We have to force the UK Government to sit up and listen to Wales on Brexit
Adam Price AM
Making Wales’ voice heard in the post-Brexit referendum clamour has been something of a challenge for the Welsh Government.
Northern Ireland has the border, Scotland independence and London the City – but Wales has had little in the way of leverage over what kind of Brexit Britain should have.
We’ve been not so much naked in the negotiating chambers – to quote Bevan – but shivering in the cold outside.
We in Plaid have focused constantly on creative ways that we can insert Wales into the post-referendum political landscape.
At first we challenged the Welsh Government’s refusal to give unequivocal support for staying in the Single Market.
People will remember that at first, the Labour Government voted with the Tories and UKIP in the Assembly to oppose Single Market membership – presumably to spare Mr Corbyn’s blushes.
We then negotiated with the government behind the scenes to co-author the joint White Paper Securing Wales’ Future, which set out the Welsh national interest (as defined by the support of a clear majority of AMs) and clarified that Wales needed to continue to participate in the Single Market and the Customs Union.
In the foreword to that document, Leanne Wood pointed out one of our main objectives which was that the Labour Government needed to work with the SNP Government if Wales was to have any say at all.
Now Mark Drakeford and his opposite number in Holyrood, Mike Russell, are virtually joined at the hip.
Fast forward until last month and we have another example of Plaid Cymru taking action, with unanimous support for a Continuity Bill – another idea from the brilliant Steffan Lewis – that is now Government policy, not just in Wales but in Scotland too.
It has now been passed by the Government in draft form for the Llywydd’s consideration.
Despite these important initiatives Wales and her needs are still seemingly invisible. We will need several more weapons in the armoury in order to get a good Brexit deal for Wales.
So are there fresh options to consider? They have to be options which make the UK Government sit up and listen, and have the power to shift the terms of trade in the Brexit debate.
One is an advisory referendum that could be held in Wales using the power to do so under the Government of Wales Act.
The mandate for Wales staying in the Single Market is currently indirect, through Assembly Members and votes in the chamber.
We could strengthen the hand of Wales by seeking a popular endorsement for staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union.
We cannot guarantee anything when it comes to this Tory Westminster Government listening to the nations, but we can at least ensure that there is no doubt about the will of the people of Wales.
This could put Wales clearly on the Brexit map, and not just at home but abroad. Armed with a popular mandate that the UK Government was seeking to ignore we could use a strategy of para-diplomacy, appealing to those sub-state parliaments in the EU which have a power of veto over the final Brexit deal that we currently lack.
The Walloon Parliament was able to have a say on the CETA trade deal, for example, using this regional veto – and our friends in Flanders, where Plaid’s sister-party N-VA leads the Government, would understand our plea for decisions on Brexit to be made on the basis of equal respect for the constituent nations of the UK.
The challenge for Plaid Cymru on Brexit is to provide leadership from outside of government, as Brexit could be completed by the time the next Welsh elections happen.
So far we have endeavoured to meet that challenge, but there is further to go in order to keep Wales in the Single Market and Customs Union.
We’ll continue to provide the type of imaginative leadership that Wales needs, and, often, with the current Government so badly lacks.
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Once again, no, the Plaid Leadership has not met the challenge , you have not articulated a Welsh Mandate. Putting down motions in Westminster which are bound to fail does not cut it. As you say, Adam, you need provide leadership outside Government. But how? Why cannot even the brighter sparks in Plaid spell this out? I can spell it out. I want to go for an elected Welsh Constitutional Convention. I (and Plaid) would have to get out of our chairs and go round Wales and campaign for it. Tough, eh? But I will if they will. Actually I… Read more »
They did publish a Welsh mandate, and have an Assembly majority for a Continuity bill. It inevitably doesn’t get across, but no party has actually done more in the Welsh context.
You’re writing this as the Suffragettes get remembered for their activism. Create badges, banners, pamphlets, the archivists of the future will thank you.
Adam Price, Does dim byd sy’n taro’r Ceidwadwyr â mwy o ofn na gweld chwalfa’r hen drefn, Glas yn erbyn Coch, a gorfod ystyried lluosogrwydd mewn gwleidyddiaeth, a chyfaddawd a chreu pontydd rhwng pleidiau sy’n anghytuno â’i gilydd. Os ydych chi eisiau codi’r bwganod ar San Steffan, paid ag ystyried fod Coch yn well na Glas a byddwch fodlon gweithio ag un a’r llall os ydy’n i ennill grym a sylw. Yn ystod Clymblaid Ceid-Rhydd 2010-15, pasiwyd neu cynhalwyd pleidlais ar tua %55 o bethau ar faniffesto’r Dem Rhydd. Dyna gamp. If Plaid were in power via a coalition with… Read more »
Sorry Liberals Cymru but given that Welsh tory leader Andrew RT Davies supports a hard brexit ie leaving the single market and the customs union your claim Wales would be in a much better position to handle brexit simply doesnt stand up to scrutiny. Opposing a hard brexit – as adam and plaid rightly do – isn’t ‘ideological tribalism’ it’s doing what’s best for the welsh economy.
