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Irish Times London editor explains why ‘Welsh independence could happen’

23 Apr 2021 3 minute read
Picture by Ifan Morgan Jones / Llinos Dafydd. (CC BY 2.0)

The London editor of The Irish Times has explained why he thinks Welsh independence “could” happen.

Denis Staunton told World View – The Foreign Affairs Podcast, that he believes Wales could become independent within the “next decade or two”.

He believes the problem for the Westminster parties is they’re not “really ready to consider a radical change to the relationship between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom”.

Staunton said that the “relationship is going to be unstable” so long as the British parliament is sovereign and has the power to abolish the Senedd.

He added that if Scotland were to become independent, then “Wales could consider another option”.

The journalist said that the independence cause had been boosted by the Westminster government taking away the powers of the Senedd with the Internal Market Act, which had “got some people’s backs up”.

But what had a bigger impact he said was the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, where First Minister Mark Drakeford is perceived to have taken a more cautious approach than Boris Johnson.

He cited the Rishi Sunak refusing to extend the furlough scheme when Wales went into the firebreak lockdown, only to do so a few weeks later when Boris Johnson decided to tighten Covid-19 restrictions in England.

‘Conservative government’

When he was asked if Welsh independence could really happen, Denis Staunton said: “I think it could. I think that Brexit has changed so much, and I think also the nature of this Conservative government, and particularly if this government remains in power, wins another term at Westminster.

“I think also in a way, when Britain was part of the European Union, and you had various layers of government, from Brussels, Westminster, and the devolved administrations, devolution made more sense for everybody.

“I think that now the problem is that for London, and I think for both of the parties at Westminster, both Labour and the Conservatives, neither of them are really ready to consider a radical change to the relationship between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

“So, for example they’re not really going to go for proper federalism because that would undermine the supremacy of parliament. Parliament under the British constitution is sovereign, and what that means that with an 80 seat majority in Westminster, Boris Johnson could tomorrow decide at Westminster to abolish the parliament in Wales and the parliament in Scotland.

“So as long as that’s possible then I think the relationship is going to be unstable, the constitutional arrangement is going to be unstable, and I do think that now that certainly if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom, we don’t know what would happen in Northern Ireland, that’s another question, and in a way less relevant to what happens in Wales.

“But certainly if Scotland were to leave, then the whole nature of the project of the United Kingdom is changed and in question, and then Wales could consider another option.

“So, I think it is possible and if it did happen it could happen at any time within the next decade or two.”

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