I understand why people voted for Brexit – but it will decimate Wales

An Airbus engineer inspects the new A350XWB composite wing cover after its arrival at the purpose built North Factory facility at Airbus in Broughton, North Wales. Picture: UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Tim Richards

Just over a year ago Wales was in Europe, well the European Football Championship anyway.

As an old football fan who remembers the bad times, the Bobby Gould years, let me assure you that the true sign of a Welsh patriot is not how you vote in British referendums.

It is whether you support the Welsh football team, because it takes a lot of loyalty to accept so much failure while fervently believing in your nation!

I was there for the first game in Bordeaux and watched it with Ieuan, my younger son, and was in Toulouse for the game against Russia.

And it was then that I realised how close Wales is tied to Europe.

Because one of the tourist attractions there was a visit to the factory which assembles Airbus, the wings of which are made at Broughton in North Wales.

Leaving the European Single Market would put an end to the factory there, which would lead to the loss of 6,000 jobs.

That’s a small drop in the ocean compared to the jobs that will be lost across the rest of Wales, and the UK. And yet the Tories appear to be determined to go ahead with what would be a big mistake.


Will it really be that bad, you might ask? Well yes, because at present 68% of the goods made by Welsh workers are exported to EU member countries outside the UK , according to figures recently released by HM Revenue and Customs.

If we leave the Single Market many factories will close and Welsh unemployment will soar to heights last reached during the 1930s.

The same goes for Welsh agriculture as Dai Davies, chairman of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, has pointed out.

Tariff-free access to the European market is vital for Welsh agriculture as 90% of Welsh red meat exports go to Europe.

As he said recently “Exports are absolutely essential to this industry’s future sustainability. Profitability and, most importantly, prices depend on exports.

“In 2014, £225m worth of Welsh red meat exports went to our mature markets in the EU. That’s nine in every 10 export sales.

“With exports accounting for around 35% of all Welsh lamb production, it means that nearly a third of the Welsh flock is sold to the EU nations.”

In fact meat exports from Wales have grown from around £50m in 2003 to a record peak of £250m two years ago.

No surprise

Brexit was a very English Tory mistake. There was no demand at all, before the referendum was called, from the rest of Britain to leave the European Union.

But because David Cameron was afraid that the Tories were losing the support of anti-European little Englanders within his own party and UKIP he promised a referendum on the issue.

He was convinced that he would win it, but I have to say that I was not surprised when, by a very small majority, the electorate of the United Kingdom actually decided to Brexit.

Why was I not surprised? Well I had been discussing it with various people on Facebook and I realised which way the wind was blowing and why the majority might be for Leave.

It was because the level of ignorance about the European Union was so great and so many of the arguments had little to do with the realities of what people were actually voting for, or against, that I felt that it was a bit like Virtual Reality politics.

Much as they would like to pretend that it was decision by Britain, in reality Brexit was a problem created by an English Conservative Prime Minister, and is being continued by another English Tory PM.

And, as a result, Wales today faces the reality that our economy will be decimated if we have to leave the European Union Single Market.

The ultimate test

It really does not matter which way you voted last year and indeed it does not matter which way people in the rest of the UK voted either because it will the English party leaders who will make the final decision.

There are many Labour voters in Wales who supported Jeremy Corbyn, in the vain hope that he might be the man to defend our jobs, but alas, he did not get into power last month.

And even if he had, it is time people woke up to the fact that he is perfectly happy to leave the European Union.

His decision to sack three Labour frontbenchers who voted against the party in favour of a Queen’s speech amendment calling for Britain to remain within the customs union and single market is proof of that.

In fact, the Labour party is divided on the issue and, to their credit, eight Welsh Labour MPs defied the party whip to vote against the government’s Brexit Bill earlier this year.

So, Brexit will be the ultimate test of where MPs in Wales stand when it comes to representing us.

Will Tory MPs representing rural constituencies remain loyal to a UK government that will destroy their traditional support of the farming communities?

Will Labour MPs be happy to see all those factories close purely because Jeremy Corbyn is anti-European?

There are interesting times ahead when it comes to Brexit – watch this space.

