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The Liberal Democrats on the EU Referendum

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By Andrew Lye

I bumped into Herald Editor, Tom Sinclair at the Milford Haven Fish Week event, almost 2 weeks ago, 24 hours after the result was announced of the EU Referendum. Tom kindly offered me the opportunity to write a piece for the Herald on the Liberal Democrat perspective.

But what is the Liberal Democrat perspective? I guess everyone has their own view. Party Leader, Tim Farron has already made it clear that the Liberal Democrat policy is that we remain in favour of being within the EU and that we will go into the next General Election on a platform to rejoin the EU. The problem we have had is that for the last 30 or so years, we’ve had several papers spouting the anti-EU message and whether the facts were correct or not, these became ingrained in many voters minds as they were not challenged. The UK in the EU was not a front seat driver. We were often sat in the back seat lobbing missiles at it, so Germany and France basically became the driving force and Britain was a nuisance. I would have loved to have seen the UK as a driving force for change and reform in the EU, but now it’s too late.

Some people may say who is Tim Farron as the Liberal Democrats have not attracted much media attention since we were hammered in the 2015 General Election. It’s not for want of trying, as Tim has had plenty to say, but the media choose to ignore the Liberal Democrats and instead make hay at the expense of all the troubles within the Labour Party over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Good news does not sell newspapers or media time on radio and TV. The turmoil since 23rd June sees Tim Farron as the only leader of the Big 3 national political parties, still in his job or not facing a severe leadership crisis from his fellow MP’s. Cameron has resigned and Corbyn refuses to resign as his Shadow Cabinet have resigned by the score to try and force him out.

Even Nigel Farage has resigned as leader of UKIP, but as he has resigned before and restored as leader, no one will be surprised if he is re-instated once more. This is what politics has become over the last fortnight.

It was Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson who was famously attributed to having said in the 1960’s that “a week is a long time in politics”. Indeed, I would contend that events in the last fortnight have been the most earth shattering in my lifetime of following the political scene. It would be fair to say that “A day is now a long time in British politics” and you can go to bed at the end of the day, shattered after following the events at Westminster, Europe and even on the world stage. The surprise vote to leave the EU has sent shockwaves around the world.

In the 2 weeks since the result was announced in which 51.8% voted Out and 48.1% In, the news has been more or less nothing but the fallout from the result:-

  • The resignation of David Cameron as Prime Minister and Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb was the first to throw his hat into the ring.
  • Boris Johnson saying he would not stand as Tory Party leader, having been knifed (politically) in the back by Michael Gove.
  • The sacking by Jeremy Corbyn of Hilary Benn and then the mass resignations of most of his Shadow Cabinet and junior posts. Corbyn now struggles to get a Shadow team together. Labour membership has increased by over 100,000 in 2 weeks as Corbyn has lost confidence of the majority of his MP’s, but not party members, apparently.
  • The weak performances by Jeremy Corbyn to support the remain campaign and rumours that he actually voted to leave.
  • Angela Eagle has now announced she will launch a leadership bid to heal the Labour Party. Will Corbyn’s name actually be on any Labour Party ballot? We could be seeing the demise of the Labour party as we know it.
  • The £ and the Euro have dropped quite dramatically and business confidence is dropping. Our credit rating has been downgraded. Are we heading into recession?
  • The possibility of a 2nd Independence Referendum in Scotland (that voted to stay in the EU) and could Northern Ireland possibly seek unification with Eire so that it remains part of the EU?
  • The 2 large demonstrations in London demanding that the UK remains in the EU.

From the start of the campaign, I have feared that we could end up voting out and the UK did. I had emailed a Welsh Lib Dem colleague in early June saying that I could favour the Party supporting a call to look at the possibility of supporting Welsh Independence, if Wales voted IN, whilst the UK voted OUT. In the end, Wales followed England, almost to the same percentages and voted OUT.