We’re leaving Europe, a historical mistake in my opinion.
We might as well be in a position to say, okay, if you we cannot get any concessions for Wales we will allow socialist Labour to come back to power another 100 years.
A non-labour coalition will not work in this Welsh parliament. Unfortunately, there is only 1 Lib Dem AM – Kirsty Williams. Most of the Welsh Conservatives want a hard-brexit and their are the UKIP AMs. Both the Cons and UKIP are strict unionists. Kirsty had only 2 choices stand with Plaid Cymru in opposition or put her skills to the Welsh government as Education secretary in Carwyn’s administration. In that position I would have joined with Plaid in opposition, however she choose the later option and I respect her decision. As Adam said, there is no short cuts, we have… Read more »
The one Lib Dem AM, put Labour into power because she did not want to vote with UKIP and the Conservatives.
If Plaid had a First Minister it would undoubtedly give Wales a distinct voice during Brexit. But the problem is with the other parties that would be required. Plaid held their nose and challenged for the First Minister post, but Williams has consistently preferred Labour.
It gets tedious to point this out every time a Plaid person writes yet another article denouncing Brexit, but here we go: A clear majority of people in Wales voted for it. The whole might of the British State was mobilised to prevent them from doing so, including regular warnings (at the taxpayers’ expense) about the risk of not getting any sort of deal. We still voted for it. If Plaid can’t seize the opportunity and present a positive vision of an independent Wales flourishing outside the EU, unencumbered by its restrictive market rules and customs union, then they really… Read more »
It gets tedious to point this out every time a hard brexit supporter waxes lyrical about the benefits of a hard brexit ie leaving the single market and the customs union that with over two thirds of welsh exports going to the single market a hard brexit (meaning tariffs on welsh goods) is going to have a serious impact on the welsh economy. And just how damaging brexit will be to the welsh economy was highlighted in the UK government’s own figures yesterday which showed the welsh economy slowing by 10 percent if there’s a hard brexit. Yes a majority… Read more »
So unless they agree with your claim thay the customs union is “restrictive”, they should go home?
It’s more likely that they simply disagree with you. I wouldn’t vote for a party that backed exiting the customs union at this stage of the negotiations.
British state policy is to exit the customs union. The biggest party in the British state was largely divided over Brexit, with top Leave figures like Boris and Gove now in the cabinet.
Adam Price reasons correctly that London is unlikely to listen to what Wales has to say, so what is Adam Price’s/ Plaid Cymru’s end game with the proposed Welsh referendum? If a referendum were to get support from the Assembly, then would nationalism gain political momentum if Wales were refused the right to hold the referendum (for its not clear that the Welsh Government has the powers to hold one on EU matters) or if an “illegal” vote went ahead but suffered interference or the referendum results are rejected by the UK government? But time is running out for any… Read more »
Trying to thwart Brexit altogether is the only sensible policy for any group with the interests of Wales at heart. If you see a man about to walk over a cliff you have a duty to stop him. A slim majority to leave where the 1.8 million Britons living in Europe had no vote, where young people between 16 and 18 had no vote but thousands of Commonwealth member living here did is no proper mandate in my opinion in a referendum based on misinformation. Why don’t MPs and AMs do what they are supposed to do and act as… Read more »
The problem with Plaid’s approach is they seem to be still fighting the battles of 2016, rather than focusing how Wales can adapt post Brexit. Acting as sore losers is not a good look….
If the EU really want to cut off their nose to spite it’s face in terms of stopping effective trade between the UK and the rest of the continent, so be it. They will soon come to their senses.
In the meantime, Plaid should be trumpeting initiatives how to build up an internal Welsh economy, and how to target wider markets in England and Scotland.
amazing that Adam’s only thought on Ireland is “Northern Ireland has the border”. Refers to Flanders for a ‘sister’ party. Where’s the understanding that Ireland is our sister country; and that “regulatory alignment” plus border permeable to trade ties the UK to the Customs Union. This is the week when Plaid could have challenged PM May’s pretence to freely negotiate third party trade deals to placate her hard brexiteers. Taunt her with “regulatory alignment” and being in hock to DUP bigots. Steffan Lewis did have some grasp of the Irish dimension; with him unfortunately out of action, it falls to… Read more »
A constructive article from Adam Price, with some illumination in a mostly sea of darkness from other Assembly interested parties. The joint consultation paper with Labour entitled ‘Securing Wales’ Future’ set the playing field but sadly without the ball. It’s held somewhere else and flat. That’s not a failure of Wales. It’s a failure of a large centralised autocracy. Of which we, (not me) at the ‘nod’ roll out in Wales in great numbers to vote in Labour. You can’t have the cake and eat it. Wales is a back seat driver at best and in the boot at worst.… Read more »