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  1. Keith Parry

    “Brexit was a very English Tory Mistake”. Tim Richards hits the nail on the head. Brexit is the result of internal rows in the right of the Tory Party dating back to Ted Heath’s Days. It is really nothing to do with Wales, We have never voted for a Tory majority in any election since 1859.
    Sadly though people are taken in by never ending unionist propaganda. People read the Daily Mail and Daily Express and watch the BBC Six O’clock News and think this stuff applies to our country. They might as well watch the English language news on Mongolian Television for all it will tell them about whats going on in Wales.
    People voted for Brexit on arguments that might apply in England but made no sense what so ever in Wales.
    We need a FREE WALES! We need to govern ourselves. We need to start thinking as Welsh nationals. We do not need to send MPs to the Mongolian Parliament nor the one in Westminster. Sending MPs to either of these places has the same effect.
    There are tv news programmes, itv 6.pm, BBC Wales 6.30pm which offer some coverage of Wales. As does Radio Wales in the mornings and evenings. The press in Wales is not brilliant but does exist. Western Mail, Daily Post, The Echo, the Argus, Wrexham Leader, Swansea Evening Post. Better your pennies go to Welsh newspapers than English ones, these papers also exist on line.Also look out for Syniadau, the Blog, whose site has daily postings from a number of Welsh sauces.

  2. chiefofwales

    I do struggle a bit with this line of argument.

    The author predicts dire consequences for Wales in leaving the European Single Market yet would support Wales leaving the ‘UK’ Single Market?

    If the predictions of leaving the European Single Market come true (which I am very sceptical of anyway) then surely you would apply the same arguments to leaving the UK?

    Here’s my question. If an independent Wales joined the EU with the rest of the UK outside the EU, Single Market etc – would we then be facing tariffs exporting to England?

  3. Wales will always be poor if it is forced to be dependent on anyone else…….800 years forced dependency on London isn’t good and needs to end.

    Power + Land = Wealth…….Wales’s communities must have self rule……by necessity, self rule forces an increase in wealth creation

  4. Trailorboy

    A few weeks ago I wandered around Bridgend and the closed up shops are something to behold. Last week I happened to go to Tredegar and Ebbw Vale and I know these places well, but it didn’t take away the absolute awfulness at how pitiful these places have become. Either side of these places at the heads of the valleys you have Merthyr, which has seen really obvious signs of regeneration and the affluent Abergavenny, but sandwiched in between you have an abject wasteland and it’s pitiful.

    Yes, without EU funding these places would be even worse – no new Heads of the Valleys road schemes, no train line from Ebbw-Vale to Cardiff and no new college buildings for Coleg Gwent etc, not forgetting all the new businesses which genuinely have been created, but the image that hits you when you see these places is abject abandonment. Perception is reality and the view of these places and its self perception is awful.

    Not enough effort and attention has been paid to the things that people can tangibly see and feel. People don’t feel included in the investments that have been made and many can’t see the investments that have been made. The dragon sculpture in Ebbw Vale has been mocked, but it is a lovely thing and I saw kids being photographed in front of it, but it is surrounded by empty boarded up shops, that haven’t seen investment or genuine trade for nearly twenty years. Nothing has been done to capture the minds and create a positive community vibe.

    Too much common sense decision making has been done and not enough on the fancy, possibly viewed as “waste-of-money” things that affect people’s sense of pride in their places. Spending money on Dragon sculptures and window dressing will be mocked, but very little of that has actually been done in some places and people have to see their areas being tarted-up and going somewhere – these comunal places, such as abandoned town centres and many more around Wales have been in intensive care for too long and the more we invest in Cardiff and other places and the more we try to make these now peripheral places commuter belts for the grand metropolises, then the less these places are needed and the more abject their town centres seem to become – they become unnecessay and surplus to requirements and become symbols of neglect and abandonment.

    Many people in many parts of Wales, who voted Brexit were just saying F.. Off and we have to do something about these areas, because they will bring the whole of Wales down with a tidal wave of antipathy if we’re not careful.

