The future of the United Kingdom is in question as a result of Brexit, the First Minister said tonight as he launched a new plan to reform the union.
The document ‘Reforming the Union’ emphasises the need to make permanent the devolution settlement without leading to full independence.
It also includes a plan to reform the House of Lords so that the nations of the United Kingdom are given a greater voice, rather than, as in the House of Commons, being based very largely on population.
“Twenty years into devolution, I don’t believe that this model of Parliamentary Sovereignty – in which Westminster remains paramount and all other democratic forums are subsidiary to it – can provide a basis for the future,” Mark Drakeford said.
“Reform of the UK constitution is both urgent and vital. This plan sets out the minimum steps we believe are need to strengthen our Union for the future.
“Our emancipation is not one based on framing other nations as the enemy: whether that be by Boris Johnson’s attempt to demonise the European Union, or Plaid Cymru’s attempt to blame the English for all our present discontents.”
In the document, the Welsh Government says that the UK is ‘a voluntary association of nations’ which should be open to any of its parts withdrawing.
It also said that if a government secured ‘an explicit electoral mandate’ for an independence referendum, it should be able to expect the UK Parliament to make arrangements for one.
However, the paper goes on to say that the Welsh Government is ‘committed to the United Kingdom’ and would hope that Wales would vote to stay in the UK.
Responding to the publication of the Welsh Government’s Reforming our Union policy document, Plaid Cymru has said that long term reform of the United Kingdom was pointless.
Plaid Cymru said that short term improvements to get Wales ‘indy-ready’ were welcome, but that the Welsh Government should focus its efforts not on saving the union but on securing the tools needed to build ‘the Wales of tomorrow’, such as full borrowing and tax powers, responsibility for welfare, and an international voice.
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price AM said: “There is now no doubt that Wales should be able to hold an independence referendum.
“It is disappointing – if not surprising – that the Labour Welsh Government continues to defend this indefensible union.
“Any short term steps that help get Wales indy-ready are welcome. But the Welsh Government should concentrate on building the Wales of tomorrow, not saving the union.
“The fact of the matter is that long term reform of the UK is futile. As we’re seeing at the moment through the Brexit chaos, this union allows the Tories to do their very worst to Wales.
“Remember also that this comes from a Welsh Government that was happy to send powers back from our Senedd to Westminster.
“The pooling and sharing of risks and resources is, frankly, a fanciful idea. Westminster has always been all risk and no reward for Wales.
“As we saw last month, support for Welsh independence is at an all-time high. It is moving from the margins and into the mainstream – and no amount of reform will stop the march of a nation.”