Wales politics

Party leaders trade blows over Brexit in live TV debate

ITV Wales Election Debate Image copyright ITV WALES

Welsh party leaders have clashed over Brexit in their first TV audience debate of the general election.

On the ITV Wales Election Debate, First Minister Carwyn Jones said he had "never seen a UK government so unprepared for anything".

But Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said UK ministers had a "serious plan".

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood said she would ensure Wales' voice was heard, while UKIP's Neil Hamilton said Britain had "masses to gain" from Brexit.

Some 85% of the world economy was outside the EU bloc, he said.

Image copyright ITV Wales
Image caption Carwyn Jones defended Labour plans to tax those with the "broadest shoulders" more

"We can do our own trade deals with the rest of the world," Mr Hamilton, leader of UKIP's group in the Welsh Assembly, added.

Ms Wood said her party had a "positive Brexit plan" focused on "protecting the 200,000 jobs in Wales that rely on tariff-free access to the EU single market".

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mark Williams insisted there had to be a second referendum for people to ratify any deal with the EU.

"Nobody knows what Brexit will look like - we believe in giving voters the say on the terms of the deal with a ratification referendum," he said.

Image copyright ITV Wales
Image caption Leanne Wood said Plaid Cymru would put Wales' interests on the agenda

During the two hour programme there were also robust exchanges over what the appropriate level of taxation should be.

Defending Labour plans to raise taxes on higher earners, Mr Jones said: "For me it's a matter of making sure that I contribute fairly to public services that people want to see.

"There was a time when we had a much more equal society, a much fairer society, when the broadest shoulders shouldered more of the burden."

Mr Davies said the UK government's cuts to corporation taxes had brought more money into the Treasury, by stimulating firms to invest.

Under Labour, he warned, business confidence would "drain away" because money would be taken from firms to fund "pie in the sky policies".

Image copyright ITV Wales
Image caption Andrew RT Davies said business confidence would "drain away" after June under a Labour prime minister

Ms Wood said Plaid Cymru "would only vote for taxes on the very richest in society to go up".

"We won't increase the tax burden for those who are the least well off in society," she said.

She added that Plaid wanted Wales to have control of VAT and corporation tax to so they could be set in such a way as to encourage job creation.

Mr Williams said the Lib Dems would raise £21bn over five years by "cutting the Tories' cut to corporation tax".

This would help fund extra investment in the NHS, social care and mental health services "which are grievously lacking across this country", he said.

Image copyright ITV Wales
Image caption Mark Williams said immigration was vital for the functioning of the NHS

Mr Hamilton said UKIP would not be in favour of increasing income tax at "any level".

Debating immigration, Mr Hamilton accused Theresa May, who was home secretary before becoming prime minister, of being responsible for adding two million people to the UK population.

Defending the benefits of immigration, Mr Williams said skilled migrants kept the NHS running.

"This is about Wales being a warm tolerant and embracing country," he said.

Image copyright ITV Wales
Image caption Neil Hamilton said he opposed any income tax rises

Mr Davies said it was vital questions about immigration were addressed, but that the UK should stay "open".

Mr Jones said a "common sense" immigration policy was needed that did not jeopardize job creation.

Calling the immigration debate "toxic", Ms Wood said people were more likely to see an immigrant treating them than "standing in a queue" with them.

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