Outgoing Chair of Wales for Europe, Geraint Talfan-Davies, has said that Brexit was the result of a fundamental failure of the British political system.
The former Controller of BBC Wales, who has been at the helm of the Wales for Europe (WFE) campaign group since the 2016 referendum, used his valedictory address as Chair to outline the lessons he believes must be learned from the UK’s exit from the EU.
“It’s the political system that needs addressing, whether it’s a voting system that is no longer fit for purpose, or the myopic half-hearted regulation of the funding of parties, of elections, of referenda and, particularly, of online campaigning,” he said.
“Currently, our political system is a badly run casino, where the management, once in power, cannot easily be held to account.”
He added that the UK’s electoral system prevented voters from being able to choose “mature and nuanced approaches to unprecedented complexity” or “to face the bombardment that rains down on society from every quarter – globalisation, technological change, the decline in manufacturing, the precariousness of employment… individual and regional inequalities, worldwide movements of population, (and) the rise of populism.”
In a wide-ranging critique of the factors that led to the Brexit referendum, Mr Talfan Davies warned that any pro-European campaign would require patience, reflecting that it took 18 years to reverse the four to one vote against Welsh devolution in 1979.
“Remember that the change of heart on devolution came not only because people banged on about it, but because the miners’ strike suddenly changed thinking within a political party and the public,” he said.
“Devolution was about correcting a big democratic deficit. But we have not been able to correct the media deficit. With the threat to the BBC that could get even worse.”
Speaking to WFE supporters at the South Wales What’s Next? conference, the former broadcasting supremo said that beyond the “battle to fight over the shape of Brexit”, a second phase was needed which did not simply argue to re-join the EU, but a fight to confront a fundamental issue: “the tussle between European and American values in the organisation of our society. In that battle, Wales has a lot to gain and a lot to lose.
“Our job will be to ensure that – whatever the colour of our passport – we maximise the gain and stay true to a Europeanism that is in our hearts and soul.”
Helen Wales, previously Chair of Cardiff for Europe, has been appointed Mr Talfan Davies’ successor.