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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13 thoughts on “A hard exit

  1. It seems most strange that PC are so ‘anxious’ about the UK’s decision (including Wales) to leave the EU which is a relatively new political/economic concept,whilst within their constitution they wish to remove us (WALES) from the UK!!.There will be humps and bumps along the road ahead for both the EU and UK,(including Wales),however the principle of us regaining our sovereignty and placing full responsibility on our elected politicians at Westminster/Caerdydd is written in stone.The argument is now over and short of another referendum will not be overturned,so the UK will have to re-design its own constitution including current devolution of powers/funding from English taxpayers to the benighted regions of UK.I,personally,whilst a ‘pleb’ have full confidence in the people’s of the UK to develop a free trading economy in goods and services with the world,and by opening up food/drink markets can reduce costs of living for ordinary people like myself.The reduction in numbers of third rate politicians on the Brussels/Strasbourg gravy train is a source of joy!!

  2. Diolch, Ffred. This is certainly for real – its serious and we need to do something serious about it.

    It may be time to stop referring to the referendum as if it were binding – it was advisory. It had no detailed proposals attached – effectively a vote to leave could be interpreted in infinite ways, and was therefore meaningless. It also accounts for the 50% + 1 threshold. Given the present circumstances, it clearly illustrates why a binding referendum on substantial constitutional changes would have a much higher threshold (e.g. 40% of electorate)

    Brexit is a binary choice – we are either in the EU or not. If we are not, then the economy is likely to suffer substantially. Consequently the NHS, education, social care and our quality of life will be poorer. Meaningful unemployment will rise. Employment and consumer law will be eroded to make the UK ‘more competitive’. The billionaires will get richer. We will get poorer. A ‘Norwegian model’ would be better, but not as good as what we have already – we don’t have a sea full of oil, or the hard headed sense to share our wealth with future generations.

    The political parties – Plaid Cymru included – are in a bind. Should the referendum be considered to be ‘the voice of the people’ when it was unsound, in some cases allegedly unlawfully funded and unethically conducted? We Remainers got what we deserved, it is true, but it is time to make up for it. There is also a time for leadership. The slight majority (of those who voted) for ‘leave’ would evaporate if asked what they had voted for. They were sincerely cast votes – they did so in order to effect change – but I’m still convinced that it was very little to do with the principle or the actuality of membership of the European Union.

    Wales still needs the consensus that brought about the White Paper, but it now needs to make quite clear that the best option is continued membership of the EU and why. It might be a catalyst for an enhanced constructive general political discourse, as a clear barrier is put between us and the free-marketeer, small-statist, austeritocrats in Westminster. Its (y)our job to raise the level and quality of the discussion.

    Meanwhile we should continue to cut out Westminster and discuss directly with Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin and Brussels.

    And make that a permanent arrangement.

  3. How many more boring remoaner articles do you propose to publish? What charitable purpose do they serve?

    Yawn! No such thing as soft and hard BREXIT – we are in or out. Being in the single market (a regulatory straight-jacket not a market) or the customs union means we are in.

    I’m old enough to remember trading with European countries before we joined the evil empire – it was seldom a problem. It required a bit more skill and a bit more work to get the paperwork right, and to deal in more currencies, but it all worked just fine… At least we had the regular devaluations of the Italian Lira to look forward to – now they can’t devalue we just have the devaluation of Italy to look forward to!

    I’m also old enough to remember how agricultural seasonal work was mostly carried out by Brits – locals and travellers – and by foreign workers, often students, on agricultural visas for the summer. I remember how the system of cash-in-hand casual labour was stopped around 1973 to make it largely uneconomic for Brits to do this seasonal work and to facilitate the importation of EEC labour, often with the abuses of the gang-master operations, which replaced them. All planned and all disadvantageous to the British people…

    We have never been told the truth about the European Project but enough of us have finally figured out we don’t want to be part of it. We’re leaving so get over it!

