens to oust Labour in Cardiff bay. A united front is needed. The other parties may not be big in Wales but it’s the message that matters, political parties finally working together for the benefit of the country.

Gwilym ab Ioan
6 years ago

“Plaid has to be bold, it needs to join forces with other progressive parties in Wales such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens to oust Labour in Cardiff bay. ”

And I saw a flock of flying pigs glide over Aberaeron yesterday.

The only force that will attack Labour and the other London based parties whilst properly fighting for independence for Cymru is preparing and arming itself in the wings. That’s a promise.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.