  5. Trailorboy

    I have to write a further comment. Where I live, the arts centre is vibrant, with comedy acts, films, new plays etc etc all year around and there area a lot of other events throughout the year, ranging from Festivals and Parades. These things are vital for community cohesion and maintining the vitality of a small town centre. Without those things, which are under real threat and have seen massive drops in funding, then the place that I live would eventually die as a community. These are vital things for all communities up and down Wales that every community must have by right, if they continue to exist and function as centres of real communities.

  6. Brexit is losing support with all but the right wing (from planet Mogg), the libertarian billionaires funders and a varied assortment of bemused individuals holding droopy faded Union flags. Most people now realise that leaving the EU would be hideously damaging individually and socially, and the people who will suffer most are we who live in the poorer areas.

    Wales, that is.

    It would be good if the Welsh Government could now put a whole lot of effort into pointing this out, and make sure that the threat of leaving the EU helps galvanise more effective and better regeneration. It would be good, in fact, for them to show a bit of urgency in general, in respect of the potential disaster at hand.

    More people voted to leave than to remain in an advisory referendum last year. The detail that has followed suggests increasingly that it would be an unwise move and should not, therefore, on balance, be pursued. (As a Royal Commission would have found, a) had the politicos in charge established one, and b) had they possessed half a brain between them).

    There is a role to be fulfilled by someone when all this nonsense is over (and we won’t be leaving the EU by the way – there’ll be a few fudgy words, but we’ll continue). We will need to become converted into proper Europeans, so that we can become more selfish and protective of our own wellbeing. People in Blaenau Gwent and Blaenau Ffestiniog need to see how power could be wielded by them more effectively as Europeans than as Imperial cannon fodder. We need not be subject to austerity, and all that nonsense, ever again.

    Do what you can, friends.


  7. From the EU, tell us why we should care? You voted to be poorer, more isolated, and more blandly homogenous. Your getting it.
    There is huge sympathy for individual british people who will be affected but zero for the UK as a polity, anywhere in Europe.
    You bought the lies of the ragtops and the tory right.

  8. There is no point trying to put this on England’s Tories.

    We have had 18 years of Labour in Wales rule, 10 of them with a Labour government in London at the same time. They have had more than enough time, enough opportunities, enough of a mandate, and enough EU money, to stop the English Tories destroying our country. But they have instead decided to be complicit. To keep us ignorant, to keep us poor, and to keep us English. Theyve done this because they know that the status quo is the only way they can stay in power, and that’s their end game. Not Wales’ success, not the fulfillment of our manifest potential, not a small, thriving, European state, but Labour’s continued hold on power. This is 1970’s style politics. We continue to vote for them. We want this. The Welsh Brexit vote was the natural end point of this national desire to live in the 70’s.

    Anyone see our Labour in Wales government ramping up in preparation for the English Tory chaos that is on its way? Anyone hear a new message emanating out of Caerdydd? Anyone feel a Labour in Wales Governmental sense of urgency about protecting the lives of Welsh citizens from the impending hell?

    A few months ago Labour in Wales worked with Leanne Wood to create a document insisting that Wales stay in the customs union. Leaving the customs union is part of Labour policy. Carwyn is deathly silent on this matter. “Keep your head down, no one will notice, and everyone will continue to vote Labour”.

  9. Yes, Wales’s prospects under Brexit are pretty bad. And Labour/Carwyn has scrapped agreement to stay with the customs union without any come-back from Plaid. The well-worn slogan about the best deal for Wales and pursuing guaranteed funding from a shrinking English money-tree are empty politics.
    What’s left is to express solidarity with the Irish and Scottish anti-Brexit pressure and join with them in pusuing the new constitutional settlement that must surely come.

  10. Once again, bleatings about empty shops, it is happening in so many towns, shopping has changed, we are buying on line, you can throw money at town centres, the supermarket is here to stay. Politicians have very little control on the situation. Wales is a beautiful country, welsh produce needs no adverts it is spectacular, what is the answer, self rule, a break from london, not really, a government that treats all areas equally, someone mentioned abergavenny being booming, you are not going to do this with every town, industry moved from the valleys, places like tonyrefail and porth are never going to be another abergavenny. This needs a great deal more thought, work at it and you will succeed. Good luck i love wales

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