Wales politics

Stephen Crabb 'deeply pessimistic' for Conservatives' future

Tory party logo Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Stephen Crabb said a "deeply irresponsible" chunk of the Conservative party is fomenting support for no deal.

Former Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb says he is "deeply pessimistic" for the future of the Conservatives following the Brexit process.

Mr Crabb said Brexit is a trauma "ripping right throughout our political system".

He told the BBC a "deeply irresponsible" chunk of his party is fomenting support for no deal.

On Monday the prime minister promised an enhanced Brexit role for the Welsh first minister.

Theresa May is due to meet Mark Drakeford this week.

The speech came just under a week after her deal was defeated by a historic majority in the Commons last week.

On Monday Mrs May said she would have further discussions with Northern Ireland's DUP and others on their concerns about the Irish backstop.

'Deeply irresponsible'

She had met with leaders in more pro-EU Westminster opposition parties, including Plaid Cymru and the SNP, last week, although Labour's Jeremy Corbyn had refused.

Before the statement, Mr Crabb urged such talks to continue.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Stephen Crabb said there should be a "never-ending stream" of opposition MPs in Downing Street

"I think it's a huge mistake on Jeremy Corbyn's part," Mr Crabb said. "But in terms of discussions with senior backbenchers from across the House of Commons, the prime minister, other cabinet members should be continuing with those.

"There should be a never-ending stream of Labour, Liberal Democrat, nationalist MPs coming in and out of Downing Street."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's the World at One, Mr Crabb said: "When you go outside London as I was at the weekend you hear more and more people in the street saying we just need to leave without a deal.

"I think we're in quite dangerous territory as a country where certainly a chunk of my party, a wing of my party is fomenting that kind of opinion. It's deeply, deeply irresponsible."

He added: "I'm deeply pessimistic about the party system as a whole and the Conservative Party emerging intact from this Brexit process.

"I think the long consequences for our political system, our party system, my party too, the Conservative Party - we can't foretell exactly what those will be, but I just feel this is a trauma that is ripping right throughout political system at the moment."

Former Tory minister Guto Bebb said the prime minister's strategy is "truly concerning".

The Aberconwy MP said: "I think the prime minister is clearly in danger of allowing people to claim that she is putting party before country because it looks to me that the strategy now being pursued by the prime minister is more about Conservative Party unity in the long term than what is the right thing to do about the British and Welsh economy."

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said Mrs May is "prepared to shift her position in light of the defeat last week, but we also expect the EU to look pragmatically at reasonable proposals that we plan to come up with having engaged cross party on this basis."

The Welsh Government said it hopes a meeting between Mrs May and Mr Drakeford will happen this week, but a date and time is yet to be confirmed.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Mrs May said: "While it will always be for her majesty's government to negotiate for the whole of the UK, we are also committed to giving the devolved administrations an enhanced role in the next phase, respecting their competence and vital interests in these negotiations."

She said she hoped to meet both Scottish and Welsh first ministers in the course of this week, "and will use the opportunity to discuss this further with them".

Image copyright HoC
Image caption Theresa May promised devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland an "enhanced role"

At the weekend, newspapers reported differing solutions being suggested for getting around the backstop - the insurance policy in the Brexit withdrawal agreement that ensures an open border on the island of Ireland.

It is a position of last resort, but critics argue it could bind the EU to its stipulations perpetually.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the prime minister was considering amending the Good Friday Agreement by getting the UK and Ireland to agree to a separate set of principles, or add text to support or reference the 1998 peace deal, setting out how both sides would guarantee an open border after Brexit.

But in in her Commons speech on Monday, Mrs May ruled out reopening the Good Friday Agreement.

Image caption Owen Smith said Labour needed to do more than just back a "soft Brexit"

Labour's Owen Smith, who was a special adviser to Paul Murphy while the former Torfaen MP was a minister for Northern Ireland, said the idea illustrated "what a second rate government this is".

Calling it a non-starter, he said: "At best you can say it is crass and insensitive, at worse its shows that they are again being utterly reckless when it comes to the peace process in Northern Ireland."

Tweeting on Monday, Conservative group AM Mark Reckless said the Good Friday Agreement had been reopened "several times".

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