Wales and the rest of the UK should re-join the single market to undo the economic damage caused by Brexit, Plaid Cymru has said.

Speaking on the seventh anniversary of the Brexit referendum, Plaid Cymru’s new leader Rhun ap Iorwerth MS outlined “immediate practical steps” Wales and the rest of the UK could take to pave way for a closer relationship with the EU including:

  • Preparing to re-join the single market
  • Re-joining the Erasmus scheme
  • Devolving visa schemes to Wales
  • Reducing barriers at Welsh ports
  • Devolving funding schemes

Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said that the people of Wales had been let down by both the Tories’ “false and empty promises” and Labour’s inability to provide “answers” on how they would put things right.

The Plaid Cymru Leader said that Plaid Cymru’s five-point plan would “directly address” key failures of Brexit including tackling worker shortages, reducing barriers on trade, and restoring powers to the Senedd on development funding.

Mr ap Iorwerth said Plaid Cymru remained “committed” to its belief that we would be best served as members of the EU, but as a matter of urgency the UK needed to become members of the Single Market and Customs Union to undo the “economic damage” caused by a “botched Brexit” and to put more money in people’s pockets during this cost-of-living crisis.

Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said,

“Seven years on and the economic reality of Brexit has been laid bare for all to see.

“Inflation is higher in the UK than in other European countries. Import costs are higher. There’s a shortage of workers in key sectors like the NHS, hospitality, and tourism. Factories like 2Sisters in my constituency of Ynys Mon has been forced to close – resulting in the loss of over 700 jobs.

“Brexit is projected to reduce the value of Welsh exports by approximately £1.1bn.

“The people of Wales have been let down by the Tories’ false and empty promises. The Tories are responsible for the dire state our economy is now in. 

“Meanwhile, Starmer’s Labour face both ways – shying away from the true impact Brexit is having on the economy and unable – or unwilling - to provide any answers on how they would put things right.

“Plaid Cymru’s five-point plan would directly address the failures of Brexit including tackling  workers shortages and skills gaps, reducing barriers and red tape on food products, and restoring powers over post-Brexit funding to the Senedd

“Plaid Cymru remain committed to wanting the closest ties as possible with Europe and believe EU membership was – and remains – in Wales’ best interest. But at the very least we must become members of the Single Market and Customs Union with urgency to not only undo the economic damage caused by Westminster’s botched Brexit but to put more money in the pockets of the people of Wales at a time where they need it the most.

1. Prepare to rejoin the single market

The UK Government should align food safety and veterinary standards with the EU to reduce barriers and ensure a smooth flow of agricultural and food products. A new Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and veterinary equivalence agreement with the EU would ease costs for businesses, and would lay the groundwork for rejoining the single market.

2. Bring back opportunities for young people

The UK should rejoin Erasmus and negotiate reciprocal youth mobility visa schemes to enable young to travel, work, and gain experience in both the UK and EU countries. This would cultural exchange, enhances opportunities, and give young people in Wales more opportunities.

3. Devolve visa schemes to Wales

We should grant the devolved governments the ability to manage our own visa schemes, including the creation of a shortage occupation list. This would address specific worker shortages in Wales and attract skilled workers from the EU, contributing to economic growth and addressing skills gaps.

4. Reduce barriers at Welsh ports

The UK could immediately improve border and customs processes at ports like Holyhead and Fishguard, by implementing a single window system for trade data entry and digitising import and export processes. These measures streamline trade, reduce administrative burdens, and enhance the efficiency of cross-border movements.

5. Devolve funding schemes

Restore devolved powers over development funding to empower the Welsh Government to invest in Wales’ priorities. Immediate action should be taken by the UK Government to reinstate the principle of allocating funding based on relative need. This approach would not only restore respect in devolution but would also alleviate the burdens faced by local authorities, which currently bear the immense pressure of coordinating funding bids.