Wales politics

Brexit could prompt Welsh-UK Labour split, says Andrews

Leighton Andrews
Image caption Leighton Andrews says it is very clear the "vast bulk" of Labour voters "do not favour a hard Brexit"

Welsh Labour should consider a split from its UK party if further differences emerge between them on Brexit, a former senior minister has said.

Leighton Andrews said UK Labour's position on Brexit over the last week had been "all over the place".

He spoke as Labour's debate on Brexit continued.

Mr Andrews described an article by a party frontbencher rejecting membership of the single market as "idiotic".

First Minister Carwyn Jones has advocated a Norway-style relationship with the EU, where the UK agrees to a number of pillars of membership of the EU including the free movement of people, allowing it to maintain its access to the single market.

But Barry Gardiner, shadow trade secretary, wrote in the Guardian that a Norway-style relationship would leave Britain a vassal state and argued Britain should leave the single market and the customs union.

Last weekend, Jeremy Corbyn also said Britain should leave the single market.

Image caption John McDonnell said Jeremy Corbyn and Carwyn Jones were on the same page on their stance on leaving the EU

Later John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, said Mr Jones and Mr Corbyn were saying the same thing on Brexit.

"Well, I honestly think that if the UK Labour Party cannot get itself together, on this most fundamental of all issues, then I think Labour at a UK level will be in a very dire position," Mr Andrews told BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme.

"In that case, given the success of Welsh Labour, particularly at the most recent general election, in assembly elections and the fact that Welsh Labour remains in government, I think there was a very strong case at the beginning of the week for taking steps to protect Welsh Labour, its identity and its role."

Mr Andrews, who previously served as local government minister until he lost his seat in the 2016 election, said over the course of the week UK Labour had been seen to be "moving back towards the Welsh Labour position", which he said was "good news".

But asked if Welsh Labour should consider a divorce should that position change again, he added: "Absolutely. No question.

"The reality, I think, is that there is a difference we're now seeing by those parts of the Labour Party who have experience of government and of experience of running things, and that's clearly the case with the Welsh Labour Welsh Government, and those in opposition who have not only no experience of government but also little experience in practice of shadow ministry.

"It's very clear that the vast bulk of Labour voters and Labour members do not favour a hard Brexit," said Mr Andrews, saying it was "absurd for Labour to be looking like it supported the hardest of all Brexits".

  • Sunday Supplement, BBC Radio Wales, 08:00 BST, 30 July

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