What Would Brexit Mean For Wales?

Brian Oliphant says there are serious potential risks for Wales where Brexit is concerned.

What would a UK exit from the European Union mean for Wales? The UK has been connected to the EEC since 1973, transitioning into the EU with its formal establishment with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, and has ever since been deeply linked with the majority of Europe in economic and political matters alike. In recent years however, many in the UK have grown increasingly skeptical of the benefits of this arrangement. The result is that we’re now approaching an official referendum on the possibility of a so-called “Brexit”—the UK’s official exit from the EU. But more often than not, this concept has been considered primarily from an English point of view. Where Wales is concerned, the consequences may be different.

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.

You can read all of the series here.

While immigration and national security have been at the core of many of the debates about the Brexit, the primary focus for a lot of citizens in England and Wales alike is what effect the decision would have on the economy. There’s a belief among some Brexit sceptics that should the UK branch off to create its own economy separate from Europe, it would create widespread job losses and uncertainty. However, the counterargument is that an independent UK economy could afford lower taxes with less of an economic burden stemming from immigration. In Wales specifically, it might not be that simple.

In fact, while Brexit-related polls in England reveal that a significant portion of the population has a Eurosceptic point of view, similar polls in Wales show more sympathy for the EU. This is for several reasons, one of which is deeply rooted in the Welsh identity. The largely social democratic nature of Wales lends itself toward a more liberal and progressive attitude, which generally falls in line with those in favour of the UK’s membership in the EU. Whereas the Brexit, despite being radical in nature, is viewed as a conservative approach to the future. The economic difference between England and Wales also plays a key role. Broadly speaking, Wales stands to benefit from foreign investment under the current arrangement, but a more isolated economy could result in significant struggles for the poorer economy.

More specifically, the agriculture sector of the Welsh economy could see significant problems in the aftermath of a Brexit. Agriculture directly contributes £217 million to the Welsh economy each year, with 4.4% of the total population employed through farming. Those numbers are significant on their own, but when you factor in the broader impact of the farming industry, they grow greater. The Welsh food and drink sector accounts for £2.8 billion (largely as a product of the agriculture industry), and another 17% of people are employed through jobs connected to food and drink. Adding that all up, over £3 billion of the Welsh economy and 20% of the work force can be tied to a farming industry that could be in jeopardy in the event of a Brexit.

In fact, First Minister Carwyn Jones has warned that the farming industry in Wales could effectively come to an end” if the UK does indeed vote to split away from the EU. The comment was made as part of Welsh Labour’s ongoing campaign against the Brexit, and Jones went on to elaborate that he’s sceptical of trade with Europe should the UK become independent. While some believe a free trade agreement would be imminent, Jones isn’t as confident. He believes that, in the interim, Welsh farmers will miss out on a great deal of money needed to keep the farming industry going. Roughly £200 million in European subsidies come into Wales under the EU agreement, but perhaps even more importantly Welsh gains direct access to exporting rights within the union. Without this structure in place, all of the jobs and money connected to Welsh farming would be in danger.

Still, while this sounds like a grim outlook for Wales, it’s important to remember that at this stage it’s all hypothetical. It’s not known what the UK economy would look like following a Brexit, or whether Wales might still be able to enjoy some manner of trade agreement with the remaining EU. However as of now, there are at least serious risk factors for the economic and social identities of Wales where the Brexit is concerned.

10 thoughts on “What Would Brexit Mean For Wales?

  1. So here it is again the fear and doom and gloom merchants. No point in writing any real response to thia rubbish. Except to say that the reality of GB and the EU is this. When I voted in the first ever referendum to go into europe I like many others were led to believe it was a trading enterprise we were strengthening. Its the socialist who really want the EU because they wrongly believe that they can create a one state, one people fits all. The result so far is a german economic hegemony which is about to implode politically particularly when Merkel is thrown out as she certainly will be. This unrealistic dream with open borders for the whole world to come in and join regardless is the socialist nightmare that is now destroying that very good aim of economic prosperity through better trade. No one wants to lose their heritage and nationality. Its ironic that the nationalist who so crave independence will only see it lost to this dreadful socialist dream if we dont get out now.

