There are claims the PM will suffer from a lack of mandate
The formal negotiation of Britain’s exit from the European Union will begin today but senior Welsh figures have urged Theresa May to apply the brakes, suspend the process before lasting harm is done to the economy.
The Prime Minister has been accused of insulting the electorate by “acting as if nothing has changed” despite having lost a majority in this month’s shock election result.
Former Welsh MEP and Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd will be in Brussels this week to petition the European Parliament and urge the institution to push for a second referendum.
The 80-year-old Labour MP, re-elected with a majority of 13,238, fears that Brexit will be “catastrophic for Wales” and would like to see the two-year Article 50 process for leaving the union suspended.
She said: “I don’t think the Government is ready for it. I don’t think they have prepared enough.”
Making the case for people to have another say on whether the UK should leave the EU, she said: “People shouldn’t be ashamed of changing their mind.”
Fellow former MEP Eluned Morgan, who has served as a Shadow Foreign Minister in the Lords and is now Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, said Mrs May’s decision to press ahead with negotiations was “naive”.
She said: “I think charging into it when you know you’re not going to have a mandate from the parliament is naive... I think it would make a lot more sense for her to try and thrash out a common position across the Parliament...
“That’ what’s amazing – she is acting as if nothing has changed and it’s an insult to the electorate [but] it is also shockingly poor judgement in terms of how you negotiate.”
She would like the UK to seek a similar arrangement to Norway – which is not in the EU but has access to the single market – as a transitional stage.
Criticising Mrs May’s leadership on Brexit, she said: “I think she was an idiot to start the clock when she did. To start the clock and then call [an election] is a lesson in how not to do negotiations.
“It showed hubris, arrogance and it was taking the British public for granted.”
Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, who has been a member of the Brexit committee in the House of Commons and wants the UK to remain a full member of the single market, said there was a “clear case for delaying” the negotiations.
He argued there was evidence the UK Government was underprepared for the talks, saying: “The reality is the European Union have been preparing for this since the referendum. They have got a negotiating team who are used to negotiating agreements of this sort, especially [the] free trade aspect which is going to be absolutely key to the future prosperity of the British state.”
Mr Edwards made the case for a “four nation approach” which would ensure the Welsh Government’s voice is heard on how the UK should move forward.
He said: “I would urge the Prime Minister to rethink her approach and I would urge the Welsh Government to assert itself and defend the interests of Wales, unlike the way it’s been behaving at the moment, which is very passive.”
Welsh Ukip MEP Nathan Gill does not support calls for the negotiators to press for transitional arrangements.
Former Conservative leader William Hague has suggested the UK could remain part of the European Economic Area and continue to have access to the single market for two years as a “sensible staging post for our withdrawal”.
Mr Gill said: “I’m not happy about these transitional ideas. I don’t think they are necessary; in fact I am sure that they are not necessary.”
If transitional arrangements are put in place, he said, they should be time-limited so people know “exactly when it’s going to end and what will happen upon its ending”.
Adamant that the election result should not derail Brexit, he said: “Nothing has changed. [This] election was not a clear message to stop Brexit.”
Mr Gill also argues Mrs May should not abandon her willingness to walk away from the talks on the grounds that no deal is better than a bad deal.
He said: “You have to go into these negotiations willing to walk away otherwise you may as well just say to them, ‘Well, tell me what you’re going to do.’ You’ve got to go in there and play hardball.”
The Ukip MEP also argues that if Mrs May ceases to be PM she should be replaced by a unequivocal supporter of Brexit.
He said: “Theresa May is obviously kicking it off. I’m not sure whether she’ll be the Prime Minister to finish this because I think she’s been fatally wounded by this general election.
“If she is to be replaced then it is my and I believe every Brexiteer’s hope that a Brexit Conservative replaces her.”
Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South Conservative MP Simon Hart had no time for talk of a delay to the negotiations.
He said: “People are being irresponsible trying to make political capital out of this. It’s an important negotiation.
“It’s back to business... All these people who are coming with their synthetic outrage about whether the thing should be suspended are just doing it for their own personal advantage.
“Our job is to get on and just do the best possible deal we can with Brexit in the circumstances in which we are in – end of story...
“We need to get cracking now and stop playing childish politics with the nation’s future ”
Some of Labour’s most senior figures will gather in Wales at a public event on Saturday, June 24 to discuss Brexit 12 months on from the referendum.
Among those attending the day of discussions at Gwernyfed High School in Three Cocks near Hay-on-Wye will be led by Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, and former party leader and EU Commissioner Lord Kinnock.
Also attending will be Lord Kerr, the former Foreign Office Permanent Secretary who authored Article 50 as well as a range of academics and campaigners.
Mid and West Wales AM Ms Morgan said: “As well as an opportunity to speak about where we are on Brexit a year after the vote, speakers will give their views on the result of the recent election and how we now negotiate Britain’s exit.”
Members of the public are welcome and tickets can still be reserved at www.ticketsource.co.uk/BrexitHay17 .
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