Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader
Today, the House of Commons will be asked to take a decision on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. This is a decision that will have serious consequences for the lives of the people of Wales for years to come.
Plaid Cymru took a stand against the damaging deal negotiated by Theresa May to protect our country. I can confirm that today Plaid Cymru will once again vote against this so-called ‘new deal’.
No matter how Boris Johnson tries to present this, it is nothing more than a re-heated version of the old deal only this time it is worse as it comes with a hard border in the Irish Sea. This latest iteration also contains fewer protections for food and environmental standards, consumer protection and workers’ rights.
The UK Government’s own modelling, undertaken in 2018, showed that a looser relationship with the EU under a Free Trade Agreement type deal – which Boris Johnson’s deal aims for – would see a 5.5% hit to the Welsh economy in the next 14 years. This would see billions wiped off the Welsh economy, likely costing Welsh households thousands of pounds in lost wages and rising prices.
We cannot in good faith vote for a deal that we know will cost people their jobs and wages, devastate our agricultural and manufacturing industries and deny us of our rights to live, study and work across Europe.
A particular concern for Wales, is the creation of a border down the Irish sea, creating huge uncertainty and economic barriers for Welsh ports and exporters. At the moment more than 70% of Irish freight cargo passes through Wales and Holyhead is the UK’s second largest roll-on roll-off port after Dover. All this is threatened by Boris Johnson’s plans.
This deal is manifestly unfair to the people of Wales. While it provides Northern Ireland with a ‘soft Brexit’ cushion and the option to vote on its relationship with Europe every four years, Wales does not get a single mention in the hundreds of pages of legal documents.
Instead, Wales will face the full brace of challenges associated with a ‘hard Brexit’. This will allow an empowered Tory government to slash environmental protections, strip workers’ rights, and flood the market with cheap, poor quality imports.
If Northern Ireland can have a special arrangement that provides them with access to the single market, Wales should be given the same option. We should be allowed to decide whether we want a partnership with our European friends and allies, or a weaker trade deal negotiated by the British State.
It is clear that no MP claiming to represent the interests of the people of Wales or the United Kingdom can back this deal. However, with the numbers finely balanced for today’s crucial vote, there is concern that Labour MPs could work with the Conservative Government to deliver Brexit.
If they do so, they will be opening the door to future trade deals involving the NHS and would be undermining food standards and workers’ rights. It would be like voting for Thatcherism on steroids.
If it is Labour votes that take the damaging deal over the line, they will be as culpable as the Conservatives.
My Plaid Cymru colleagues and I are clear in our message to Johnson. If the British Government is so convinced of the merits of this deal, they should put it before the people in a Final Say Referendum.
Today, I will repeat this message at the People’s Vote rally in Westminster where hundreds of thousands of people will congregate to show their support.
If given the opportunity Plaid Cymru will vote for a referendum and we will continue to fight for one at every turn. This is the only way out of this mess and to ensure that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal does not succeed.
There is no doubt in my mind that this deal disadvantages Wales and I assure you that the Plaid Cymru group in Westminster will be resolute in our defence of Wales’ interests.
We will never vote to make Wales poorer – it is as simple as that.