Wales politics

FM Mark Drakeford would stop Brexit to avoid no deal

Mark Drakeford
Image caption Mark Drakeford said revoking Article 50 would have profound consequences

Wales' first minister has said he would back stopping Brexit if it was the only way to stop leaving the European Union without a deal.

But Mark Drakeford said the move would have profound political consequences.

He spoke after MPs failed for a second time to back alternative Brexit proposals on Monday night.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the position of Carolyn Harris as deputy Welsh Labour leader was untenable after she abstained on a further public vote.

Labour whipped its UK MPs to support the measure. 24 of them voted against.

In Wales two abstained - Ms Harris and Islwyn's Chris Evans. Ms Harris said that her voting reflected "the majority view of my constituents".

Meanwhile, with next week's Parliamentary recess cancelled, it has emerged the first minister will discuss the possibility of a recall of the assembly if the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit.

The House of Commons has repeatedly refused to pass Theresa May's Brexit deal - as things stand the UK is due to leave the European Union on 12 April without an agreement with the remaining states.

There have been warnings of economic damage if that happened.

The first minister was asked by the Plaid Cymru leader if he would support revoking Article 50 - the legal mechanism by which the UK is due to leave the EU on 12 April.

The Welsh Labour leader told First Minister's Questions in the Welsh Assembly: "If we were in that very final moment where the only choice was between a crash-out Brexit or revocation, because of the serious impact that a crash-out Brexit would have on people here in Wales... if I were casting a vote, I would cast it for revocation."

He added: "Because the consequences are so catastrophic for families in Wales.

"But for me, it would absolutely have to be that we knew we were in that final moment, because the constitutional and political consequences of using that course of action are really very, very profound."

Any such decision would be for MPs and Westminster ministers - and not the assembly.

Revoking Article 50 cannot be used as a tactic, Mr Drakeford said.

Image caption Adam Price suggested Mark Drakeford did not have full confidence in Carolyn Harris

"It would reverse the referendum without the possibility of going back to ask people in this country what they thought of that decision," he added, referring to an earlier European Court of Justice case.

Mr Price asked if Mr Drakeford regretted that 24 Labour MPs voted against a further vote, and that Ms Harris had failed to back Labour Party policy.

He did not answer the question directly. "I regret the fact that the House of Commons was unable to find a majority for any of the propositions put in front of it last night," he said.

The first minister urged MPs "not to go on simply being willing to support the one option that is the closest one to their preference".

"I interpret the fact that he didn't answer that he doesn't have full confidence in the deputy leader of the Labour Party in Wales," Mr Price said.

A Welsh Government cabinet member called Labour MPs' position on a further referendum "absolutely farcical" after Monday's votes.

They said it "underlined how difficult it is to reach agreement. However this is conference policy.

"Some people might change their view if there was going to be a consequence for their front bench positions."

Carolyn Harris is a shadow equalities minister.


Meanwhile the Welsh Government is considering whether to ask for a recall for the assembly next week, when the Cardiff Bay parliament is in recess.

The move would have to be taken by the presiding officer Elin Jones on Mr Drakeford's request - the latest that can happen is thought to be Thursday.

It is not yet decided whether it would go ahead, but any recall if it happens would be to consider the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "As things stand today, the threat of the UK leaving the EU without a deal next week remains a very real prospect.

"For the National Assembly to be recalled, the First Minister requests a recall and the Llywydd considers the request. The First Minister will discuss this possibility with the Llywydd at their regular meeting tomorrow."

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