Wales politics

Brexit: AMs reject Plaid Cymru bid to oppose Article 50

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AMs have rejected a Plaid Cymru attempt to oppose the triggering of Article 50.

In a Senedd debate on Tuesday the party called for the assembly to oppose the start of the Brexit process unless assurances are given over Wales' participation in the single market.

But Labour, UKIP and the Tories rejected the move, which was only advisory and would not have affected the process.

In the vote 46 AMs were against the proposal and 10 were for.

A Conservative effort backing the white paper from the UK government on Brexit got more supporters but also failed - by 17 votes to 38.

Instead a majority of AMs - 38 for and 18 against - backed a Plaid-Labour motion that noted the UK government intended to trigger Article 50 but did not oppose it happening.

The motion demanded consultation on the Brexit negotiations and any final deal.

Despite Labour's opposition to the Plaid move, education secretary and Liberal Democrat AM Kirsty Williams voted to oppose the triggering of Article 50.

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Media captionPlaid Cymru's Steffan Lewis says it is only appropriate that AMs express a view on Article 50

The vote followed a debate on a joint Labour-Plaid Cymru Brexit white paper that called for continued participation in the single market.

Last week, Plaid Cymru MPs joined SNP and 47 Labour MPs in voting against giving UK government ministers powers to start the process in the Commons.

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru leader, told the debate that her party "has refused to give the UK government a blank cheque to trigger article 50".

She said UK ministers had "failed to set out a detailed plan" and that the white paper they had published "was a document full of contradictions and we still don't know what Brexit means".

'Result has to be respected'

Seven Welsh Labour MPs were among those rebelling in the House of Commons against Jeremy Corbyn's whip on the Article 50 bill last week, but no similar act took place in the Senedd.

Carwyn Jones, first minister, told the debate: "We cannot and should not try to block those negotiations beginning.

"That after all is what the referendum was about and the result has to be respected."

UKIP group leader Neil Hamilton said Brexit was an "opportunity for us, not a threat".

"It's ours to make the best of or the worst of. If we go into the negotiations and we go into the future with the spirit of pessimism... then of course we will not get the best out of it."

Image caption Andrew RT Davies said politicians "need to enact what the people sent us here to achieve"

Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative leader, said: "There was a key decision made here in Wales and the rest of the UK that needs to be respected.

"We as politicians need to enact what the people sent us here to achieve."

After the vote a spokesman for Kirsty Williams said she "fully supports the Welsh Government's Brexit white paper that would ensure the best possible deal for Wales."

But she added that her party strongly believes "that the UK government must commit to securing Britain's membership of the single market ahead of triggering Article 50".

'Respect'

Before the debate UKIP called the Plaid amendment "disgraceful". A spokesman for the group called on the party to "to respect the wishes of the Welsh people".

Wales voted to leave the EU in the UK-wide referendum last June.

In response to the criticism Plaid's Steffan Lewis said that it was "disrespectful to say that the national parliament of our country shouldn't express a view on the major issue of the day".

The Supreme Court ruled in January that the Welsh Assembly had no legal right to be consulted on the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would start the process for the UK to leave the EU.

Meanwhile a Plaid Cymru bid to force the UK government to report to the assembly on how Brexit would result in lost EU funding for Wales failed in the House of Commons on Monday night.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards tried to amend the bill to trigger Article 50, saying it was "the biggest job-killing act in Welsh economic history".

"It may be short but it's loaded, loaded with a Brexit that pays no regard to the promises made during the Vote Leave campaign," he told MPs, referring to a pledge to replace lost EU grants with UK government cash.

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