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At least, give us what was promised – An open letter to Welsh Conservative MPs

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walesforeurope

You have now been representing a Welsh seat in this Parliament, as a member of the governing party, for more than six months – eight of you for the first time. They have been momentous months in which the precariousness of both our physical and economic existence must have impressed itself on you as never before. 

From your interactions with your constituents you will know first hand that this crisis has revealed an abundance of resilience and courage in many forms, while also instilling nervousness and fear and, in many places, imposing hardship and tragedy.  

You will also know as well as anyone that the danger has not passed. We may be on the way to containing this first wave of the virus but, in the absence of a vaccine, medical experts fear a second wave may occur next winter. 

Its effects are already leaving deep scars on our economy and public finances, not to mention on the education of our children, whether in schools or universities, as well as on our wider culture. Your own workload, in the constituency and Westminster, must tell you daily that nothing has escaped this pandemic’s reach, whether direct or indirect. 

This is the dark backdrop against which the country and the government is also embarked upon another momentous course of action which would have entailed considerable risks even at the best of times – our departure from the European Union. The decision to leave has been taken. We have long fought against it, but now accept that it is going to happen. 

But we do ask that you and your colleagues take stock of the wide-ranging consequences of this unprecedented health crisis when assessing the time needed to negotiate as smooth a withdrawal as possible from the EU, especially as the roll call of redundancies – Airbus, GE, Celtic Manor etc. – gains momentum. 

In the last three months it cannot have been possible for the Prime Minister and other government ministers – not to mention the officials of the EU and the governments of other EU countries – to give the withdrawal process the attention it deserves. There is no blame attached to that. Lives were, literally, at stake. 

Nevertheless, the Government has decided not to seek an extension of the Transition Period, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. But sticking to an artificial deadline of 1 January 2021 does not release the Government from the promises made to the electorate in its 2019 General Election manifesto, the obligations of the Withdrawal Agreement or principles it agreed with the EU in the Political Declaration. 

Your electors will surely find it hard to understand, or forgive, if clinging to an impossible negotiating timetable were to end in a sub-optimal deal, or even no deal at all, when more time and patience might yet produce an outcome that matched all these promises. 

This must surely require that you hold your own government to the following: 

 

  • to negotiate an ambitious, wide-ranging free trade agreement with the EU and, therefore, not to contemplate leaving the EU without a deal

 

  • not to allow trade negotiations, the Agriculture Bill or any other measure to compromise our high environmental, animal welfare and food standards 

 

  • to ensure that there is no erosion of our high standards on human rights, workers’ rights and consumer and environmental protections

 

  • and to ensure that trade deals do not transgress or erode the rights of the devolved governments

 

We urge you and your colleagues to stand by the pledges that you made to your constituents at the last election – to give us what you promised. 

The Political Declaration sets out a negotiating agenda that would be daunting, even without the intervention of the Covid pandemic. If you judge that it needs more time to deliver on those promises, it is your duty, even now, to urge your government to take it. 

As an MP representing a Welsh constituency you will know just how much Wales has at stake. It has sat for too long at the bottom of economic league tables in the UK. Fighting Covid is taking an extra toll on its people and businesses. It cannot now afford new burdens. We urge you to protect your own electors and the country against broken promises and rash decisions, taken against self-imposed deadlines, even while the Covid bell tolls.  

 

Yours sincerely, 

Helen Wales (Chair) Wales for Europe

Mark Brenchley (Communicator) Brecon & Radnor for Europe 

Dr Charles Smith & Robert Evans (Joint Chairs) – Bridgend for Europe 

Neil Schofield-Hughes (Chair) Cardiff for Europe

Mark Sheppard (Organiser) Carmarthenshire for Europe

Iwan ap Dafydd (Joint Lead) Ceredigion for Europe

Aled Canter (Chairman) Denbighshire for Europe

Simon Jones (Treasurer) Flintshire for Europe

Belen Martin-Caravaca (Secretary) Gwent for Europe

Martin Hughes (Convenor) Gwynedd for Europe

Padraig John O’Brien (Organiser) Merthyr for Europe

Ceri Young (Representative) Neath Port Talbot for Europe

Alistair Cameron (Chair) Pembrokeshire for Europe

Paul Willner (Chair) Swansea for Europe

Sally Stephenson (Co-founder) Vale for Europe

Shaun Thomas (Chair) Valleys for Europe

Geraint Talfan Davies (Exec Committee Board Member) Wales for Europe

Phil Dore (Exec Committee Board Member) Wales for Europe

Peter Frederick Gilbey (Exec Committee Board Member) Wales for Europe

Neal Cole (Chairman) Wrexham for Europe

Gareth W. Roberts (Group Convenor) Ynys Mon/ Anglesey for Europe

14 July 2020 

 

The 2019 Conservative Manifesto, 

and the Political Declaration

Meeting the promises made on Brexit in the 2019 Conservative manifesto and dealing with the mammoth agenda outlined in the Political Declaration, would have taxed the energies of any government, even undistracted by other matters, during a full five year term. To achieve all these ends within 12 months, and in the face of an onslaught by a worldwide pandemic is to attempt the impossible. The danger is that we will end up with either no deal at all or, at best, a deal that is drastically reduced in its scope, leaving a trail of loose ends and uncertainty for our businesses and society as a whole. 

