BREXIT was the hot topic at the second day of Welsh Labour’s spring conference.

Members and supporters gathered at Venue Cymru in Llandudno for the closing day of the event on Sunday to discuss a range of issues.

And, while motions on hill farming and music education were discussed, Brexit was the number one issue of the day.


Newport's new MP Ruth Jones takes centre stage at party conference

Carson Price, 13, from Hengoed dies after being found unconscious in park in Ystrad Mynach

Family of Callum Crowley who fell off scaffolding and suffers life-changing injuries 'achieve justice' after company slapped with £160,000 fine

Speaking to the conference, Brexit minister Jeremy Miles said it remained  his opinion and that of the Welsh Government that “there is no future which is better for Wales than to stay as part of the European Union”.

And he said if a second referendum was held the Welsh Government would fight on a remain platform.

But, he added: “We have also been clear that we should only ask the people of Wales to revisit that decision if the alternative is a hard Tory Brexit which would do so much damage to our economy and to the jobs and livelihoods of our citizens.

“The truth is that people in Wales voted to leave for a lot of reasons – some related to Europe, many not.

“And however passionately we may have wanted a different outcome, simply telling people they got it wrong, profoundly misunderstands the roots of that decision.”

And he added he believed a deal which Labour could support “may be within reach” now Theresa May has opened discussions with Jeremy Corbyn. And he said, with Labour in power in Cardiff Bay and the Conservatives in Westminster, it was this sort of collaboration which would lead to the best possible outcome.

“Our party is full of people of goodwill seeking the best outcome in horrendous circumstances,” he said.

“We will not always perfectly agree.

“But let us not portray as enemies those who have a different view, of whether it’s a soft Brexit or another referendum which is the preferred route through this maze.”

South Wales Argus:

Jeremy Miles speaking at the Welsh Labour spring conference

Mr Miles also said, with new tax powers devolved to the Welsh Government, the 2021 Assembly Election would be the first to be fought on lines of varying tax rates.

“At the next Assembly Elections voters will be making a choice between political parties not just on their plans for spending the Welsh budget, but also on their plans for raising money in Wales, for using those tax powers,” he said.

“I firmly believe that in those elections, led by our first minister, Mark Drakeford, a passionate advocate of the transforming power of public intervention, we will unashamedly be making the case for using those powers.”

A passionate debate was also held on support for Wales’ steel industry following the news earlier this month than Tata Steel – which also runs plants in Llanwern, Caerphilly and Port Talbot – could sell its Trostre facility Llanelli as part of a merger with German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp.

Andrew Bargoli, who works at Trostre, gave possibly the most impassioned speech of the weekend, calling on members and supporters to “stand up and fight for Trostre, fight for our industry, fight for steel.”

And Tony Brady of trade union Unite called for any potential buyer of the plant to commit to secure its future.

“We must stand together with steelworkers at Trostre and across Wales,” he said. “The UK Government must follow Wales’ lead and invest in steel.”

Llanelli councillor Andre McPherson also spoke in the debate, saying: “This is ripping the soul out of Trostre, and it won’t stop there, it’ll move on to Port Talbot and Newport”.

And Abervavon AM David Rees said plans to sell the plant “puts the whole industry at risk”.

South Wales Argus:

Aberavon AM David Rees

This was Welsh Labour’s first spring conference since the election of Mark Drakeford as party leader and first minister in December. It was at last year’s spring conference that Carwyn Jones shocked attendees by announcing he was stepping down.

And Mr Drakeford spoke to the Argus about his plans for the next two years of the Welsh Government, leading up to the 2021 Assembly Election.

The first minister said new legislation he was planning to put before the Assembly over the next two years included re-regulating bus services, and work on renewable energy.

Mr Drakeford also said it is important Labour across the UK is ready to campaign in European Elections next month.

“I believe there will be a concerted effort by the right-wing press to say to people ‘take no notice, don’t bother, we should never have had these elections, they’re meaningless, these people won’t be there long, take no notice’,” he said.

“What that will do, if people are taken in by that, it will depress turnout among those people who take these things seriously and it will leave the field open to those people who want to exploit the elections to send a very different message about our relationship with Europe in the future.

“I am determined that the Labour Party will fight these elections as we would any other election. I want to get this message over to those hundreds of thousands of people in Wales, whether they voted leave or remain but who still wanted to have a sensible relationship with our closest neighbours, a trading relationship, a cultural relationship, that if they want to have that they’ve got to take an interest in these elections and they’ve got to come out and vote for a party who see our relationship in that way.

“Otherwise the danger is the views of other people will be taken as representing their views.”

South Wales Argus:

Mark Drakeford speaking at the Welsh Labour spring conference

And he added he remained convinced another General Election was the best way to break the deadlock over Brexit in Westminster.

“When people cast their vote in a General Election Brexit is one issue – but it is one of a much wider set of ideas which matter to people, and people weigh the whole package up and cast their vote accordingly - that’s what we saw in 2017.”

Members also picked climate change, as well as support for jobs and industry, as priority areas for developing new policy at the event.