Countdown to Brexit: 23 days – Wales and Scotland add their demands to avoid a no-deal Brexit at any price

A motion that Prime Minister, Theresa May, should rule out a no-deal Brexit was passed by both the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament in parallel debates held yesterday.

In Wales, they passed an additional motion calling for work to begin on a further referendum.

Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said it was the first time had taken place in the two chambers.

Both the Scottish and Welsh Governments oppose the Prime Minister's deal with Brussels - and want Brexit delayed.

In a joint statement Welsh and Scottish First Ministers - Mark Drakeford AM and Nicola Sturgeon MSP - said: "This united and historic step was taken to send the clearest possible message to the UK Government and Westminster that this reckless course of action must stop now."

Their message accords with the united messages from Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and other UK overseas territories and protectorates.  England is looking increasingly isolated in a ‘dis-United Kingdom’ - and it may take generations to bridge such a wide gulf in the visions and aspirations for their future among its constituent countries.

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We have been reporting on the fragile, complex and untried chain of events that has to work perfectly in order to avoid an ‘accidental no-deal Brexit’ on 29 March.  One slip in the timing or interleaving processes involving UK Houses of Parliament, the European Parliament and the unanimous support of each of the remaining EU27 states – and it is, as the EU describes it – the ‘cliff-edge’ Brexit.

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In Wales - Assembly Members voted 37 for and 12 against their motion.  In Scotland - Members of the Scottish Parliament voted 87 for and 29 against the motion.

Drakeford said that he hoped the two votes "will put further pressure on the Prime Minister to do the right thing, to live up to the responsibilities that have been placed in her hands, and to act in a way that defends the interests of families and working people in Scotland and in Wales".

He said no deal would be a "catastrophic outcome", accusing the PM of "running down the clock to force a choice between her damaging deal and no-deal".

"The Prime Minister says that keeping no deal on the table strengthens her hand in the negotiations.  How she is able to cling to that outdated and failed proposition is a matter of amazement to many - and it is certainly not the case that it is doing us any good now".

He said a no-deal Brexit risks a "long term undermining of our economy" on a scale "not seen since deindustrialisation".

UKIP's Neil Hamilton attacked Theresa May's Brexit deal - saying that it was an "insult" to those who believe in parliamentary sovereignty – and he did not believe that she ever accepted the result of the 2016 referendum.

"I don't believe that Theresa May actually ever accepted that decision, any more than the Welsh Government accepts it, any more than the Scottish Government accepts it.

"What we've seen in the last two and a half years is a calculated deceit not only to undermine the referendum result but to frustrate it all together".

Plaid Cymru had co-signed the main amendment in the assembly debate.

In the Scottish Parliament, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the Scottish and Welsh Governments had been "brought together by our dismay - bordering now on despair - at the UK Government's handling of Brexit".

She said that the Brexit process should be extended "long enough to enable a better path to be taken" - either a compromise exit which would keep the UK in the single market and customs union, or her preference of a second EU referendum.

A UK Government spokesman said: "An orderly Brexit is in the UK's best interests and the best way to achieve that is for MPs of all parties to support the Prime Minister's deal.  "The deal is a good one for Wales, Scotland and the whole of the UK - it delivers the result of the referendum, gives us a close future partnership with the EU, and guarantees citizens' rights.  Refusing to support the Prime Minister's deal simply makes a damaging 'no deal' more likely."

UK Parliament will debate ending in the Prime Minister’s promised vote to delay Brexit if they cannot agree on her deal - as it stands in the meaningful vote in a week’s time.

AMs will debate a motion on Tuesday saying leaving without a deal would be "completely unacceptable" and the withdrawal should be paused.

Mr Drakeford said: "The purpose of all of that is to try to - one more time - get over to the UK government the views of devolved administrations, that we cannot sign up to a proposition in which we would leave the European Union without a deal."

At a press conference on Monday, Mr Drakeford predicted the latest round of talks in Brussels would be unlikely to satisfy hardline Conservative Brexiteers in the House of Commons.

After months of wrangling, Labour's leadership in Westminster recently said it would support another Brexit referendum.

Mr Drakeford said: "When I have been out knocking doors and talking to people who voted to leave the European Union... I do not myself detect an enormous groundswell of people believing that they have changed their mind about that.

"But they certainly tell you that they did not think that this chaotic, incomplete, Tory-dominated Brexit - they certainly didn't expect it turn out this way."

Scottish Government constitutional relations secretary Michael Russell said: "The prime minister's deal will cause major, lasting damage to jobs, living standards and public services such as the NHS and should be voted down."

Meanwhile, a UK Government spokesman repeated the mantra that: "An orderly Brexit is in the UK's best interests and the best way to achieve that is for MPs of all parties to support the prime minister's deal."

Speaking at a press conference, Drakeford said he believed the rest of Europe and the world had understood the Brexit process would be difficult.   But he said this goodwill was running out - "It's in no doubt at all to me that the reputation of the UK, and the UK Government particularly, has been badly tarnished in the most recent weeks.

“Up until now there has been quite a lot of understanding on the part of the EU continuing members that Brexit was a difficult business and that the UK Government was to be given as much latitude as could be found to make its way through those difficulties."

References

https://news.gov.scot/news/joint-statement-by-the-first-ministers-of-scotland-and-wales-eu-exit-debate

Press Release as Scotland and Wales “unite to voice dismay at UK Government’s approach”.

“Today, for the first time in the 20-year history of devolution, the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament, voted simultaneously to oppose a damaging no deal Brexit.

“The vast majority of Members across both Chambers voted in agreement that a no-deal outcome would be completely unacceptable - and that an extension to Article 50 is the best way forward to protect Wales, Scotland and the UK as a whole.

“No-deal would mean not just probable short term chaos, but also very real and long-term structural damage to our economy. Damage which would mean fewer jobs, lower wages and less tax revenue.

“The motions in both the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales also re-iterated opposition to the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister - which would do significant damage to both countries.

“This united and historic step was taken to send the clearest possible message to the UK Government and Westminster that this reckless course of action must stop now.

“We take little comfort from the sequence of votes planned to take place in the House of Commons next week, when a vote on extending Article 50 will be held only after another attempt to browbeat Members of Parliament into supporting the Prime Minister’s deal and a vote to support no deal.

“We are just 24 days away from crashing out of the EU. The Prime Minister’s attempt to run down the clock must be resisted at all costs.

“Today [Tuesday 5 March 2019] we have come together to set out our clear opposition to the actions being taken by the UK Government.

“Next week the Prime Minister and the UK Parliament must show they have listened, rule out no deal at any time and request an immediate extension of Article 50.”