Mark Drakeford says he is ‘Welsh first and British next’ but that UK is ‘great insurance policy’
The First Minister has said that he is “Welsh first and British next” but that the UK is a “great insurance policy” for Wales to have.
During a visit to Dublin, Mark Drakeford said that he did not think that an independent Wales would be “so poor” but that he preferred to pool resources with the others nations of the UK.
His comments come after he said yesterday that he won’t “ever believe” that independence is the right course of action for Wales.
Speaking in Dublin he told the Irish Times that his own case for the UK was “not a sentimental one”.
“I’m Welsh first and British next,” he said. “I have never stated that Wales could not be independent if the people in Wales wanted it.
“I never signed up to the idea that we would be so poor. I want to be able to articulate that positive case for the current arrangements we have of strengthened devolution.
“The case is that it is a great insurance policy that we pool our resources and share the rewards where it is necessary at the UK level.”
The First Minister added that Wales wants “powerful and entrenched devolution” but “we don’t need a Welsh army or navy or air force”.
“We don’t believe that Wales needs a seat at the United Nations,” he said.
At the same time, however, he said that decisions taken by the UK Government had made Wales poorer.
The country will be £1.1 billion (€1.3 billion) worse off this year because money it could have expected through the EU’s rural development funds has not been replaced by the UK Government, he said.
He also said that he “deeply regrets” Wales no longer being part of a series of EU-operated programmes including the Erasmus+, which allows for student exchanges across Europe, and the Horizon science collaboration programme.
“We found such a strength in people’s emotional commitment to the work they had done through 20 years of investment through the European Union,” he said.
“Now they could see it just being snatched away in a way that makes no sense to them at all. There were choices that could have been made that the post-EU relationship could have been designed in such a way that we didn’t lose out on so many things.
“Our great sorrow is that so many of those opportunities were squandered.”
Asked why people voted for Brexit in Wales, he said that the EU constituted the status quo, he said, “and the status quo wasn’t working for them”.
“Many of the reasons had nothing to do directly with what was on the ballot paper,” he said. “We had six years of austerity.”
Yesterday Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, whose party is in a co-operation agreement with the Welsh Government at the Senedd, criticised Mark Drakeford’s comments on independence.
Adam Price said that Mark Drakeford was “wrong” to say that independence would never be the answer to Wales’ problems.
“Waking up to this news must be a devastating blow to the 40% of Labour voters who support independence,” he said.
“Being wedded to a Union that allows the destructive streak of Conservatism to wreak havoc on Welsh communities will never serve Wales well, no more than it has served the people of Ireland.
“Independence is the only way that we can create a fairer, greener Cymru for all. Independence would not only be socially just but also economically viable, as Plaid Cymru’s recently commissioned research shows.
“The First Minister is wrong. All decisions affecting Wales should be made in Wales and only way to achieve this is independence.”
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