For a Bill to become an Act of Parliament it goes through 11 stages in the Commons and Lords before its twelfth and final stage of receiving Royal Assent. Tuesday’s vote in the Commons was stage 2, aptly named Second Reading.
It is at this stage Members of Parliament are given their first opportunity to discuss and debate the main principles of a Bill. So it was on Tuesday that MPs debated the principles of the UK Government’s Bill to withdraw from the European Union.
It was an important vote along the journey to leaving the European Union, but it was not a vote on whether to accept the referendum result. It was about endorsing the Tories’ extreme version of Brexit.
Despite the hysteria and the branding of those who opposed the Bill as “traitors” and “enemies of democracy”, the Bill has a long way to go, and there are many more votes which need to be take place before the Government can formally notify the EU of the UK’s decision to leave the union.
As we do with every Bill affecting Wales, Plaid Cymru will table a series of amendments in attempt to promote, defend and extend the rights of those who live and work in our nation. Our amendments seek to uphold the promises made by the ‘Leave’ campaign, and to ensure the needs of Wales are considered throughout the whole process. Some of our amendments include:
- The Welsh Health Service receiving £17.5million per week – our population share of the £350m per week we were all promised;
- A commitment from the Government to continue funding Wales to the level provided by the EU;
- A commitment to the National Assembly that it will have a say in the process; and
- Securing the best trading deal for Welsh farmers and businesses through the single market.
So far these reasonable positions have not been accepted by the Government. Indeed its formal paper suggests powers ‘repatriated’ from Brussels could be entirely controlled from London in future.
The people voted to leave the EU. They did not vote to give themselves a pay cut or make themselves redundant. But without opposition, that is what this brutal Brexit will mean.
For me and my Plaid Cymru colleagues, Brexit doesn’t have to mean isolation. It doesn’t have to mean tearing apart our economic links or cutting off the flow of economic development funding. The Welsh economy is heavily driven by exports. To consciously block these vital economic arteries would be an act of self-harm. However, if the UK Government gives us the assurance that it will honour the promises made during the referendum campaign, that Wales will keep free trade with the single market and customs union, and won’t lose a penny in funding then Plaid Cymru MPs will support the Government’s Bill.
This Bill is not about the referendum result, but how the Tories are interpreting it with extreme consequences for Carmarthenshire and Wales.
It would be a dereliction of duty were I to support the UK Government’s proposals as they currently stand. In the best interests of Carmarthenshire and Wales Plaid Cymru is seeking to amend the Bill, with reasonable and sincere arguments, to protect the jobs and livelihoods of those I am elected to represent.
I will leave it to the Tories and Labour party to explain why it is they are prepared to unconditionally support proposals which would, as they stand, risk untold damage to the Welsh economy. Plaid Cymru, meanwhile, will always put the Welsh national interest first.