Brexit and the Single Market

Just over 18 months ago the electorate went to the polls to decide whether or not we remain a member of the European Union. In a column I wrote on the day of the Referendum I asked residents of Cardiff South and Penarth to vote to remain in the EU, citing its role as a peace making project and the risks of leaving. For me, the advantages of being a member of the EU far outweighed the negatives. Despite residents in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan voting in relatively large numbers to remain, the rest of the country felt differently. As a result, the UK is set to leave.
A number of people have suffered from buyer’s remorse following the referendum result. The morning news the day after the vote was littered with vox pops of voters who said they hadn’t expected the UK to actually vote to leave and were merely registering a protest vote, or hadn’t believed that the risks were real. It soon became apparent to everyone that the £350million a week that was promised for the NHS was not going to materialise. We have seen real world investment choices – and jobs – being moved out of the UK as a result.
It was only in December last year that EU leaders agreed that sufficient progress had been made in phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations with the EU to allow the talks to move onto phase 2. Reaching this agreement has taken longer than should have been necessary. We have all seen the lack clarity and realism from the UK Government. The process has been a complete and utter shambles, creating uncertainty for the businesses, jobs and public services. Health and social care are just 2 areas where EU nationals are leaving or not arriving in the numbers that we need. The uncertainty for EU nationals living in the UK and British citizens living abroad has now been largely resolved but they should never have been used as a bargaining chip in the first place.
Our economic future is inextricably tied with being able to trade with the EU. That is why wELSH labour has focused on ensuring that we still have full and unfettered access to the Single Market and Customs Union. Some argue that staying in the single market does not respect the result of the referendum. Yet, it was Leave campaigners themselves who promised that we could leave the EU without economic damage because we’d stay in the Single Market. Norway, is not an EU member and outside of the EU Customs but has near full and unfettered access to the Single Market through its membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA). Wales has attracted investment from hundreds of international companies on the basis of access to the single market. Failure to maintain full access, free of tariffs to trade post Brexit could make sustaining and securing investment more difficult. Brexiteers who now demand that we leave the Single Market & Customs Union are playing roulette with the jobs and economic future of communities that I represent. Crashing out the Single Market will see a wide range of tariffs introduced that will make it more expensive to trade with the EU. That will undoubtedly cost jobs and I will not support it.
In response to the uncertainty the Welsh Labour Welsh Government last week announced £50million of funding to help prepare Wales for Brexit. The EU Transition Fund will be developed in partnership with Welsh businesses, public services and other key organisations to provide support as the UK prepares to leave the EU. It will provide a combination of financial support and loan funding for businesses. It is also designed to help employers retain and continue to attract EU nationals, who make a crucial contribution to Wales. The fund will underline Wales’ welcome to people from other countries who have made Wales their home.