Theresa May’s speech last week has outlined why more than ever, it is imperative that Plaid Cymru defends and stands up for the Welsh national interest.
Plaid Cymru has been given an opportunity to influence and shape the Welsh position on Brexit. Had we not taken this opportunity, our nation's voice would have been weakened, as Labour don't have an electoral majority.
In her speech last week, the Prime Minister did two important things.
She said that she was minded to seek what is referred to as a ‘Hard Brexit’, ending our membership of the European Single Market. This would be the worst possible kind of EU withdrawal for the Welsh economy, and also a position which is in direct opposition to the Scottish Government.
She also said that Wales, Scotland and subject to a new executive being formed northern Ireland, would have their views on leaving the EU considered at the Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiations (JMC-EN). Wales will now present a joint White Paper, authored by Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government to that committee outlining our national priorities.
Last autumn the Welsh Government failed to back a Plaid Cymru Senedd motion advocating Wales retaining its membership of the Single Market. Given this, there was a real risk that the Welsh White Paper would have taken a position against single market membership. Our view is that it is in the best interests of the Welsh economy to remain in the single market. A position to the contrary would pose a real threat to jobs.
By jointly authoring the Wales White Paper, Plaid Cymru has prevented that from happening. Plaid Cymru's Shadow Secretary for External Affairs, Steffan Lewis in working with the Welsh Government, has succeeded in pulling them much further towards us on the question of the single market.
The joint White Paper was launched on Monday January 23rd in a joint Press Conference in London. The joint White Paper will subsequently form the Welsh negotiating position at JMC-EN.
Our key principles throughout this process have been:
- To prioritise the needs of the Welsh economy and Welsh workers.
- To keep as many links open with the European Union as possible.
- To get as many of our Special Conference Motion points into the official Welsh position as possible, which include protections for workers' rights and the environment.
- To ensure that there is as much of a united front as possible between Wales, Scotland and northern Ireland.
As a result of this, the White Paper establishes that:
- Wales should continue to participate in the Single Market, either as members of EEA and/or EFTA, or with an unprecedented deal.
- The Welsh Government should develop a comprehensive new international policy.
- Wales should develop comprehensive links with Ireland.
- The constitution of the UK must be remodelled and no agreements should be made without the consent of Wales and of our National Assembly.
- Our agricultural producers and farmers must be protected from any tariffs or threats to their livelihoods.
- That Wales itself should legislate to keep vital European environmental standards and regulations, if the Conservatives to decide to throw them out of the window.
- That European migrants in Wales are not “bargaining chips”, are contributors to our society, and that the principle of freedom of movement should be implemented in a way that is consistent with the Single Market, as is the case in Norway.
When taken alongside the views of our sister party in the Scottish Government, the Prime Minister would be foolish to ignore these demands. Her desire to appease the narrow, insular English nationalists in UKIP and in her own party, suggests that she may well ignore us.
That's why Plaid Cymru has started to develop a detailed contingency plan, separate from the Welsh Government, in preparation for the eventuality that the Welsh position in these negotiations is not respected.
This White Paper does not tie us to the Welsh Government. The Party of Wales will continue to hold them to account on the delivery of public services and on how they spend public money. We will continue to shine a light on their failings, particularly in the fields of health, education and the economy.
The decision to leave the European Union and and getting right how that is done is important for the very future of our nation. In this, Plaid Cymru has to play an effective role.
This joint working again demonstrates that Plaid Cymru is able to achieve more for Wales than the other opposition parties.
The day after the referendum last June; we said that Plaid Cymru will secure a new and outward-looking future for the Welsh nation, and that is exactly what we’re setting out to achieve here.
This party’s mission is to advance the Welsh national interest and we will carry that mission out with utmost diligence, as always.