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Think again on Brexit, Jones urges May

Credit: ITV News

Carwyn Jones says he has 'a great deal of fellow-feeling' for Theresa May as a leader managing the 'prejudices' of her party, but says she must put the country's interests first when it comes to Brexit.

In a speech in London, the First Minister urged the Prime Minister to 'go back to the drawing board' in negotiations with the European Union.

He was speaking at an event in King's College arranged by the organisation 'the UK in a Changing Europe.'

Carwyn Jones warned that the UK Government appears to be on course to a 'catastrophic no-deal Brexit'. But he says there is an alternative:

It is to go back to the drawing board. Rub out the red lines, and argue for a dynamic and positive relationship with the Single Market.

A solution where the UK makes a positive commitment to working with the EU27 to retain alignment with the Single Market as a regulatory space; and a new, durable, Customs Union with the EU

– Carwn Jones AM, First Minister

But he says that requires a different approach to the negotiations from Theresa May.

But, if we are to achieve the right Brexit outcome, we need a different approach to the negotiations. Rather than acting as cheer-leaders for populist attacks on the core principles of the EU, we need to provide reassurance that we respect the rights of the EU to safeguard the coherence of the Single Market which we did so much to create.

Which leads me to the final, and no doubt for Mrs May, the most difficult barrier to changing course in the way I have advocated: the problem of managing her own party.

Here I have a great deal of fellow-feeling for the Prime Minister.

As a leader, juggling responsibility to do what is right for your country, on the basis of the evidence of what will work and what is do-able, with the views, interests, sometimes prejudices of your own party, is not easy.

But, Brexit is the greatest challenge in peacetime to this country for generations. Get it wrong and it will take decades to make good the damage.

This is not ‘project fear’ part 2: just the uncertainty about the Brexit outcome has caused our growth rate to plummet to the lowest of the large economies when two years ago it was at the top of the league.

The Bank of England thinks our economy is already smaller to the tune of at least £20 billion than it would have been.

As a country we will survive even the hardest Brexit – but with lower growth, lower investment, fewer jobs, lower incomes, less money for investment in public services than needs to be the case. That is what the Government’s own figures conclusively show.

This ought to be incentive enough for the Prime Minister to think again. Last year’s General Election was a fundamental rejection of a hard Brexit, and it is time to acknowledge the will of the people in 2017 just as honourably as we do the 2016 vote.

– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister