Plaid Cymru challenges PM to protect public services in post-Brexit trade deals

Plaid Cymru is demanding action to protect Welsh public services as the UK Government works to secure post-Brexit trade deals.

Prime Minister Theresa May has set out her ambition for the UK to become the “global leader in free trade” but Plaid is concerned that future deals could hand powers to “profit-seeking corporations”.

The party is demanding that future deals are “devo-proofed” with the full involvement of the devolved governments.

Jonathan Edwards challenging Theresa May in the Commons

Jonathan Edwards, the party’s trade spokesman, is adamant that public services must not be put at risk “in the interests of Thatcherite ideology”.

In the Commons, he challenged Mrs May to commit to a “public services exemption clause from all future post-Brexit trade deal” but was told the UK Government was “not setting out, at this stage, the details of any particular negotiation that we are going to take part in”.

Theresa May in the Commons

In a written parliamentary question, he asked Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox “what plans he has to protect public services in future negotiations on trade agreements” but was not impressed by the answer.

Mr Fox stressed the “huge opportunities” now open to the country, adding: “The trade agreements the UK is currently party to include specific guarantees for public services. Decisions on how to deliver public services for the best outcomes for UK citizens are made by the UK Government.

“The Government wants to ensure the continued provision of quality public services.”

Steve Parsons/PA Wire

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Mr Edwards argues that it is vital that the UK remains a full member of the EU’s single market.

Mr Edwards pointed to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing that staying in the single market could add 4% to the UK’s GDP compared to relying on World Trade Organisation terms. He argues the UK should ensure it maintains membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

He accused the UK Government of “cluelessness over Brexit” which was “damaging and frustrating”, claiming there was “absolutely no plan to protect our public services”.

He said: “With the British state outside the European single market, striking trade deals with the rest of the world will be crucially important to ensure our goods and services can continue to be exported to the rest of the world. It is not, however, an excuse for Thatcherite, ultra-right-wing Tories to sell off our public services…

“All future trade deals must be ‘devo-proofed’, meaning devolved administrations should be involved in all UK trade deals so we can further our respective interests.

“It is absolutely crucial that the UK Government commits to keeping the British State inside the single market, and the European Free Trade Association, and that our public services are not risked in the interests of Thatcherite ideology.”

Theresa May wants the UK to lead the world when it comes to free trade

In the Commons, the Prime Minister set out her ambitions, saying: “Britain will seek to become the global leader in free trade.”

In a statement on the recent G20 summit, she said: “[As] we leave the EU, we will also forge our own new trade deals. And I am pleased to say that just as the UK is keen to seize the opportunities that leaving the EU presents, so too are many of our international partners, who recognise the attractiveness of doing business with the UK.

“The leaders from India, Mexico, South Korea and Singapore said that they would welcome talks on removing the barriers to trade between our countries. The Australian trade minister visited the UK yesterday to take part in exploratory discussions on the shape of a UK-Australia trade deal. And in our bi-lateral at the end of the Summit, President Xi also made clear that China would welcome discussions on a bi-lateral trade arrangement with the UK.”

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