Wales politics

'Rethink hard Brexit', Carwyn Jones tells Theresa May

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Media captionNow's the time to work together on Brexit, says Carwyn Jones

The first minister has called on Theresa May to rethink plans for how the UK should leave the European Union.

In a letter to the prime minister, Carwyn Jones claimed the general election result showed there was "no mandate" for a "hard Brexit".

He called for an urgent meeting of the joint ministerial committee (JMC) of UK leaders to establish a "broad-based consensus" on Brexit.

Wales Office minister Guto Bebb urged Mrs May to take a cross-party approach.

In his letter, Mr Jones said it was "increasingly clear" a transitional deal was needed.

The first minister highlighted a UK government White Paper proposal to leave the customs union as an example of a measure that did not have widespread support.

"I hope you will recognise that, given the outcome of the general election, your government has no mandate for the sort of 'hard Brexit' which you have championed," he wrote.

"By contrast, it is of critical importance to build a broad-based consensus across the UK and across parties and civil society about how to take forward the Brexit process.

"The JMC is, for the present, a fundamental part of that process."

He added: "It is also increasingly clear that, given the political situation, it will be impossible to both negotiate a withdrawal agreement and put in place the basis for a future relationship with the EU within two years.

"It means we must agree within the UK now, and seek the agreement of our EU partners early in negotiations, the form of transitional arrangements to come into effect in April 2019."

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Image caption Negotiations with Brussels over the UK's departure from the EU are due to begin on 19 June

Mr Jones claimed the Welsh Government's own White Paper - calling for continued "full and unfettered access" to the single market - "might form the basis of a UK wide negotiating position that could command considerable support".

The first minister also urged Mrs May to pay "full respect to the existing devolution settlements" and warned against any imposition of new arrangements to handle matters such as agriculture and economic development when EU responsibilities in such areas ended.

"Bluntly, this is a fight which you do not need to have," he said.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales programme Mr Jones denied that the tone of the letter was threatening.

"Far from it. We will not accept anything that reduces the powers of Wales, Scotland and of Northern Ireland.

"You have to be firm with them," he added. "Scots have done exactly the same. It's absolutely important that we make our positions very very clear."

Aberconwy MP and Wales Office minister Guto Bebb called for Theresa May to undertake a cross-party approach to Brexit, and consider the views of the Welsh Government.

"We are, by definition, in a situation where there will need to be compromises," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"I personally feel very strongly that Brexit is an issue which is really challenging for the UK on so many levels.

Image caption Guto Bebb says the Welsh Government's views cannot be ignored

"Therefore a cross party approach, not in terms of final decision making perhaps, but certainly the views of other parties, and more importantly in a devolved UK, the views of the devolved institutions must be taken into account.

"Clearly we cannot say the views of the Welsh Government on Brexit should be ignored in view of the fact that the Labour party in Wales has secured 50% of the vote.

"There is a need to ensure that there is an approach to Brexit that tries to bring together as many different views as possible to make sure we have a strong economy post the UK leaving the European Union."

Fellow Conservative Glyn Davies, MP for Montgomeryshire, also backed a cross-party approach, saying in a Facebook message that "minority status might deliver better government" and its "attitude to Brexit might change".

In response to Mr Jones's letter, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said the UK government's focus would be on "the right outcome" which was to achieve "frictionless trade" with the EU.

A spokesman for Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies accused Mr Jones of "cynical posturing" claiming he "steadfastly refused to engage with Leave campaigners offering to work together after the referendum".

The spokesman accused the first minister of attempting to "rewrite history", saying both Labour and the Conservatives went into the general election pledging to leave the single market.

'Plough ahead'

Senior Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth said he agreed that there was no mandate for hard Brexit after the election result.

He said he hoped the UK government would "not be able to plough ahead with the kind of hard Brexit that they were planning on implementing before this election".

"They are going to have to move forward in a more consensual way and consensus to me suggests an exit that is rather different to what the Tories envisaged two months ago," he said.

He said Plaid Cymru's position was that "we think the Welsh economy needs to be in the single market".

A UKIP spokesman said: "Theresa May's sacking of David Jones MP as Brexit Minister is a slap in the face for Welsh Tories and UKIP supporters who lent their votes to the Tories last Thursday."

"Remainer Theresa May is obviously preparing to betray us on a clean Brexit," he added.

Negotiations with Brussels on the UK's departure from the EU were due to start on 19 June, and Mrs May is now seeking the backing of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up her minority government.

The DUP supports Brexit - but also wants to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland and to maintain as far as possible the current access to EU markets.

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