Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru Chief Whip in Westminster
This afternoon the House of Commons will begin its deliberations over the Lords Amendments to the infamous EU Withdrawal Bill.
The programme motion has just been published (which determines the time allocation and order of the debate) and the debate will take place over two days six hours in each day.
Business is split into three sections with the devolution related amendments debated late today. These amendments are vitally important as the amendments essentially drive a hatchet through the Welsh constitution.
Arguments over the spineless capitulation of the Labour Government have been well rehearsed, but I am sure Nation.Cymru readers will be amazed to learn that because of the expected seven votes in Group 1 eating into allocated time for the devolution debate, we will be lucky to get 90 minutes to debate this hugely important issue.
After frontbenchers it is highly unlikely that any MP from Wales will have the opportunity to make a full speech. Although we will try, it looks increasingly unlikely that Plaid Cymru will have the opportunity to move to a vote our amendments aimed at protecting Wales from this Westminster power grab.
This shows exactly what the Westminster establishment thinks of Wales and we will be voting against the programme motion at the beginning of the day to express our disgust. We expect Labour to abstain as usual.
The second major Wales-related flashpoint of the day will come when we vote on the Government amendments secured in the Lords. We will be voting to oppose the amendments to send them back to the Lords for consideration.
This will be a major test for Labour who support the amendments in Wales yet oppose them in Scotland. If Labour MPs join Plaid Cymru and the SNP they will effectively be criticising the Welsh branch office for their capitulation. If they don’t they will be exposing Jeremy Corbyn for his empty words on the power grab.
Wednesday will see pivotal votes on the Customs Union and the Single Market. In a late change to the business of the day Labour and the Tories have stitched up a deal whereby the first vote of the day will be on Labour’s Trojan horse amendment which is aimed at neutering the Lords amendment on EEA (single market) membership. It’s no wonder the Tories were happy to oblige to Labour’s request.
On the Customs Union, any chance of a government defeat has been quelled with the likes of Nicky Morgan supporting another fudged Tory compromise calling for a customs arrangement rather than the Customs Union.
Time is running out for the Tory remainers to make a stance. If they are serious about protecting people’s wages then they will not settle for this nonsense.
Plaid Cymru’s voting strategy will attempt to counteract Westminster’s cynical manoeuvring and will focus on two basic principles – defending the Welsh national interest and protecting people’s rights and economic well-being.
The manner in which the debate has been organised and the tactics deployed by the unionist parties clearly shows that Westminster will never work for Wales.