Delyth Jewell AM, Plaid Cymru AM for South East Wales
Now we know for certain: the UK is leaving the EU on January the 31st. The decision of Labour and the Liberal Democrats to grant Boris Johnson his Brexit election backfired catastrophically, as it was always obvious it would.
Plaid Cymru had warned them that by voting in favour of an election they were playing into Johnson’s hands, when the right strategic approach was to keep him on the ropes.
But both Labour and the Liberal Democrats drifted off into the realm of fantasy, convinced that they could beat the Tories at the ballot box when every shred of evidence suggested that the outcome of the election would be a stonking Tory majority.
And this is of course exactly what happened. When historians look back at that moment in time, when the tide of history seemed to be turning in favour of a second referendum, they will be astonished at the sheer strategic incompetence of Labour and the Lib Dems. For our warnings came to pass.
However, we are where we are, and our departure from the EU is now an immutable fact. So Plaid Cymru’s energies from here on in will now turn to making a best out of a situation that is not of our making, rather than wasting time campaigning for an impossible outcome.
Today the Senedd will hold what will probably be the last vote of substance on Brexit in the form of a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
The Scottish Parliament and the Stormont Assembly have already voted to reject giving consent to the UK Government’s plans, because they felt that what was on offer was not in their interests.
Having studied the measures contained in the Bill very carefully, Plaid Cymru has come to the same conclusion. We simply cannot fail to vote against a Bill we believe will harm Welsh interests. Leaving the EU does not mean giving Boris Johnson a blank cheque on Brexit.
Given that we now know for certain that we’re leaving and that there will be no second referendum, the question before us is not whether we should leave, but how we should leave.
Leaving should not have to mean giving Westminster the right to take away the Senedd’s powers at a whim without the consent of the people of Wales.
It should not mean getting rid of parliamentary oversight to the negotiations and denying elected representatives a chance to influence trade priorities.
It should not mean taking away the rights of child refugees to reunite with their parents, the rights of workers and the rights of EU citizens.
And it should not be conducted to a self-imposed and self-defeating artificial deadline of December 31st, which makes a bad deal or a no deal the most likely outcome.
Plaid Cymru’s job has always been to protect the interests of the Welsh nation and her people, and the fact that the Tories have won a huge majority of seats in England – but not in Wales – is hardly going to stop us.
After the inevitable cacophony that will follow today’s vote has abated, we will work with others to advocate measures to protect the Welsh economy, defend citizens’ rights and protect the powers of our Senedd.
Because although the battle for remaining in the EU was lost, the right to define Wales’ future as a nation is there to be won.