Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood today unveiled a 64-page paper calling for the UK to remain in the EU’s Single Market and to continue the bloc’s freedom of movement rules.
This is despite the Prime Minister ruling out both in a major speech unveiling her Brexit plans last week.
Launching the Welsh Government’s paper in Westminster this morning, Mr Jones suggested the UK could push for a future relationship to the EU like Norway’s.
This would involve the UK becoming a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) in order to achieve “full and unfettered access to the Single Market”, the paper states.
The document, which is backed by three parties within the Welsh Assembly, also calls for freedom of movement of people to be linked to employment.
This might see EU migrants only being allowed into Britain if they have a job offer prior to arrival in the UK or “the ability to secure an offer within a short time of arrival in the country”, the paper adds.
Attacking the Prime Minister’s blueprint for Britain to quit the Single Market and place restrictions on the numbers of EU nationals coming to the UK, Ms Wood said: “No single politician has the right to decide we should follow a hard Brexit.”
Ms Wood insisted her Plaid Cymru party “value” EU immigration rules, adding: “We do not accept free movement is a problem.”
The Supreme Court will tomorrow rule on whether Mrs May requires the prior consent of Parliament to trigger Article 50 and EU divorce talks, while there is a chance judges could also tell the Government it needs approval for Brexit in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies.
Welsh Labour leader Mr Jones insisted he is not trying to refight the EU referendum, in which a majority of Welsh voters backed Brexit, but sent a warning to the Prime Minister not to ignore the Welsh Government’s demands.
He said: “I don’t think the UK Government will want to go into negotiations with a public battle taking place with devolved governments.
“I’m not interested in argument, I’m interested into getting into a position where we can all agree a position before those negotiations.”
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood set out their Brexit demands
This is a kind of primal scream from those who lost the referendum and they’re trying by the back door to keep us in the EU
Ukip's Neil Hamilton
Ms Wood suggested Plaid Cymru could push for greater Welsh devolution or even independence if the UK Government ignored her party’s concerns.
She said: “Plaid Cymru is already working on a plan B in the event this is rejected, we’ve got contingency plans that we’re already looking at because protecting Wales’ national interest is our top priority and if we can’t do it through this process then we’ll look at all other options.”
The pair also defended the release of their Brexit plan nearly a week after Mrs May had ruled out their key demands on the Single Market and immigration, explaining they had been looking to attract the widest support possible for the plan in the Welsh Assembly.
May's Brexit speech: Europe reacts
Tue, January 17, 2017
Politicians and celebrities tweet their reaction as Theresa May unveils her 12 point plan for Britain leaving the EU.
1 of 9
The British Prime Minister Delivers Her Brexit Speech
Neil Hamilton, Ukip’s leader in Wales, rubbished the Welsh Government’s paper as a “collection of soundbites”.
He told Express.co.uk: “This is a kind of primal scream from those who lost the referendum and they’re trying by the back door to keep us in the EU.”
Mr Hamilton, a member of the Welsh Assembly, insisted the paper “failed to answer the question that mattered most in the referendum campaign about immigration”.
He said: “Leanne Wood doesn’t seem to even understand the nature of the problem, which is depression of wages at the bottom of the income scale.
“There is no plan in here for controlling immigration at all.
“The Norwegian model means that people have the right to come here to look for work as well as to accept job offers which have already been made.”
Attacking the paper's “preposterous” suggestion a so-called ‘hard’ Brexit will lead to an eight to 10 per cent fall in UK GDP, the former Tory MP added: “It’s a nonsense. It’s mainly an attempt to sabotage the Government’s negotiating strategy and save their face.”
Mr Hamilton suggested it is “up to the EU” to outline what Brexit will look like and whether they want to continue the current free trade arrangement between the UK and the Continent.
He said: “It’s up to the EU, they’re the ones who have to tell us what’s their plan. Our standpoint is the status quo. If they want to change the status quo, it’s for them to say what to.”
Ukip's Wales leader Neil Hamilton attacked the Welsh Government's paper
Labour's Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda and a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said: “A majority of Welsh people voted for Brexit, but they did not vote for a Brexit that puts jobs and growth at risk.
“This report outlines a sensible, pragmatic approach which will respect the wishes of the people of Wales while retaining the EU trade and EU investment that support so many thousands of Welsh jobs.
“If the Government are serious about protecting industry and jobs in Wales, they will keep the UK in the single market, rather than leaving with no trade deal at all and imposing destructive barriers on Welsh exports to Europe.”