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UK More Divided Than Ever

Today the UK is more divided than ever over leaving the EU.

While the UK Government got support and approval for its Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU the devolved parliaments had quite a different reaction.

Mark Drakeford, the Leader of the Welsh Government, which is a Labour led administration, described it as a ‘thin’ and ‘disappointing’ deal. On the UK leaving the internationally renowned ERASMUS+ scheme, Drakeford said it was ‘cultural vandalism.’

He said:

“The failure to include access to the Single Market for UK services, means businesses will have to rely on 27 different sets of national rules to trade across the EU, where they have one today.

“For our citizens, it means queues at airports; visas for longer visits; more expensive mobile phone calls and fewer people from the EU able to work in our health and social care system, looking after people in need of help.

“For our young people, it means the cultural vandalism of cutting them off from the Erasmus plus programme, which people from Wales have done so much to shape and foster. It also denies them a future in which they can freely live and work across the entire European continent.”

In Scotland, Labour members of the Scottish Parliament also rejected the Brexit deal. Confusingly in the UK Parliament Labour’s only remaining Scottish MP voted with the Conservative Government to approve the deal which his party in both Scotland and Wales have described as being so damaging to the economy.

In the Scottish Parliament, only the Conservatives supported the Brexit agreement which will see free access to fishing waters for EU fleets (and those with reciprocal agreements like Norway) till 2026. Scotland’s excellent seed potato sector will be hit really hard by this deal and of course all trade will now have a significant increase in documentation. As we saw over the last few weeks, delays at ports will be considerable.

Northern Ireland has been granted special status by the EU and the UK in an attempt to protect the Good Friday Agreement which is an international Peace agreement. The Irish Government has also decided to cover the costs of students in the North who wish to take part in ERASMUS+. The farming and fishing sector in Northern Ireland will be able to trade with the EU as they did before giving them a tremendous advantage over the rest of the UK.

Arelene Foster , who leads the Northern Ireland Assembly, is a member of the DUP, which fully supported leaving the EU, however, she voiced her concerns over the trade deal and informed the assembly that the DUP members in the House of Commons would be voting against Boris Johnson’s deal.

The issue for the DUP is that Northern Ireland has now diverged from what applies in the UK.

Arlene Foster said:

“Our guiding principle throughout the period of exit negotiations has been that Northern Ireland’s place within the internal market of the United Kingdom must not be undermined and that Northern Ireland must continue to enjoy unfettered access to and from Great Britain. Whilst we accept that the agreement brings about zero-tariff and quota arrangements between the United Kingdom and the EU, thus removing many goods from attracting tariffs between GB and Northern Ireland, the fact remains that the agreement does not assist Northern Ireland in the context of having to operate under the Northern Ireland protocol.”

The Assembly of Northern Ireland vote was split 47,38 but finally rejected the deal.

That this Assembly takes note of the trade and cooperation agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union; rejects Brexit, in line with the democratically expressed view of the people of Northern Ireland; notes that this deal will mean new barriers to trade and other negative consequences for Northern Ireland’s economy and society; and calls for the implementation of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, positive efforts to make arrangements work for all the people of Northern Ireland, and for this Assembly to decline legislative consent to the British Government to impose the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, their inferior trade deal and their Brexit against the will of the people of Northern Ireland

The Welsh Assembly rejected the Brexit trade deal by 28 to 24.

The Senedd stated that it:

Regrets that it is not in a position to determine legislative consent, given that the Bill has been provided to the Senedd at very short notice and contains provisions capable of impacting on the devolution settlement.

Regrets that this damaging deal does not reflect the aspirations of the Senedd as reflected in ‘Securing Wales’ Future’ and ‘The Future EU Relationship: Priorities for Wales’ but nevertheless, accepts that this deal is less damaging than leaving the transition period without a trade deal.

The vote in the Scottish Parliament which also rejected the Brexit trade deal saw only the Tory MSPs supporting the deal.

The vote was 92 to 30 with Alex Neil of the SNP, who was a Leave supporter, abstaining.

After the vote, Michael Russell, Constitutional Secretary in the Scottish Government said:

“The Scottish Parliament has backed this government’s position: saying No to a hard Brexit deal that will do enormous damage to our economy, our society and to the opportunities of this and future generations.

“But, as it has done so throughout the Brexit process the UK Government will ignore the Scottish Parliament. This means in two days’ time Scotland will be forced out of the European Single Market and Customs Union, hitting the economy and jobs at the worst possible time.

“The Scottish Government will now do everything we can to mitigate the damage that will be caused.

“And we will continue to stick by our principles, our values and our beliefs – and we will stick by the people of Scotland, who have opposed Brexit at every turn.

“It is therefore more important than ever that people in Scotland have the right to choose the best deal of all – a future as an independent country and equal partner inside the European Union.”

This means that the parliaments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all rejected the Trade Deal with only the UK Parliament voting for it. It highlights as never before that the UK is completely divided. Three of the nations which make up the state have voted against the deal but it will go ahead anyway as they are completely outvoted in the House of Commons.

Power devolved is indeed Power retained.

The European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, as it is officially termed in the UK Parliament will be enacted once it receives Royal Assent.

The vote in the House of Commons was overwhelmingly in favour with 521 to 73. Most Labour MPs supported the Tory Government.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

Related article: Fishing- The Good, The Bad, And What Is Yet To Come

3 replies »

  1. Labours position on this was disappointing but it rather reflects their overall confusion on all matters European .

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