The public wants politicians to get on and deliver Brexit, but all they get from the ‘crachach’ of Labour and Plaid Cymru is a push to reverse the referendum result, says Andrew RT Davies, Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Minister.
Political theatrics aside, last week was a significant moment in the Brexit negotiations, and a deal which carries a parliamentary majority is within our grasp.
Brexit has dominated the past one thousand days of political discussion and debate, in part due to the inability of the establishment in both political bubbles – Westminster and Cardiff Bay – to reconcile themselves with the referendum result.
Outside of these bubbles, there has been a growing sense of bewilderment and frustration, as the majority of the general public has looked on in disbelief at a political class seemingly unable, or unwilling, to deliver on its wishes.
In particular, the Welsh political elite – the ‘crachach’ of Labour and Plaid Cymru – have consistently acted as chief cheerleaders for reversing the result, and even as late as last week, called for preparations to begin in earnest for a second referendum. Is that really the best they can offer?
Such a decision, before the result of the first referendum has even been implemented, would be a catastrophic failure of our democratic process.
It would be a damning failure of our politics and say an awful lot about the quality of those occupying our Parliaments and Assemblies on these Isles.
Nevertheless, it was pleasing to see some light appearing at the end of tunnel, and last week the voice of Parliament spoke quite clearly, laying down a clear path to exiting the European Union.
In short, Parliament voted for changes to be sought to the backstop, and importantly for a deal now – with no significant extension to the Article 50 period.
There is a clear mandate for the Prime Minister to seek legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement which deal with concerns on the backstop, while guaranteeing no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
As ever with this process, negotiating such a change will not be easy. However, in contrast to a fortnight ago, we’re in a clearer position as to what Parliament requires for it to approve the Withdrawal Agreement.
As many readers will be aware, the farming unions have supported the Prime Minister’s deal, but regrettably all we’ve heard from the majority of the Labour Party and nationalists in Wales is negativity and pessimism, which pushes us closer to the very outcome they claim they so wish to avoid – a no-deal Brexit.
They’ve been very quick to lecture and pontificate on the shenanigans at Westminster, but sadly they’ve been unable to get their own house in order.
Indeed, the Welsh Labour Government’s approach to Brexit has been so farcical that this week they’ve been forced to clarify the newly appointed Brexit Minister – the designated Counsel General – is unable, by law, to take decisions relating to his new brief. If it wasn’t so serious…
Sadly, this is symptomatic of the Welsh Government’s general response to the result since June 2016. Slow, incoherent and unable to change course.
Even in last month’s ministerial statements on no-deal preparations, there was a remarkable lack of detail from the Welsh Government’s Cabinet, with the Rural Affairs Minister unable to clarify how much of the £30m+ given by the UK Conservative Government to Wales for such a scenario has been allocated to her department.
The state of grief and mourning within our political class in Wales has paralysed our politics since the referendum.
There’s been a huge sense of politicians clinging on to what we’ve got, rather than putting forward a new vision for our future.
And while Brexit has dominated all of our thinking for the past 18 months, in reality, there are far bigger challenges for our industry coming down the line, with few solutions being brought forward.
People’s eating habits are changing significantly and this will have a real impact on the long-term viability of the agricultural sector. The buying habits and power of consumers in relation to the food they eat is too often easily dismissed as a mere blip for the industry.
Brexit will come and go, but the challenges for farming in Wales and the rest of the UK will come thick and fast.
And that’s why it’s imperative we deliver on the wishes of the people (indeed the majority of farmers), secure this Withdrawal Agreement, and start developing our own agricultural policy in this country for the first time in decades.
We will have the power to strengthen and protect the industry, and implement policies which put Welsh and British farming first – embracing the opportunities which are available.
However, this is another area where the Welsh Labour Government has been slow off the mark and demonstrated a severe lack of imagination when it comes to developing legislation.
But in truth, the immediate challenge is our withdrawal. Politicians on all sides now have a duty to step up and deliver.
There’s a deal on the table. It might not be perfect, but life – like farming, like business, very rarely is.
Frankly, people outside the M25 and Cardiff bubble are sick and tired of the pantomime and political games and just want to see progress.
Progress will require compromise. And in this instance, compromise shouldn’t be viewed as a dirty word – in fact, it could be the saviour of the Brexit process and the reputations of parliamentarians of all colours.
Andrew can be found tweeting at @AndrewRTDavies