Wales politics

No-deal Brexit cash 'will not compensate for devastation'

Alun Cairns, Boris Johnson and Mark Drakeford Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson with Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns (l) and Mark Drakeford (r) on Tuesday

Extra cash to prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit will not compensate for the "devastation" it will cause to Wales, Welsh ministers have warned.

The UK government has announced an extra £2.1bn for no-deal preparations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will leave the EU by 31 October, with or without a deal.

First Minister Mark Drakeford warned Mr Johnson, during his visit to Wales on Tuesday, about the "catastrophic impact" of Brexit.

Speaking at a chicken farm in St Brides Wentlooge, near Newport, Mr Johnson said: "We're not aiming for a no-deal Brexit, we don't think that's where we'll end up.

"This is very much up to our friends and partners across the channel."

Of the £2.1bn, £1.1bn has been allocated for various projects, such as ensuring the continued supply of medicines and a package of support for businesses.

Some of the money will be used to improve transport infrastructure around ports but has not been allocated to specific sites.

The Treasury explained that the remaining £1bn is being used as an open fund, from which the Welsh and Scottish governments, the administration in Northern Ireland and UK government departments will be able to bid for cash for particular projects.

Announcing the funding on Thursday, Chancellor Sajid Javid said it was "vital" to prepare for all eventualities.

"With 92 days until the UK leaves the European Union it's vital that we intensify our planning to ensure we are ready," he said.

"We want to get a good deal that abolishes the anti-democratic backstop. But if we can't get a good deal, we'll have to leave without one."

The £2.1bn comes on top of £4.2bn allocated since 2016 for Brexit preparations by previous chancellor, Philip Hammond.

Image caption Guto Bebb: "The fiscal rectitude and sacrifices of the past decade are going to be frittered away"

Conservative MP Guto Bebb, who supports remaining in the EU, said his party's "hard-earned reputation...as a party of fiscal rectitude" was being thrown away "on the altar of an ideological adherence to a no-deal Brexit".

In an article for the Times Red Box website, the Aberconwy MP said: "The fiscal rectitude and sacrifices of the past decade are going to be frittered away, not on improved public services, better defence or even in efforts to deal with the real issue of income inequality, but on what is seen by our new government as a much more important project: saving their own reputations.

"But rather than honestly owning up to their predictive failures, our new leaders seem hell-bent on simply turning on the fiscal taps to ensure that a reckless no-deal Brexit is mitigated as much as possible.

"Think about that, to protect the reputations of a few individuals at the heart of government, the hard-earned reputation of the Conservative Party as a party of fiscal rectitude is to be thrown away.

"Even worse, the sacrifices made by the British people to repair our public finances are also going to be betrayed," he added.

'Flippant'

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The prime minister was left in no doubt on his visit to south Wales about the catastrophic impact Brexit will have on Wales.

"This latest funding proposed by the Treasury will not come anywhere near compensating for the devastation such a flippant 'do or die' approach to Brexit will cause to communities and industries throughout Wales.

"It is also unnecessary - the UK government is proposing spending more than £2bn on something the prime minister is telling us the chances of happening are 'vanishingly small'."

Darren Millar, who speaks for the Welsh Conservatives on Brexit, said Wales had voted to leave the EU in a referendum, and accused ministers in Cardiff of "scaremongering, and patronising people by telling them they were wrong when they voted three years ago".

The Welsh Government should support UK ministers' "preparations for all Brexit eventualities, including no deal should the European Union refuse to compromise on the Northern Ireland backstop", he added.

What are Welsh ministers doing to prepare for no deal?

Image copyright Getty Images

After EU leaders granted the UK a six-month extension to Brexit back in April, the Welsh Government used the time to review the work it had done to prepare for a no-deal Brexit for the initial March deadline.

As the clock ticks down to the new 31 October departure date, planning is once again being ramped up at the Welsh Government's HQ in Cathays Park.

The first minister's message to officials is to park some government projects over the coming months as more resource will need to be ploughed in to no-deal Brexit preparations.

On Wednesday, the Welsh Government cabinet's Brexit sub-committee discussed how individual ministers should use the summer break to contact external organisations relevant to their departments - the farming unions, teaching unions, the NHS Confederation, and so on.

An idea is being floated to hold a summit towards the end of September that would bring all the government departments and those external bodies together to take stock.

"This is not a phoney war anymore," said a Welsh Government source. They are taking Boris Johnson's talk of a possible no-deal Brexit very seriously.

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