Rhodri Glyn Thomas outlines his arguments for Wales staying in the EU.
It may seem unusual to see a Plaid Cymru politician – one who believes in greater autonomy for our nation – support Wales’ continuing membership of the European Union.
The EU empowers our nation, our businesses, our communities and our people far more than one may realise.
Europe: In or Out?
This week on Click on Wales we are debating whether Wales should remain in Europe ahead of the referendum on June 23rd.
Through our membership, the Welsh Government – as much as I disagree with its priorities and performance – is responsible for delivering a great deal of policies. Agricultural policy, worth £200 million per year to our farmers, and regional development worth more than £1billion is set by the Welsh Government.
This doesn’t include the research and development funding, marine and fisheries, lifelong learning or Youth Action monies.
Far from empowering us and “taking back control” as the leave campaign urges us, the reality is that exiting the European Union would see responsibilities removed from Wales and put back into the hands of politicians in Westminster.
Unlike the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the EU is a wealth-distribution union. We in Wales are net beneficiaries of that union. Every man, woman and child gets back £40 per head more back from Europe compared to what we pay in.
London is the richest region of Europe with west Wales and the valleys amongst the poorest. This is not the fault of Europe. This is the continuous hangover of a socially, politically and economically unbalanced British State where wealth is polarised in the south east of England.
Those who advocate a ‘Brexit’ say that “it’s our money” and what we could save from EU membership can be better spent in Wales. But all of my political life I have fought successive Westminster governments, of all hues, to see greater investment in Wales.
Anybody who believes we can trust Westminster to distribute wealth in a post-EU UK need only look at the decades and decades of underinvestment in our communities to see through this pipe dream.
We know that 1 in 10 Welsh jobs are dependent on our EU membership. We know that Welsh businesses undertake trade worth £5billion a year with Europe. We know that the EU accounts for 44% of all Welsh exports. What we don’t know is what a post-EU, post-leave looks like and what it means for our jobs, families, children and grandchildren.
Those who seek to divide us by scapegoating migrates for the country’s ills, and give us their faux outrage over ‘sovereignty’ have no vision or strategy for our future. Far from a leap of faith, we’re being asked to take a giant backwards step into the unknown.
The dismantling of the welfare state, policing budget and social service cuts and the rising level of poverty are the failures of Welsh and Westminster governments.
Leaving Europe will not change that fact that we have longer hospital waiting times, a lack of affordable housing, an increased pension age, or that our roads, rail and connectivity infrastructure have all been neglected. Only by changing the governments we elect in Wales and Westminster can these damning records be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Perhaps more fundamental than all of this, indeed far more fundamental than any of the Prime Minister’s so-called renegotiation deals is that we the people can decide what type of nation we want to be, and whether we want to be a full participant in forging our own destiny.
I want a Wales that is a progressive, outward-looking country which shapes its own future on the international stage and shares in the principles of partnership, solidarity and peace.
The EU is not faultless. There are many things we can and should change.
But the Europe of today is a much more secure and safer place than the Europe of conflict one hundred years ago.
We have an equal say in this referendum. Let’s not allow the squabbles of the political class of Westminster to hijack this profoundly important debate.
Let’s believe that we can achieve a better Europe together, with Wales taking centre stage within this family of nations.