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Real people will pay the price for Westminster’s Brexit time-wasting

29 Jan 2019 4 minute read
Picture by EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (CC BY 2.0)

Liz Saville Roberts MP, Leader of Plaid Cymru Westminster Group

The Brexiteers’ Modest Proposal to the problem of Ireland is Swiftean in its grotesquery, its historical ignorance and its single 360 degree all-encompassing blind spot.

In June 2016, the Prime Minister herself, in a last-ditch attempt to win the referendum, explained how customs checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland would be inevitable if we were pulled out of the EU.

What followed was a series of warnings from customs experts, culminating in Eric Pickett, an authority in World Trade Organisation rules and international trade law, telling MPs that giving Ireland special treatment would be a strict violation of WTO law, in February 2017.

When the Mrs May triggered Article 50, a mere month later, with the help of the Labour party, she started the clock on Brexit without having the faintest idea how she would avoid running roughshod over the Good Friday Agreement.

And now, two years later, we are in the absurd position of still debating whether or not we need a backstop designed to avoid the dangerous chaos which the Prime Minister herself has admitted a hard border would cause. A backstop the Prime Minister recognises as necessary.

All the while the clock is ticking and Westminster is nowhere near finding a solution.  This is no way to govern. The Prime Minister may hold the reins, but she is not in control. Her vulnerability is being exploited by those in the Conservative party whose ideological pursuit of an impossible abstract freedom overrides any care or caution.

When the Prime Minister set a series of unobtainable red lines at Lancaster House in 2017, she surrendered her authority and handed fortune a hostage.

The Prime Minister’s premiership is sinking – will she take the people of the UK down with her?  Or will she put all four nations of the UK before narrow party loyalties and turn to us for answers.

And there are plenty of answers she could choose on today’s order paper. Not all of them perfect but some of them necessary. Necessary to avoid the no deal by default scenario towards which we are rushing.

The Labour Party’s indifference, I’m afraid, makes them just as culpable. Last night’s last-minute one-line whip against the Immigration Bill is illustrative of the Labour party’s intentional apathy towards all things Brexit.

The amendment tabled by the opposition frontbench is a masterclass in fence-sitting. Let me be clear, their destructive ambiguity is paving the way to a no deal.

In substance, Brexiteers claim that, by leaving the EU, they will centralise power and concentrate wealth. I agree. It is a thinly veiled attempt by the British Government to take powers from Wales and spend even more per head in London compared to Wales than it does already.

The economic disparity between Wales and London is already the worst in the European Union. To overstate the grotesqueness of our current inequality is nigh-on impossible. Inner London’s GDP is 614% of the EU average, while West Wales and the Valleys possess a regional GDP of 68% of the same EU average.

Westminster has always seen fit to benefit most that which is closest to its heart, and its heart is in southeast England. As for the rest of us? We are as we always have been – peripheral, expendable, beyond the pale.

Whilst the Commons indulges itself with endless, abstract ‘angels-on-a-pinhead’ debates about backstops, safe in the knowledge that most MPs will probably be ‘alright’ under a no deal scenario, it is real people, constituents of mine – sheep farmers; factory workers; mums; dads; and ultimately children – who will pay the real price for our time-wasting.

We need to move on. For the sake of our children, Westminster must rule out no deal and come to an agreement on the way forward.

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