A Message from Derek Vaughan on the EU Referendum
Friday 24th June 2016 will go down in time as one of the bleakest days in Welsh history. While I respect the decision of the majority of the Welsh people to vote to leave the EU I fear in time the full tragedy of this decision will become very clear. I’d like to thank everyone who fought their hardest for the ideals of the European Union and to keep within that Union. There are 3 problems that we in Wales must now address. The cost of leaving, the reasons that leave won and our future.
Firstly, the cost of the decision that has been made. We need to be clear about what has been lost and what is now on the line. Make no mistake, that includes Welsh jobs and investment in Wales. Secondly, I would like to address the reasons that I feel that we lost the referendum campaign. These are complex and cannot be attributed to a single individual. That said I stand by my assertion that Mr Cameron should not have offered the referendum in the first place, it has been divisive and toxic, in no small part due to the tactics that the leave campaign successfully deployed.
During this campaign the charge of scaremongering was often levelled at the Remain campaign. As the pound crashes and the markets begin to drag it is becoming increasingly clear this will damage investment in Wales and Welsh jobs, it appears that several potential investors in Port Talbot are now backing away from the plant and that as many economists predicted we face an homemade recession. Wales will lose billions in future structural funds that we had worked hard to secure. I hope that I can work with Carwyn Jones and the rest of the Welsh Labour Government in the Assembly to ensure that we can secure at least some of that money and continue the incredible work that EU funded projects have done.
It is shameful that the Westminster Government has not had any plan prepared for this eventuality. The Conservatives have crashed the car and their now looking to sneak away from the scene of the accident, with no plan of how to get us back on the road. It is even more appalling that Gove, Johnson and Farage should be so self-serving and short sighted that they had no plan for the path that they advocated. But, it is now up to all of us to unite to protect Welsh jobs to the best of our ability.
The reasons for the victory of the leave campaign are very complex. We failed to address voters feeling that everything in their lives was so bad that they would give anything else a try to improve things on the basis that it could not get any worse. We failed to address the existential despair that exists in too many Welsh towns. 20 years of anti-migration and anti-EU propaganda from the Conservatives and the right wing press gave them an easy target, immigrants and the EU.
People did not realise what the EU had done for them, and we must all hold some responsibility for that and believed myths about people from the EU getting all the best houses and taking all the jobs. David Cameron however had 6 years to use his position as Prime Minister to show some leadership and make it clear that this was not true. Instead he fanned the flames, talking about “swarms” of migrants. The medium through which the leave campaign exploited the ground that the press and the Tories were bare-faced lies and promises that are already unravelling.
Throughout the campaign their lies were shot down. Nissan are suing them for claiming that they backed Brexit. Michael Gove lied about the EU forcing his father's fishing business to close, meeting the indignation of his father. They claimed that John Barnes backed Brexit, when he did not. They produced an EU army that was never going to happen. They claimed Turkey was about to join the EU when they knew that it was not.
Now, the big lies are being uncovered. They claimed that we sent £350 million a week to the EU and this could be spent instead on the NHS. The fact that this was a lie can be seen in the fact that Ian Duncan Smith has confirmed that there will not be £350 million a week extra for the NHS. Incredibly, having said that we are “at breaking point” and that we needed to “take back control”, I now see leave campaigners on the telly claiming that immigration will not go down significantly. Given the dog whistle racism they have deployed, I fear what will happen when those who voted to drastically cut immigration realise that they were just a pawn in a Tory parlour game.
What does the future hold? The short answer is we do not know. The leave campaign had no plan, they never bothered to make one, the Government also did not make one. The Conservative Party has abandoned governing this country in a shameful abdication of responsibility perhaps never equalled in our history. They have treated this like some kind of game that they can just pick up and drop as they please. The leave campaign have no idea what our trading relationship will look like, having spent the campaign saying we will not be in the Single Market, many of them are suddenly saying that we will be. The European Parliament and Commission have been clear that access to the Single Market will be dependent on allowing the free movement of people. It is difficult to see how these two positions could be reconciled.
This has created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. We do not know when Article 50 will be triggered and our own position is as MEPs is now very uncertain, I assume that we will remain until the UK leaves, but what will our role be in the coming years? We don’t know. I only know that we must come together to face down some of the terrible forces this vote has unleashed. One of my old friends, a Cardiff Councillor has been racially abused. Racists and xenophobes have been emboldened and we need to face them down, no matter which way we voted. I hope that in that spirit of solidarity we will be able to face the uncertain future that Wales now has.