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In the last few days a poll has emerged that indicates that Wales would now vote 53% to 47% to remain in the EU. So what is to happen now? Are we heading for a constitutional crisis as the country is in political turmoil? We have no functioning government as the PM has resigned as party leader and the Tories are fighting for the poisoned chalice of leading us out of the EU. Or trying to?

We have no functioning official Opposition as Corbyn only secured 40 votes in a vote of confidence in his leadership from his MP’s. 172 of his own MP’s voted against him.

Indeed, there is talk of a progressive new party being created with social democrats from the Labour Party, social conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. We live in different times.

We now face years of a new government being formed by a PM (May or Leadsom) who has put no manifesto to the country in a General Election and we will become bogged down with the negotiations of leaving the EU. We don’t even have the negotiators to negotiate our trade deals as they have all been done for us by the EU since 1973 and there’s the likelihood that the Government will have to employ the experts from abroad.

The UK also saw migration as one of the main reasons for voting out and we have seen rises in cases of hatred being reported to the police since 23rd June. In my 31 years in active politics, I do not recall a time where I find we are in a nasty place (and I DON’T mean Pembrokeshire or Wales!) as the result seems to have given the green light to those who are not happy with foreign people living and working in the UK. Even social media sees nastiness being spouted. I do not understand why. I even saw a councillor I know, face abuse on Facebook and I advised her to report it to the police.

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I have seen comments from the out side saying we are sore losers and must abide by the decision. I accept that the decision has been made, but as Private Eye Editor Ian Hislop said on Question Time (8.7.16) said, “Even if you lose the vote you are entitled to go on making the argument”.

And as a Welsh Liberal Democrat, that is what I will do. Yes, OUT won, but now we face Article 50 being triggered and 2 years to negotiate the details of exit with the EU. What we are doing is effectively undergoing a divorce and anyone who has undergone a divorce, knows only too well, how bitter that can become over time as negotations continue.

Those who voted OUT have got their victory, but do they expect the UK to accept whatever deal is foisted on them by the EU, or do we expect them to get the best possible terms? I know what I would expect my Government to deliver… the best possible terms! I will also expect those leading members to honour their promises made during the campaign, like the extra £350m per week for the NHS, funding for farmers and the poorer regions, which includes West Wales.

I have said above that whoever becomes the new Tory Prime Minister will have taken on a poisoned chalice and I am sure that Stephen Crabb is probably quietly relieved that it won’t be him in charge. There will be those expecting the UK to leave and then there will be those of us opposed to leaving or ensuring that we get the best terms. The future British Prime Minister who accepts a 3rd rate deal from the EU will be a dead woman walking.

Anyone who has undergone a divorce (including me) can tell you that it gets messy and everyone is at each others throats. We’ve already heard the comments from European leaders and Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, who is annoyed at the delays by the Government in not invoking Article 50 yet. He’s made it clear he wants us to go as soon as possible. These messages in recent days are not a good indicator how things could go.

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It looks like there are endless possibilities of what could happen, but each country will have to ratify the deal. Suppose Eire refuses to ratify it? And if there is no deal reached by the end of those two years, we just leave without a deal unless the European Council (the ministers of the other 27) agree to an extension of the negotiation period.

So could we find ourselves negotiating a deal for years? Who knows?

If we are, I can imagine the OUT voters will be frustrated and demanding we leave. But then there will be those of us calling for the best deal if we are to leave and not be sold out by a modern day Chamberlain, who returns with a useless piece of paper signed by Juncker, and whoever are then the German Chancellor and French President.

We must also question whether the referendum is legally binding. The answer is no. This is because parliament is sovereign and generally, referendums are not binding in the UK. So we do live in interesting times. Suppose it was proven by polls that the will of the people changed and they didn’t want to leave the EU as what the OUT side termed “Project Fear” came true as “Project Fact”? Could we face a 2nd referendum? Indeed, it could also be possible that the lesson learned from this referendum is not to have any more!

