Being the Prime Minsiter’s speechwriter must be an awful job. No wonder he has been spotted, like a panther, carefully surveying the premises during some of the EU debates, perhaps watching for the reactions of the backbenchers, or just as likely, the front, as we sway between one minister’s account of Brexit to another.
And while more excitement is expected after the PM gives her purposefully stale statment on the EU summit, last week proved that it’s not only the EU that is causing friction in the Consersavtive ranks but contradictions between policy aims and actions are becoming commonplace, and we should be even more alert with Brexit pending.
Michael Gove claims to want ‘green Brexit’ but last Monday we heard the Government announce it would break its long awaited promise to invest in the Swansea Tidal Lagoon, designed to pioneer wave-energy technology exports worldwide with new expertise from the UK. Britain claim to be green champions, but now we’re told that this 100 year pathfinder in green energy was to be viewed through the Hinkley 35 year nuclear investment timescale so it gets the Brexit credit-crunch thumbs down instead. Ironically the tide will continue to turn long after uranium supplies run out - in just ten years after nuclear hits 12% of global energy - and become unaffordable.
Having rejected green energy , the Government agreed Heathrow expansion a day later, and in-so-doing decided to double aviation’s share of the UK’s Carbon Budget to 12 per cent by 2030. Thanks to Brexit, the Tories can bank on avoiding being taken to court again for breaking EU Air quality standards having already been found responsible for 40,000 early deaths each year. Never mind that Brexit will stop us producing Airbus planes, it will let more people die from toxic pollution from Heathrow expansion. In the process London sucks another £20 billion of UK infrastructure investment into the smoke from places like Swansea who now face a £2 billion cut in rail investment.
While all of this was done for ‘economic’ reasons, the Tory hard Brexit strategy means if the UK leaves the Single Market then Airbus was leaving the U.K., costing us tens of thousands of jobs and £1.7 billion of tax revenue, which was given a fond “f**k business” farewell from the Foreign Secretary. When the CBI talk of an “ideological approach” to Brexit “harming British prosperity” the Health Secretary say their comments are “totally inappropriate”; but when it comes to environmentally damaging policies like Heathrow expansion or scrapping the Tidal Lagoon, the government posture as being ‘business friendly’, while at the same time.
So it is clear that nothing is allowed to stop the Brexit train-wreck and the sight of its casulties were never more evident than when hospitalised colleagues were wheeled in to vote on amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which was hurriedly charged through the Tory back benches by nods and winks. The Bill, which is now an Act, means that parliament will find it difficult to apply the brakes to an off-the-cliff Brexit. But again, the Conservatives who proclaim to support “global Britain” now flirt with the prospect of detaching Britain from the world’s biggest market, by tearing us out of a Single Market that provides jobs and a Customs Union that will allow us to negoatiate favourable trade deals as part of a big block.
During last week’s debate on EU-Canada, Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, noted that Trade deals like this one, was a means to widen shared prospetiry which ‘underpins social cohesion, and, in turn, political stability’ which could easily be confused as a description for the EU generally. He further praised the EU for its ambitious trade deals, which he said would enormously benefit the UK, which begs the question - why is he ideologically following a path that would mean the UK stands alone in a much weaker position to negotiate new terms with existing trading partners?
The Government’s unapologetic and aggressive contradictions - claiming good things and doing bad things for Britain - might lead us to believe we are a family put at risk from alcoholic parents. Last week’s evidence alone shows we need a public vote on the EU Deal to be freed from their reckless custody.
Geraint Davies is the Labour and Co-operative MP for Swansea West and chair of the APPG for air pollution