Thursday, 8 September 2016

This and that on Brexit

Tim Farron has laid down the party line on the terms of the UK's future relationship with the EU. I agree that there must be a second referendum at the end of the negotiating process. Even the people who voted "leave" - especially the people who voted "leave" - will want to be assured that the final deal reached by Mrs May and Mr Davis with the other 27 nations of the EU matches their expectations at the time of the June referendum. We have a democratic right to say yea or nay to it.

But I maintain that there is a greater need for a general election, preferably on a fairer election map, before serious negotiations start. The existing House of Commons has a built-in majority in favour of remaining in the EU. That is at odds with the (admittedly slim) majority expressed in the referendum. One or other is an aberration and we need to know which.

As to the negotiations, opposition speakers have made great play with the reluctance of the PM and David Davis to state on the record what their stance is. Of course it is poor strategy to be entirely open before going into treaty talks. For one thing, it gives the advantage to the other side if they are not equally as candid and for another there will inevitably be disappointment at the outcome. Mr Cameron failed in this respect on more than one occasion. It is actually clear from examination of LeaveEU's bullish statements what outcome they feel they can achieve: free access to the Single Market without making any monetary contribution to the EU and without accepting free movement of labour across the Channel. Readers may wish to speculate how likely all the other 27 are to agree to this and how soon we will get the £350m per week pumped into the NHS as a result.

Mr Davis in his Commons statement on Tuesday and his responses to questions thereto was careful to distinguish between membership of the Single Market (which he is most definitely against) and access to it which he is generally in favour of. I felt he was as open as he could be with a difficult brief and it was heartening to hear his promise that "Parliament will be regularly informed, updated and engaged".

Finally, Welsh economy minister Ken Skates has been quick to link to Brexit the decision by Ford UK to reduce future engine production targets in south Wales. Much as I would like to brandish in the face of Leavers more evidence of reduced investment by multi-nationals as a result of Brexit, I believe the truth is more complicated. Indeed, Ford themselves stated that the decision was down to market conditions. It is significant that management guaranteed that there would be no job losses as a result and would still be taking on workers, though not as many as previously projected. There was also a hint from an academic interviewed on the radio the other day that Ford may be clearing the decks for another new engine design. Ford is perceived to be trailing in the race for a really popular electric car - could Bridgend be in a competition to produce a new electric power train?

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