‘Hostility to newcomers’ biggest handicap to Welsh independence, says Guardian columnist
The “biggest handicap” to Welsh independence succeeding would be Wales’ “hostility to newcomers,” according to Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins.
In an opinion piece for the newspaper, he argues that an independent Wales is “perfectly feasible” but would depend on bringing “money and talent over the border”.
He compares Wales with Ireland and says that crucial to the success of the Irish economy after independence in the Republic was the move from “a fierce Anglophobia to a brash internationalism”.
“[Wales’] chief handicap may be similar to Ireland’s 100 years ago – the potential for an excluding hostility to newcomers. Nowhere in Wales is more than an hour from England,” he writes.
“An independent Wales is to me perfectly feasible, but it would depend not on England’s exchequer but on England’s tourists, retired people, remote workers, long-distance commuters, returning expatriates, second-homers rich and poor, anyone who can be induced to bring money and talent over the border into Britain’s loveliest country.
“As with the SNP, Welsh nationalism has to tear itself away from reactionary nostalgia to imitate Ireland’s hard-headed entrepreneurialism – or it will stay just a pipe-dream party.”
In the column he however praises Plaid Cymru’s recent Commission on Independence, calling its report “impressive”.
“It grappled in detail with a Welsh constitution, justice system, education, finance and foreign relations. It pointed out that there was nothing unusual in small state independence.
“There are seven smaller countries in the EU, and plenty such as Lithuania, Slovakia and Ireland which have complex, fiddly borders.
“As for relations with England, the report was openminded, examining confederal models from the EU to Benelux and Spain. It even proposed ‘an explanatory referendum’, in which various options are presented to the voters.”
He goes on to say: “To those set on independence, economics is immaterial. Project fear never works. When it comes to self-determination, sovereignty is all, as the cliches of Brexit attest.
“Besides, no model can forecast the galvanic impact on an economy of independence itself. As the Basques said of their quasi-autonomy from Spain: ‘We build the road as we travel.'”