WITH no sign of a Brexit agreement which will be agreed by Parliament, Theresa May must rule out leaving the European Union without a deal, Mark Drakeford has said.

Earlier this week the prime minister outlined her 'plan B' following the overwhelming defeat of her deal with the EU last week, and promised the Welsh Government would have an “enhanced” role in the negotiations.

But critics said the prime minister’s statement provided no clarity on the way forward.

And, speaking before the Assembly yesterday, Tuesday, first minister Mark Drakeford said: "Plan B is simply plan A with a new helping of pious hopes."

He added: "It is clear that she continues to focus on trying to do the impossible – deliver a deal that is simultaneously acceptable to the EU27 and to the DUP and the hard-line Brexiteers rather than genuinely seek a new consensus across Parliament."


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Calling on the prime minister to definitively rule out a no-deal Brexit, he said: "We understand and - unlike the Westminster Government – have always been clear that we in the UK do not hold all the cards in the Brexit negotiation.

"Even with a government determined not to allow such an outcome, we cannot be absolutely sure it will not happen."

He added: "The UK Government can and must take no-deal off the table as an outcome it is prepared to preside over or even tolerate."

Saying the approval of the 'plan B' deal "simply will not happen', Mr Drakeford also called on the prime minister to extend Article 50, saying, if an acceptable agreement cannot be reached "the only option which remains is a second public vote to break the deadlock".

Concluding, Mr Drakeford said: "The truth is that no one really knows what will happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"It follows that neither Wales nor the UK as a whole can be truly prepared for all the possible eventualities.

"This government will strain every fibre and use every opportunity to join with others to persuade the prime minister to turn away from this disastrous course, to halt the damage to our country and find a better way forward.

This was part of a series of statements made in the Assembly yesterday on the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit on devolved areas such as health, transport, the environment and housing.


South Wales Argus:

Health minister Vaughan Gething said leaving the EU without a deal would likely lead to staffing problems in health and social care, having a knock-on effect on the whole sector.

"The effects of changes to migration policy, particular a policy which favours high skills and wages, will be most keenly felt in those parts of the health and social care sector which depend on lower-paid workers, such as workers providing domiciliary or residential care, who have essential roles supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society," he said.

"Let us be clear, disruption in our social care sector would inevitably lead to delayed discharges and increased pressures on our hospitals."

Mr Gething added he was particularly concerned that a no-deal Brexit would disrupt supply of radioisotopes, which are used for diagnosis and therapies in the health service - but are only supplied by foreign companies.

"Disruption from customs checks at our ports is likely to render radioisotopes useless for healthcare treatment," he said.

He also said work is being carried out to determine how many EU workers are employed in Wales' health and social care sector, as well as how many medicines are likely to have supplies disrupted.


South Wales Argus:

Economy and transport minister Ken Skates said a no-deal Brexit could cause “severe disruption to the transport network and connected services within Wales”.

"Ports in Wales make a critical contribution to our economy, not least by providing jobs and added value to local communities," he said. "Any risk to their efficient operation poses a substantial risk for Wales as a whole.

"Container ports, such as Cardiff, Port Talbot and Newport, are already engaged with international goods movement and are less likely to experience significant disruption.

"Our ferry ports, however, are a different story, and are particularly vulnerable to the shocks that could arise following a no deal Brexit."

Although he said an interim agreement had been reached on haulage, allowing UK and EU lorry drivers to move across the border freely until the end of 2019, Mr Skates said "more clarity is needed" on future arrangements.

He added: "It’s important to emphasise here the likely large impact on food and other goods destined for Wales if there were significant disruption at Dover, which the UK Government expects in the event of a no-deal Brexit."

Mr Skates added the possibility of UK airline operators no longer being allowed to fly to the EU would not only impact travellers, but also Cardiff Airport.

"We are therefore taking all proportionate steps to preserve the integrity of our transport system in the face of a no-deal Brexit and ensure the continued viability and success of our transportation system," he said.

"However, we should be under no illusion that, with a no deal Brexit, there will be disruption nevertheless."


South Wales Argus:

Meanwhile, environment, energy, and rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said both imports and exports could be affected by a no-deal Brexit.

“The impacts of a no deal Brexit will be felt differently across Wales,” she said.

“Our rural communities will clearly bear the brunt of any loss of markets, especially in the red meat sector.

“Our coastal communities will suffer if seafood businesses are unable to viably export shellfish although diversifying into different types of farming or fishing could lessen the impact, it won’t make up for the loss of or impeded access to the EU market.

“All of this combines to create a perfect storm which will begin on March 30 and last for an unknown length of time.

“The severity of that storm will depend on the type of deal we leave with.

“A no-deal storm will be the most damaging for Wales.”

She added: “Across my portfolio, we have reviewed 1,200 pieces of legislation.

“With the UK Government we are in the process of amending 900 pieces of legislation in an unprecedented exercise to ensure we have a working statue book by exit day.

“This will make sure the framework of EU environmental legislation within which we have developed our own ambitious plans for the environment, climate and future generations, continue to be available to us.”


South Wales Argus:

Housing and local government minister Julie James said the Welsh Government was working with local authorities, emergency and other public services were able to properly respond to serious events such as bad weather, and said new plans are being put into place.

“Our three fire and rescue authorities are working together with the national fire chiefs council to plan for the consequences of a no deal Brexit, for example,” she said.

“This includes active engagement at the most senior levels of management, and with the local resilience forums.

“The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust has nominated a senior responsible officer at director level to oversee the organisation’s preparations, and its board is monitoring the position.

“The trust is also fully engaged with the planning currently being led by the resilience forums across Wales and with the Welsh Government.”

Ms James added a new network of regional community cohesion co-ordinators was being set up to fight against division created by Brexit.

“The Welsh Government’s vision for Wales is an inclusive country in which people from all backgrounds are welcomed and where there is no room for xenophobia, racism or bigotry,” she said.

“The Welsh Government is working with a number of partners, including local authorities, police forces and equality and inclusion organisations in the third sector to ensure that cohesion takes root in all our communities.”

She added no food shortages are expected, and there is no need to stockpile food and other items ahead of Brexit.

Introducing her new agreement in Parliament on Monday, the prime minister promised to involve MPs, as well as the Welsh and Scottish governments, more closely in the negotiations, and announced the £65 fee for EU citizens living in the UK to apply for settled status would be scrapped - with anyone who has already paid the fee already to be reimbursed.

Mrs May told MPs she hoped to meet Mr Drakeford and his Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon in the next week to discuss the process.

“While it will always be for Her Majesty’s Government to negotiate for the whole of the UK, we are also committed to giving the devolved administrations an enhanced role in the next phase, respecting their competence and vital interest in these negotiations,” she said.

Mrs May will return to Parliament with a new deal on Tuesday, January 29.