Let me start by saying that the decision we now face on this deal is not one I wanted. Having fought with my heart and soul to remain a part of the EU, I know the deal we once had as full members was the very best one for jobs, livelihoods, peace and security, the climate, rights and standards as well as our cultural and linguistic connections and relationships. This Tory hard Brexit is not in the best interests of anyone, not for Cardiff North, Wales nor the UK as a whole.
However remaining is no longer an option. This vote today is not about whether we leave or not. We lost that fight when we lost the election last year. This is about what sort of trading relationship we want with our closest friends and allies and to ensure we prevent no deal. I will be voting for this bill to provide stability and certainty to businesses and people after many months of confusion and lack of clarity and to provide a base from which to build.
But I am in no doubt as to the scale of challenge we face. This week, Charles Grant from the Centre for European Reform wrote of this Government’s stark self interest in relation to the negotiations: ‘In September 2020, a senior EU official working on Brexit said to me, with exasperation: “What is so weird about the British approach to Brexit is that when you talk to the guys in Number 10, they just don’t care about the economy; freedom from EU rules and courts is all that matters to them.”
And there you have it. Brexit was always an ideological political fantasy that was never going to deliver on its promises, prioritising a fictitious sovereignty over economics. Foregoing relationships, weakening our security, undermining rights, destroying jobs and creating any number of practical problems as we see this deal come into force over the next days, weeks and months.
Let’s be very clear. Very little has been settled by this deal. It contains many gaps and offers very little in the way of protections. It is an inadequate deal which needs rectifying and building on, repairing the damage to livelihoods and rebuilding the bridges that have needlessly been destroyed. However, it forms the basis upon which to build and the alternative no deal would be so much worse.
This Tory Government has put its own interests before those of the country, stripping a generation of the opportunities and futures they deserve. The impunity, narcissism and self-interests shown by this Government now means that this trade deal leaves the UK weaker and poorer. Although we will vote in the national interest today to reject no deal, as the opposition we will also strongly hold the Government to account for every part of this poor deal. It needs significant improvement and as a Government in waiting that is what we in Labour will seek to do.
Friends, this is not what we wanted. But sometimes there are difficult choices to be made. Today is about a binary choice and we choose to support this Bill to vote in the national interest, reject a disastrous no deal and begin forging and creating a better future. To abstain would have simply been a political tactic that serves no purpose and does nothing to support those thousands of workers desperate for a deal to save their jobs up and down this country.
I am confident that this is far from the end. I want you to work with me and to have faith in what we can achieve over time. We want to create a country that is open and inclusive, with progressive values and social, economic and climate justice at its heart. We want to be able to create Wales’ and Britain’s role and place in the world and work with our closest allies and European neighbours building ever closer alignment through our shared interests and values. From today we draw a line and begin to build the sort of future we want with the EU. The challenge is only beginning.
This is a bump in the long and intricate relationship with our European friends. Better days, closer allegiances and greater friendships will come again.