Matt Smith Conservative campaigner and former Welsh Tory Assembly candidate wrote the following article for BrexitCentral:
The leadership of Welsh Labour passed from Carwyn Jones to Mark Drakeford after he beat Vaughan Gething and the peer and former MEP Eluned Morgan in a three-way contest. All three contenders for the position of Wales’s First Minister are typical of Welsh Labour’s delusional continuity Remain tendency.
Despite representing Leave-supporting areas of Cardiff including Ely, Fairwater and Caerau, Drakeford used his first press conference to announce the Welsh Labour Government would campaign for Remain in the event of a second EU referendum. He has called for a “second public vote” if Parliament did not back continued participation in the Single Market and “a customs union”. During the leadership election he told the New Statesmanhe is not a Unionist and does not have a strong sense of British identity, a sentiment more apposite to metropolitan Islington than Islwyn.
Left Foot Forward called the runner-up Vaughan Gething an “anti-Brexit Labour politician” out of touch with Leave-supporting Llanrumney, St Mellons, Rumney and Trowbridge in his Cardiff South and Penarth Senedd constituency. In his ‘People’s Vote’ leadership bid Gething demanded a second referendum “with a Remain option”. He told an audience it would be “wrong” and “awful” for the Welsh Government to prepare to leave the EU and wrote in the Independent that “Welsh socialists have a duty to fight [Brexit]”.
Baroness Morgan “still really hopes” Brexit does not happen, despite House of Commons Library estimates which suggest that 53% of voters across her Mid and West Wales regional list seat voted Leave.
It will irk Welsh Labour’s eurofederalists to think that the 50 pence Brexit coin will be pressed at the Royal Mint in Llantrisant. Nonplussed by their anti-Brexit machinations, Cardiff City Manager Neil Warnock spoke for Wales when he told Bluebirds fans he didn’t “know why politicians don’t do what the country wanted… They had a referendum and now we see politicians and everyone else trying to put their foot in it.”
The oligarchs are coming for Wales’ electorate whom they despise as parochial and déclassé. Over 60 Welsh MPs and AMs from Welsh Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Lib Dems, the Welsh Green Party – along with NUS Wales and some Welsh Media Bubble talking heads – recently signed a Wales for Europe letter demanding the First Minister presses the UK Government and Jeremy Corbyn to back the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ campaign.
Calling themselves ‘Welsh Europeans’, Wales’ elitist uprising claims Brexit is a “severe threat” to the people of Wales. Apparently Welsh voters cannot be trusted to decide what is in their own economic and political interests. It is as if they are ashamed of who we are.
Yet the purchase of their ‘European’ identity outside the Cardiff Bay bubble is very weak (YouGov found only 4% of Welsh respondents primarily identify as European) and highlights how out of kilter they are with Wales’ electorate, who backed Brexit in larger numbers than anything in a Welsh election for over two decades.
These are often the same discredited politicians who wanted Wales to join the European Single Currency. As part of Wales in Europe, Baroness Morgan said back in 2001 “we will pay a price if we turn our backs on this historic opportunity” to join the Eurozone. After Wales’ Brexit vote she said “people need to understand that they will pay a high price for the vote that took place last year”. She was wrong then and she is wrong now.
The Welsh Labour Government remains derelict in its preparations for Brexit. Welsh Labour Assembly Members have now backed a Senedd motion calling for preparations to commence for a second Brexit referendum if the UK does not remain in the EU’s so-called single market and a customs union – and an extension of Article 50, despite JP Morgan warning that delaying Brexit would be the ‘worst-case scenario’ for the economy leading ‘firms to choose other countries’. In the previous week, the Senedd Plenary was dominated by staged ministerial Brexit statements dubbed “Project Fear on steroids”, causing further mayhem through scaremongering.
The Welsh Environment Secretary objected to DEFRA’s Food is GREAT campaign featuring at the Royal Welsh Show and said “I don’t want to see the Union Jack on the food hall”. Her ‘Brexit in our land’ consultation has now slipped back to the summer.
And a hundred days left before Independence Day the First Minister turned down a meeting with Theresa May to discuss Brexit, instead choosing to attend a Labour fundraiser in Cardiff.
By contrast the Wales Office and UK Government have picked up the baton of Wales’ Brexit. The Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, recently launched UK Research and Innovation in Wales. The Board of Trade has announced £240 million worth of Welsh energy and infrastructure projects to global investors. And Cairns accompanied the Prime Minister on her mission to Africa championing Global Wales, unlocking opportunities for Welsh businesses and showcasing pioneering Welsh firms.
Welsh Labour’s Brexit catastrophising bears no relation to Wales’ real economy where the dragon spirits are flying high. HMRC figures in September showed a 4.2% increase in Welsh exports to £16.6 billion compared to the previous quarter as Welsh businesses discover new export opportunities outside the EU.
There have been major votes of confidence in Wales’ industrial and manufacturing workforce. Hans Fischer of Tata is upbeat about the post-Brexit future of the UK’s biggest steelworks at Port Talbot. The Belgian Solvay Group opened a major facility for aerospace adhesives at Wrexham. Raytheon UK will create hundreds of new jobs at its North Wales hub to service the RAF’s shadow aircraft fleet. Aston Martin’s new St Athan factory is set to create hundreds of jobs. And Europe’s leading commercial vehicle accessory manufacturer Rhino Product UK built a new factory in Deeside.
Wales for Europe Chairman Geraint Talfan Davies told the New European that Wales would not be the “odd one out again” among the devolved nations in a ‘People’s Vote’. Yet Drakeford should think twice before endorsing the Wales for Europe letter. November’s Welsh Political Barometer (YouGov for UTV/Cardiff University) found opposition to a second referendum in Wales up four points to 49%. And August’s ComRes Brexit Express poll found that across Leave voting Welsh seats that returned a Labour MP in 2017, 61% think we should respect the result.
Speaking candidly, Baroness Morgan told WalesOnline the reason why Stronger In’s campaign during the EU Referendum in Wales failed – in spite of near full spectral dominance – was because “we didn’t listen enough to people”. She went on to tell Fabians Cymru “We [Welsh Labour] can no longer take the votes of our traditional working class for granted.”
Rhodri Morgan once described Wales as a “blue collar nation”. The workers of Wales optimistically voted for Brexit hoping that leaving the EU would bring better prospects, opportunities and more control. By contrast, Welsh Labour’s pro-Brussels tendency makes it look like an oligarchic party for those with privilege, money and power who seek to take hope from those who have none.
Welsh Labour politicians have a duty to deliver on the will of the Welsh people expressed through their Brexit mandate. Yet they have not once reached out to work with those on the Leave side of the debate, instead working in contempt of Wales’ voters to derail Brexit with confused calls for both a General Election and a ‘People’s Vote’. Increasingly they seem a class apart. If they will not respect the result then the people of Wales will have to tell them again and tell them louder.
Matt Smith is a Welsh Tory who has stood as a Conservative candidate for Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. He was a Policy Analyst at Vote Leave. He writes for ConservativeHome and BrexitCentral. You can read more about Welsh politics at www.mattsmith.org.uk/news.