Disagreement has emerged over the significance of Welsh Assembly Members supporting an amendment to a Plaid Cymru motion on membership of the Single Market after leaving the EU. Welsh Labour AMs voted with the Welsh Conservatives in altering the motion so it only advocates access to the Single Market, which Plaid Cymru claim demonstrates that the Assembly does not support remaining in the Single Market.
The influence of the Welsh Assembly on Brexit negotiations could become a source of contention: despite 52.5% of Wales voting to leave, Cardiff University calculated that the country receives a net annual benefit of £245 million from EU membership. The reluctance – or inability – of the UK Government to honour a commitment to replace that funding beyond 2020 will fuel calls to prioritise Wales’s interests, but difficulty in agreeing on an ideal Brexit scenario will complicate matters. The final motion passed by the Assembly read:
“[The Assembly] notes the importance of access to the EU Single Market for the Welsh economy, calls for clarity on the Welsh Government’s position on the free movement of people between the UK and the EU, post the UK leaving the EU, welcomes the interest in establishing new trade agreements between the UK and other countries around the world, and calls on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to ensure the best deal for Wales.”
Adam Price AM, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Business, Economy and Finance, said that “Due to the way Labour have voted, David Davis’ hard Brexit policy has now been adopted by the Welsh Government” – but a spokesperson for the Cabinet Secretary for Business, Economy and Finance, Ken Skates AM, countered that the Assembly supports “continued, unfettered access to the Single Market. We have not supported hard Brexit today, nor will we ever”.