As a Welsh Liberal Democrat, I will be exercising my democratic right to ensure we hold the Government to account for the deal it negotiates and that it gets the best terms, or in the event of a substandard deal, we remain in the EU and actively pursue the reforms that the EU desperately needs from within. You cannot reform the EU if you are not in the club. And the EU DOES need reform. If it doesn’t, it’s likely to see other countries demand referendums as well. The EU has to wake up and smell the coffee.

So the battle may have been lost but the war is not over and since the result was announced, the Liberal Democrats have signed up 16,000 new members across the UK. In our local party area, membership has increased by over 20% in the last 2 weeks. You can join online at www.libdems.org.uk/join. If you support our call to remain in the EU, join us!

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Tenby: Air Ambulance medivac patient with suspected broken leg

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PARAMEDICS asked for assistance, and the Wales Air Ambulance were subsequently tasked with tending to an incident at Tenby harbour on Sunday (Oct 2).

A male required assistance due to a fall around the beach area, and suffered a suspected broken leg.

A spokesperson for the air ambulance said: “Our overnight crew arrived on scene at 8.12 pm.

“Following treatment at the scene from our on-board medics, we airlifted the patient to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Our involvement concluded at 10.31 pm.”

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Cleddau Bridge was closed due to concerns over person in distress

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THE CLEDDAU BRIDGE was closed just after midnight on Sunday morning after reports of concern over a person in distress.

A number of police units attended the incident, and an ambulance was put on standby, but thankfully was not needed. The bridge was closed for around a hour, with a diversion put in place.

Nearby residents noted the flashing lights from multiple emergency services on the bridge and posted statuses on Facebook wishing for the person’s safety.

Some other witnesses on the Pembroke Dock side of the estuary noted activity in the water from small vessels in the area under the bridge, which they believed may have been boats put on standby.

In a statement a spokesperson from the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We were called in the early hours of Sunday morning at 12:43am to reports of an incident on the A477, Cleddau Bridge.

“We sent one emergency ambulance but were subsequently stood down.”

At just after 1am Sunday the police posted the following on their official Facebook page, confirming that the incident was over: “Cleddau Bridge has now reopened. Thank you for your patience.”

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Thirty bags of cocaine – worth £90m – wash up on west Wales beach

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE has confirmed that what is expected to be a large quantity of the class A drug cocaine has washed up on on a west Wales beach this weekend.

The Herald understands that a man walking on Tan-y-Bwlch beach, south of Aberystwyth, made the discovery early on Saturday morning – which at street value could be sold for as much as £90m.

The beach walker found 30 black bags on the sand which had been tied together with a rope and empty gallon jerry cans for buoyancy.

Inside each black bag were 30 x1kg blocks, labelled with the name of fashion brand Dior – the mark of a Latin-American cartel – indicating 100% purity.

A similar brick of cocaine confiscated in Australia (File)

Thinking the package was suspicious, the man called the police.

When the police arrived, one of the bags was cut open and inside was what appeared to be cocaine.

The suspected cocaine was then taken away by officers, and it has now been confirmed that the white powder inside the bags is believed to be cocaine.

A spokeswoman for Dyfed-Powys Police said: “We are investigating the discovery of a significant quantity of what is thought to be cocaine, spotted along the Ceredigion coast this weekend.

“Enquiries are being undertaken to establish how such an unusually large amount of the controlled drug came to wash up on the Welsh shore, following recent storms.

“The precise quantity is still being established and at this time no-one has been arrested in relation to this matter. Officers have thanked those who found the packages and their sensible actions in reporting the matter immediately.”

No arrests have been made.

The UK’s cocaine market is estimated to be worth more than £25.7 million daily, according to the National Crime Agency’s latest strategic threat assessment.

Figures released by the agency earlier this year revealed how cocaine seizures nationwide have soared by 161 per cent between early 2020 and early last year.

A suspected £90million haul of cocaine was found on beach
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