The Plaid Cymru AM Adam Price tabled a motion calling for Assembly members to 'support full membership' of the EU's single market (Adam hit the headlines a few years back when as an MP at westminister he tried to impeach tony blair for his lies over Iraq). And from the standpoint of the welsh economy this motion certainly makes sense - over half of all welsh trade is with the EU single market, and for still important industries in Wales like agriculture the figure is a massive ninety percent. But of course and as EU leaders have made clear the UK retaining full membership of the single market would involve allowing the continued free movement of people for EU nationals.
What was most striking about the debate however was that Labour Assembly members and the sole liberal democrat AM refused to back the Plaid motion, instead backing a tory motion which merely supported future 'access to the single market'. You dont have to be a political einstein to work out there's a big difference between the two motions and also what it might say about the different approaches to the June 23rd result parties are taking.
The tory stance is not surprising - with much of the tory membership and supporter base highly eurosceptic some kind of 'access' to the EU single market would be about the only thing May could get away in the forthcoming brexit negotiations. The Conservative grassroots, and Ukip fellow travellers now apparently flocking back to the tories, certainly wouldnt counternance any deal that doesnt kill 'freedom of movement' virtually stone dead.
But the labour and lib dem stance is somewhat more surprising. As a party Labour - despite Jeremy Corbyn's historic and well documented euro scepticism - supported the remain campaign and is still in favour of membership of the single markert. While the lib dems are a passionately pro EU party, a party which not only wants to retain membership of the single market but wants a second referendum on UK membership of the EU. And while both labour and the lib dems in Wales enjoy a degree of self rule it's reasonable to think they would be unlikely to take a stance completely at variance with their leaderships in London - particularly on an issue as significant as this.
It could well be then that the events which played out in Cardiff bay this week are a foretaste of what we can expect in Westminister in the coming months. After months of wrangling Theresa May will present a 'deal' which offers the UK limited 'access' to the single market - probably confined to 'city traders' desperate to retain London's status as a highly lucrative centre for european finance capital. Following the lead of their colleagues in Wales Labour and the lib dems will cave in and not try to block this 'deal' with only the SNP, Plaid and the Green MP Caroline Lucas voting against.
But free movement will be dead, and the legal status of millions of EU nationals who have settled in the UK will probably remain worryingly uncertain for years. And if the 'hard brexit' crowd get their way wholesale deportations of EU nationals in the UK cannot be ruled out in the coming years.So when you hear figures in Labour and the lib dems saying 'we must listen to the message voters sent us on june 23rd' what they are really saying is they are capitualting to the likes of Ukip and the hard right on immigration.