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.