  4. Diolch, yn erthygl dda.

    We need to address the reasons for the Leave vote in Wales as well as trying to change course. We were one of the few multi party campaigning teams for Remain and we were shocked by the level of hostility and anger from Leave voters. I have canvassed throughout my adult life for Labour and have never encountered such bad feeling. Confusion and lack of coordination was also rife, with duplication by the ‘separate’ Remain campaigns. We did a door to door canvass in two rural towns of about 700 houses – and a common theme was of ‘loss’ – well paid jobs, manufacturing jobs, access to secure jobs such as the police, distance to train, being part of a community of other workers and access to housing. Many people here now travel huge distances to work, recent examples I know include a man in his 50s commuting to Kent and a woman commuting to London to work on the Underground. It is not surprising that people are angry! We need overtly Keynesian solutions, start reemploying direct labour in the Council, large programmes for home insulation, share out the white collar jobs more fairly and give small contracts to local workers, being back the WDA with a mandate for small town development.

    If there is second chance to vote, a decent campaign involving all pro EU parties Universities business local government (many of whom sat on the fence) combined with a genuine offer to improve things for people left behind.

  5. Maybe the best option is for Wales to align with Scotland and NI to press for continued membership of the single market via EEA/EFTA: seeing as this organisation is made up of 5 countries which are around the same population size.

    No way will these organisations want a behomoth like the UK on board- so that one is a non-starter for any Remainers.
    But three smallish countries could be acceptable.

    Although, I would add that people’s genuine concerns about high levels of unagreed immigration would have to be taken on board and genuinely addressed- otherwise it could be seen as politicians ignoring the voice of the people yet again.

    Greater England out of Europe and on its much talked about “world stage” again- with the smaller countries of these isles still inside. What’s not to like?

  6. Whilst the Westminster Government seems hell bent on not allowing an ‘informed’ referendum when the terms/conditions/implications are clearer in 2019, what is there to stop WG from doing this within Wales ? Purely advisory of course……

  7. You’re very welcome to submit an article presenting the other side of the debate John. Ed.

  8. The ‘liberal elite’ consider the ‘Brexiteers’ as similar to the ‘Deplorables’ in the US. Foot shooting low information ignoramuses. There is an excellent article about the Deplorables in the New Yorker worth reading – http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/24/how-trump-is-transforming-rural-america
    Ms.Forrester (above) was shocked by the level of bad feeling, loss and anger whilst out canvassing for the remainers. All this ‘despair’ must have been generated during the years of the ‘EU’s watch’, so why would anyone vote to prolong or extend this? This is a question that should be asked. The issue has gone beyond economic, logic or self interest and is now ’emotional’ – so they say.
    My ‘I am deplorable’ sloganed T-shirt is taking forever to come (ordered from the wretched US). Must complain about the deplorable service.

  9. @ Bellwether
    The EU didn’t have a “watch”. One after another Tory and Labour government took their turn on “watch” and that was the crucial motivation was what won it for leave,
    @John R Walker
    You may be looking forward to regaling younger generations with tales of rebellion against the “evil empire”, hop picking cockneys and the joys of black and white television, somehow I don’t think your musings will impress them as they face the reality of work and paying for state pensions, medical and social care for the Festival of Britain generation.

  10. “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.”

    Who would have thought that the flawed bold experiment to bring into the “democratic” fold those East European countries, who were potentially under threat of being manipulated by Putin, would result in the inhabitants of those East European countries wanting to relocate to Britain!

    If there is a movement in Wales that wants Wales to be a member of the EU, then what we need is a party in Wales that calls for independence from the UK, a sister party to the SNP. This party needs to call for a referendum for a Wexit from the UK quickly, or the EU dream will be lost to Welsh EUrophiles forever.

  11. Is Norway in the EU? Is Switzerland or Iceland in the EU? Well, no. But they are in the European Economic Area and participate fully in the single market. So how can anyone say that being in the single market means we are still in the EU? What’s the difference? Well if you are in the EEA but not in the EU you are not part of the Common Agricultural Policy, you are not part of the Common Fisheries Policy and you do not have to be in the Customs Union so you can manage your own trade policy outside Europe. Anyone who wants out of the EEA is taking isolationism to a ludicrous extreme. Quite apart from small firms in North Wales, the Toyota engine plant and the Ford engine plant import 80 per cent of their parts from Europe and export 70 per cent of their output to Europe. Business supply chains are integrated because there is no border control or paperwork within the single market. Disrupt that and you disrupt those businesses and and the host of suppliers who depend on them and you devastate the Welsh economy. And for what? Sovereignty? Then leave the World Trade Organisation, leave the UNO and the International Criminal Court. Better leave Nato too. Democracy and sovereignty don’t mean abandoning all international agreements. May as well go and live in a cave.

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