THE BLOG

The Brexit Bluff

06/02/2017 12:35

Eight months after the referendum, we have finally received the Government's white paper, although a 'whitewash paper' would be a more appropriate title.

We now know that the Tories are steering the whole of the British State towards an extreme Brexit - abandoning our economic links with the continent as well as pulling out of the European Union.

My Plaid Cymru colleagues and I have repeatedly stressed since the result of the referendum that while the people of Wales and England voted to leave the European Union, they have had no say on how the future relationship with the EU should look.

Despite the rhetoric of the Brexiteers now, a significant number of high-profile Brexit campaigners advocated remaining within the European Economic Area and the Single Market.

Daniel Hannan, Vote Leave:
"Absolutely nobody is threatening our place in the Single Market"

Owen Paterson, Vote Leave:
"Only a mad man would actually leave the market."

Arron Banks, Leave.EU
"Increasingly, the Norway option looks best for the UK" (Norway is in the Single Market)

Luke Johnson, Vote Leave
"We have great independent future just like countries like Norway and Switzerland enjoy"

Nigel Farage, UKIP:
"Wouldn't it be terrible if we were like Norway and Switzerland? Really? They're rich. They're happy. They're self-governing." (Both participate in the Single Market)

"The Norwegians have no ties in terms of foreign policy with the European Union. They have no ties in terms of their fishing industry, where they have a 200 mile limit. They are opted out and exempted from all the things that really make the British mad."

"We'll find ourselves part of the European Economic Area, and with a free-trade deal."

And yet, Theresa May and the Brexiteers are telling us that to argue that we should remain in the Single Market would be to "thwart the will of the people". I do not accept that. With big right-wing media outlets backing the Brexiteers' spin against a soft-Brexit we face an uphill task in winning this argument but as people whose job it is to represent the interests of our constituents and compatriots, it is our duty to fight this battle.

The vote last week was not about whether the referendum result should be accepted. It was about endorsing the Tories' extreme form of Brexit.

Nobody voted to give themselves a pay cut in June, or make themselves redundant. They were convinced by the likes of Farage and Daniel Hannan that leaving the EU would improve their quality of life. They were convinced by those people who, during the campaign, were arguing that "nobody is threatening our place in the Single Market" and are now winning a battle to do just that.

While my constituency voted to Remain, my county - the level at which results were declared - voted to Leave, which prompted many right-wing commentators to call me an "enemy of the people". The fact that terms such as this are being used by Brexiteers underlines how dangerous political discourse has become since the referendum. Those sorts of terms to label elected representatives within a democracy are highly irresponsible but perhaps highlight the deep anxieties amongst Brexiteers about how they will achieve their wild promises.

The vote last week was the beginning of a long journey out of the European Union and the next stint of that journey is happening today.

My Plaid Cymru colleagues and I have tabled 25 amendments based on the promises the Leave campaign made during the referendum campaign. Whilst the promise of continued membership of the Single Market was particularly damaging for Wales, it was just one of many false promises.

From cutting VAT on fuel, to increasing wages for junior doctors to the infamous pledge to spend £350 million a week extra on the NHS - the Vote Leave campaign made a lot of promises that have now taken the form of amendments to the Article 50 Bill.

Some of those promises were made by senior government figures who will be forced to vote this week on these amendments.

One amendment in particular is of particular importance to Wales - what happens to the net £245 million in EU funding we get every year? We were told that we wouldn't lose a penny of it if we left the European Union. Today, I will be forcing the Commons to vote on it.

Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Theresa Villiers, Priti Patel... they all signed a letter last June promising that this money will continue after we leave. In fact it was signed by thirteen Brexit MPs who will have the opportunity tonight to put their money where their mouth is.

Our amendment has the backing of the SNP in Scotland, the Green Party in England and the SDLP in Northern Ireland. I very much hope that the Labour Party will find a backbone from somewhere and join us in standing up for Wales' interests - it is, after all, a country run by their own party in the Welsh Government.

It is absolutely right that those people who made such promises, including senior government ministers, should be held to account over what they said during the campaign.

The choice for Brexiteers in Parliament is either to vote against their own promises, or vote for Plaid Cymru's amendments.

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