Theresa May’s inability to compromise has caused this Brexit mess

Theresa May. Picture by Annika Haas (CC BY 2.0)

Lord Dafydd Wigley

We are approaching the Brexit end-game, and we’re three weeks away from the cliff edge of a no deal –  a crisis which was totally avoidable.

There is a real danger that, this week, we will again see a round of political games in the House of Commons, with the livelihoods of working people and the future of businesses – in Wales and throughout these islands – at stake.

I was a committed remain voter, as were a majority in my county of Gwynedd; as were a majority of Welsh speakers; and a majority of those who identify their nationality as Welsh – as has been shown by Prof Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University.

And if they were voting now, the people in Wales, would vote remain by twice the margin by which they voted leave in 2016.

That, I suspect, is why Brexiters are so profoundly opposed to holding a confirmatory referendum. They know full well, that now the people know the deal which the government have negotiated, a majority would reject it out of hand.

People in Wales would now vote remain for three reasons:

  • They’ve seen the implications for the manufacturing industry, and for our farmers.
  • Our tourist industry fears to lose lucrative overseas visitors and EU nationals working in the hospitality sector;
  • Our universities are shedding jobs and our young people want to retain the right to live, study and work in other European countries.

The Prime Ministers deal has been overwhelmingly rejected by MPs; she has failed to get any significant improvements to it; and it will probably be defeated again today.

If that happens then we must on Wednesday, have a clear-cut vote to reject a catastrophic no-deal  Brexit; and the Government must undertake, unequivocally, that if MPs so vote, they will move an order to withdraw the cliff-edge 29th March deadline – either by seeking a postponement of Article 50; or its withdrawal altogether.

For there’s no earthly point in having an Article 50 application if we haven’t the foggiest idea of what sort of a relationship we want in place of our current EU membership.

Red lines

I was willing to accept that the referendum had voted to leave the EU,   but without specifying the new relationship Brexit voters wanted with the EU.

My colleagues and I were willing to compromise, provided we retained unfettered single market access and continued to have the benefits of the customs union, vital to the Welsh economy.

We recognise that some parts of England have problems arising from high levels of inward migration, with a perception – rightly or wrongly – that this undermined local indigenous workers. We are certain that this could be tacked by negotiating a regionally-applied emergency brake – which the EU were willing to consider.

There was an agreement available to meet Wales economic concerns; one acceptable to Scotland; and which avoided Northern Ireland’s border issue.

But Mrs May drew her red lines far too early; and didn’t have the flexibility to see that these had to be adjusted, to secure a consensus on Brexit.

And let not the Brexiteers claim the failure to negotiate an acceptable Brexit is the fault of civil servants; or of wicked Scots or Irish; or a BBC plot; or double-dealing by EU negotiators.

All the leading roles in the Brexit negotiation have been held by Brexit-backing cabinet ministers:

  • By David Davis, who over a two year period, negotiated for just four hours with M. Barnier;
  • By Liam Fox, who said this was the easiest negotiation ever;
  • By Boris Johnson who insisted he could have his cake and eat it;
  • And by Dominic Raab, who negotiated the current deal, then resigned in protest about what he’d achieved!

Let not the Brexiters blame others for not getting a deal: it is the fault of their own political friends; and let the people fully understand that reality.

Control

So to where do we go from here? I would suggest three steps:

  1. Firstly, that if the May package is approved by MPs, then it should be put to the people in a confirmatory referendum; and that Article 50 is amended by order to provide the necessary time for a confirmatory vote; and that the choice should be between the May package and the status quo;
  2. Secondly, if the May package is again rejected, then MPs should vote on a no Deal Brexit; if they back a no Deal Brexit, that should be put to a confirmatory vote, between a no deal Brexit and the status quo;
  3. Thirdly, if MPs reject the May Deal and a No Deal Brexit, then MPs should vote to suspend Article 50 for the time needed for cross-party talks to establish  a consensus proposal, which may well involve a customs union; or a single market deal; or a Norway type deal; and for that to be put to a confirmatory referendum with the option of remaining in the EU.

Such a process does exactly what Brexiteers demanded in the referendum – that control be put back in the hands of MPs. And a Confirmatory vote on the outcome does exactly what Brexiters wanted – that the people should have the final word.

If the Government lose their deal and reject all these options, then the Prime Minister should do the honourable thing and stand down.

At that stage, senior people in each party should come together to form a cross-party government, to lead parliament through the alternatives I’ve described; and then, after the confirmatory vote, to call a general election to establish a new government to take matters forward as sanctioned by the people.

My party, Plaid Cymru, is willing to play a constructive role, alongside other parties who recognise the vital importance of the European Union but also accept the need for the people to have the final say.

I hope that people of good accept something along these lines as an absolute necessity , if we are to extricate ourselves from the mess in which we today find ourselves.

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