Owen’s May Pontypridd Observer column

As someone who campaigned for us to stay in the European Union, I was pleased when the analysis was done to show that our community narrowly voted to Remain, by a margin of 54 to 46%. It was all the more remarkable, when you consider that, overall, RCT voted to Leave by about the same proportions.

But that isn’t to say that I don’t both understand and respect the opinion of all of my constituents who voted to Leave. I do. In fact, with hindsight, it seems to me to be obvious that Leave would get a big total –a winning total in many communities like ours in England and Wales. Because ours are the sort of working class communities that have been hardest hit by decades of de-industrialisation and disinvestment, and where politics, under all parties, has been seen as failing to restore the jobs and opportunities, the wealth and the community cohesion that we saw in earlier generations. And Brexit was a chance for people to express their anger at this state of affairs – especially, perhaps, in Labour-voting areas like ours, where we have seen Tory Cuts have such an impact in recent years.

But the trouble with Brexit, as I see it, is that it provides no answers to the question people were asking about how to restore prospects and prosperity to places like Pontypridd. Instead, Brexit seems increasingly likely to make it harder for us to grow our economy and to close the gap that we all know exists between towns like ours and the poshest, most wealthy bits of Britain.

Words like sovereignty or empty phrases like ‘take back control’ don’t really mean much when what we actually need is more investment, better jobs, more secure employments contracts, better pensions, money for our schools and hospitals – the sort of bread and butter spending that labour Governments have traditionally tried to deliver. And Brexit looks increasingly sure to make that harder for any future Labour Government, as the Tories admit that even the best Brexit deal will shrink our economy here in Wales by at least 2% – the same amount it fell by after the banking crash leading to the last ten years of austerity.

That’s why I am going to continue to speak out against the risks of Brexit and keep calling for a People’s Vote on the real terms of the deal Mrs May eventually negotiates with Brussels. That, in my view, would be both respecting the will of the people who voted to trigger the Brexit negotiation and give us all a chance to check that we still, collectively, believe that Brexit is best for Britain.