The following is a reminder of the nature and scale of the promises and commitments the UK Government has made.  

 

WHAT YOUR PARTY SAID

THE 2019 MANIFESTO

 

  • “We have a great new deal that is ready to go.” 

 

  • “With a new Parliament and a sensible majority we can get that deal through. It is oven-ready.” 

 

  • “Investment is waiting to come into the country.” 

 

  • “Get Brexit Done – and we will see a pent-up wave of investment into our country.”

 

  • “We aim to have 80 per cent of UK trade covered by free trade agreements within the next three years….These will be negotiated in parallel with our EU deal .” 

 

  • “In all our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.” 

 

  •  “The future relationship will be one that allows us to….raise standards in areas like workers’ rights, animal welfare, agriculture.”

 

  • “We will negotiate a trade agreement….In parallel we will legislate to ensure high standards  of workers’ rights, environmental protection and consumer rights.”  

 

  • “One of the great opportunities of Brexit is the chance to lead the world in the quality of our food, agriculture and land management…..”

 

  • “Boris Johnson has set out an agenda for levelling up every part of the UK – not just investing in our great towns and cities, as well as rural and coastal areas, but giving them more control of how that investment is made. In the 21st century we need to get away from the idea that “Whitehall knows best’….”

 

  • “We remain committed to devolving power to people and places across the UK.” 

 

  • “The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will used to bind together the United Kingdom, tackling inequality and deprivation in each of our four nations. It will replace the overly bureaucratic EU Structural Funds – and not only be better targeted at the UK’s specific needs, but at a minimum match the size of those funds in each nation.”

 

  • “…we will guarantee the current annual budget to farmers in every year of the next Parliament.” 

 

  • “We will maintain funding for fisheries across the UK’s nations…”

 

  •  “We will continue to collaborate internationally with the EU on scientific research, including Horizon.” 

 

  • “We want EU citizens who came to live in the UK before Brexit to stay – and we have committed absolutely to guaranteeing their existing rights and ensuring they feel a welcomed and valued part of our country….”

 

The Political Declaration

  • “….this declaration establishes the parameters of an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation with a comprehensive and balanced Free Trade Agreement at its core, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of cooperation.” 

 

  • “…the Parties are agreed that the future relationship should be approached with high ambition with regard to its scope and depth….”

 

  • The future relationship should incorporate the United Kingdom’s continued commitment to respect the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)….” 

 

  • “Noting the intended breadth and depth of the future relationship and the close bond between their citizens, the Parties will establish general principles, terms and conditions for the United Kingdom’s participation in Union programmes, in areas such as science and innovation, youth, culture and education, overseas development and external action, defence capabilities, civil protection and space. 

 

  • “…the Parties agree to develop an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership. This partnership will be comprehensive, encompassing a Free Trade Agreement, as well as wider sectoral cooperation where it is in the mutual interest of both Parties. It will be underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition….” 

 

  • The Parties envisage having an ambitious trading relationship on goods on the basis of a Free Trade Agreement, with a view to facilitating the ease of legitimate trade. 

 

  • “…with a view to facilitating the movement of goods across borders, the Parties envisage comprehensive arrangements that will create a free trade area, combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation….”

 

  • “The economic partnership should through a Free Trade Agreement ensure no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors with appropriate and modern accompanying rules of origin, and with ambitious customs arrangements….” 

 

  • “The Parties will put in place ambitious customs arrangements, in pursuit of their overall objectives. In doing so, the Parties envisage making use of all available facilitative arrangements and technologies…” 

 

  • “Such facilitative arrangements and technologies will also be considered in alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

 

  • “The Parties should conclude ambitious, comprehensive and balanced arrangements on trade in services and investment in services and non-services sectors….The Parties should aim to deliver a level of liberalisation in trade in services well beyond the Parties’ World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments and building on recent Union Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). 

 

  • “The Parties should also develop appropriate arrangements on those professional qualifications which are necessary to the pursuit of regulated professions, where in the Parties’ mutual interest.” 

In addition to the above, the Political Declaration envisages pursuing agreement in the following areas. It is a formidable list, and given the constraints on negotiating time imposed by the Covid pandemic, together with assessments of progress to date,  it is scarcely credible that they can all be achieved within the timescale insisted upon by the UK Government. 

 

Financial Services

Digital commerce

Capital movement and payments

Intellectual property

Public procurement

Mobility 

Aviation

Road Transport

Rail transport

Maritime transport

Electricity and gas networks

Civil nuclear

Carbon pricing

Fishing

Global cooperation

Law enforcement

Judicial cooperation

Data exchange

Anti-money laundering

Counter terrorism financing

Foreign policy

Security

Defence

Consultation and cooperation

Sanctions

Intelligence exchanges

Development cooperation

Cyber security

Civil protection

Health security

Illegal migration