A hard exit

Alun Ffred warns of the Brexit ticking clock.

A year or so ago I was woken up in a hotel room in Carcassonne by my son who was furious that Wales and England had voted to leave the EU. I have never seen him so agitated by a political decision. He and thousands of other were having the time of their lives as the Welsh football team played out of their skins in the European Nations Cup. The French laughed with our raucous, chanting, singing supporters and even burly Russians who had just seen their team demolished in Toulouse managed some wry smiles. And suddenly we wanted out, turning our backs on a bold experiment -however flawed – which had managed to bring into the democratic fold all those East European countries which Putin would love to manipulate.

Twelve months on and the latent dangers of leaving, especially perhaps for Wales,are looming ever larger into view. Not surprisingly the electorate is divided and seemingly uncertain of how to proceed. The decisions made in the near future will affect the lives of all of us for decades and political parties can not duck their responsibilities. That is what happened in the Referendum. Too many of us treated it as a spat amongst the Tories, a farce to jeer at. The ‘Yes’ campaign was an ineffectual joke.Jeremy Corbyn whispered very quietly that ,on balance, we should stay put, – perhaps. In Wales, co-operation between the parties was almost non existent. We, the Remainers ,got what we deserved.

So where do we go from here? In the euphoria following the General Election there was some loose talk among leftish commentators that a ‘hard Brexit’ was now dead in the water. The “bloody difficult woman” had lost her mandate. Possibly. But since the Labour party has decided to support her, leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union is now likely despite the probable devastating effect on the manufacturing sector in Wales and beyond. How this plays with young people who overwhelmingly voted to remain I have no idea? But it is their future that is at stake.

Plaid Cymru stands four-square behind the White Paper it co authored with the Welsh Government Securing Wales’ Future. We need to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union. What is referred to as the Norwegian model would do. But this would entail free movement wouldn’t it? As William Keegan and Adam Price have argued, some sensible non aggressive diplomacy might well produce a flexible arrangement which meets concerns around unfettered immigration whilst meeting the needs of businesses and the NHS.

Lord Dafydd Wigley has been to Strasbourg with Jill Evans MEP to discuss Securing Wales’ Future with Guy Verhofstadt MEP who is leading the discussions on behalf of the European Parliament. He sees the white paper as a basis for negotiation particularly if the SNP and the Northern Ireland parties supported it. Jill has also presented her paper on the feasibility of Associated EU Citizenship to UK Citizens post Brexit to Verhofstadt’s team who has tweeted his support. But the clock is ticking.

Consider some hard truths. Rural north west Wales is not a manufacturing powerhouse but there are plenty of small innovative high tech companies here that are appalled at the idea of any trade barriers with the rest of Europe. Consider Rehau Plastics, a family firm from Germany, with factories in Llangefni and Blaenau Ffestiniog who are already apparently considering their options. Consider the Siemens plant in Llanberis. 300 wage earners, many of them young, many of them graduates.If trading arrangements become less advantageous and this huge company is looking in the future to reinvest or restructure I would be seriously worried about the site. Consider Airbus…… then add your own examples.

Hoping the Tories will crumble is not a plan. We can not gamble with people’s livelihoods. This is for real.

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