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Election manifesto: Will Tories today clarify their Brexit aims?

Byline: Dafydd Wigley Former Plaid MP writes for the Daily Post

HOWEVER people voted on Brexit, today's Conservative manifesto matters. Election manifestos underpin the democratic contract between voters and government. Manifesto pledges give Government legitimacy.

Mrs May has called this snap election to get electoral approval for her EU negotiating objectives. So we need to know today what they are!

Extreme Brexiters fear back-tracking from her initial position - "No deal is better than a bad deal" - and may vote UKIP.

Moderate "leavers" - who see "No deal" as the worst possible outcome - voted "out" last June, but not at any price.

Many Tory business-people backed remain; and could flip to the Lib-Dems who yesterday promised a second referendum.

Today's Tory manifesto must specify exactly what the Government seeks from Brexit negotiations. Otherwise it negates the purpose of this election.

Labour's manifesto, published on Tuesday, glibly states that "A Labour government will put the National Interest first". without saying what Brexit terms fulfil that ambition.

Plaid Cymru's manifesto regretfully accepts the political reality that Britain will leave the EU. It warns that without safeguards, Brexit could undermine Wales' economy.

Europe is the key market for our manufacturers and farmers. If such exports were subject to tariffs, Welsh jobs would be at risk.

A hard Brexit - with no agreement for Single Market participation - would sever our links with our closest trading partners. Wales needs barrier-free access to Europe's market as a negotiating priority.

Labour ducked that challenge at Westminster. There was a chance to build this into the Brexit Bill, on 7th February. However Welsh Labour MPs (with six honourable exceptions) followed Jeremy Corbyn's lead and abstained.

When former Labour MP Peter Hain and I tabled a Lords amendment to require the Government to retain Single Market participation, Labour front-bench peers voted with the Tories to defeat us.

So it's hypocritical for Carwyn Jones to generate his own election pledges. It's from Corbyn, not Carwyn, that Welsh Labour MPs take their orders.

Who will defend Wales if the Tory Brexit package undermines our manufacturing, farming, tourism, and university sectors? Who will insist that the annual PS680m Wales gets from EU funds, will be replaced by the Treasury? Who will demand that powers returned from Brussels aren't purloined by Westminster, but - when relevant to devolved functions - are repatriated to Wales? In short, who stands up for Wales? If the Tory manifesto pledges top priority to retaining barrier-free access to EU markets, that would be welcome.

If it also undertakes to replace every brass farthing Wales loses from EU funding, commits to a fairer financial settlement for devolved functions like Health and Education, and promises that Wales can develop its own policy on matters best decided in Wales - that would be significant.

But if Mrs May fails today to specify unambiguously her Government's Brexit intentions, then voters of all political leanings have every right to regard this election as political opportunism rather than legitimising a mandate; and vote accordingly.

Whichever way they voted last June, people should view this election as the last chance to get the best deal for Wales in the post-Brexit world.
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 18, 2017
Words:520
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