  2. There is the real, flawed but useful EU and there is the fabulous monster EU that wants to become a super state (none of its members want that) and to stop us trading with the rest of the world (though nothing stops us doing so and Germnay does it abundantly) and wants to flood us with migrants (though the French are collaborating in keeping migrants out of UK). This mythical monster obsesses the brexiters who blame it for judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (nothing to do with the EU) our failure to protect steel (the policy of British ministers) and a host of other imaginary crimes. It is what the Freudians call projection: things we don’t like about our world or our situation we project on to an outside entity that we can then hate cathartically. One can only hope this condition is not general enough in the population to result in a real Brexit. The British government would then have to spend most of the next five years renegotiating arrangements we have already for no advantage.

  3. Here is are some questions for the politicos. Exactly how many people woild you let come and live in the uk from abroad regardless of any skills they may or may not bring with them? What population levels is safe for our infrastructure and cultural cohesion?
    Lets say we go to 90 million by time you stop! Then over the next twenty years as many economists and high tech gurus have stated throug many studies that automation will effectively dispense of some 20 million of the current productive workforce? How will these utterly unskilled people of all races sustain themselves. Bearing in mind that the resulting reduction in tax incomes and reduction of education requirements for over 50 skils now automated. What effect on the services, health,education, housing, food, water etc. You get the picture. Frankly i think the answers to this do not lay in the overbearing structures of multi layered government we currently have or the current political parties still operating in the 1940’s. They have never even thought about this. How could they most have an ego problem the rest have an eye to the money they can get out of it all. Meanwhile lets put council tax up and find other ways of taxing the very existence of ordinary folk.

  4. @ Ross Tredwyn

    “brexiters who blame it for judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (nothing to do with the EU) our failure to protect steel (the policy of British ministers) and a host of other imaginary crimes. It is what the Freudians call projection:”

    You’re right – the ECHR under the Council of Europe is nothing to do with the EU – that’s the Court of Justice of the European Union. Confusing isn’t it? And the Council of Europe isn’t the EU’s European Council (of Ministers) aka The Council of the European Union either. Confusing isn’t it? The European Union and the Council of Europe both use the same ring of stars emblem and the vast majority of people tasked with voting in this referendum on EU membership don’t know the bloody difference. Most never did and never will – just like all the voter ignorance we see on display in Welsh Barometer Polls about which government does what for people in Wales?

    This isn’t projection – it’s just ignorance. People who know don’t project and people who don’t know can’t project.

    All this ignorance even after decades is part of the lack of real democracy in the multi-layer governance the UK has to operate under. That’s a good reason to leave and most advocates of BREXIT I know also want the UK to leave the Council of Europe as well as the European Union. We don’t need either. Simple choice when you know how much unelected baggage we’re carrying round that doesn’t operate in the UK’s best interest.

  5. Well, would we be more democratically governed if we left? We have an unelected head of state, an unelected upper House of Parliament, appointed through patronage and thinly disguised bribery, a voting system that gives absolute power to a party with 35 per cent of the popular vote, which is usually no more than 25 per cent of the electorate. We have no restriction on concentration of press ownership and security services carrying out widespread surveillance of the general population. The British public shows very little interest in democracy. Personally I am very glad to have the European Court of Human Rights, a British inspiration from the days when we took liberty more seriously.

  6. It seems to me that most of those who are anti EU were also anti Scottish independence.
    And so I’ve been puzzled by how those who want the UK out of the EU ignore the consequence that a vote to exit will result in Scotland leaving the UK.
    I’ve concluded that for those that have worked out how to join the dots it’s a case of: – Well Scotland is going to become independent sooner or later anyway so the the UK continuing as it is isn’t an issue for me.
    It’s as though the stout Brexit yeomen and yeowomen of Englandandwales* are giving a sort of collective Gallic shrug.
    The spokespeople for a UK exist need to be questioned on this issue as in reality it’s Englandandwales * and not the UK that is going to leave if there’s a get out vote.
    *I don’t really know enough about the Northern Ireland situation and consequences to comment.

  7. One union was created and sustained by violence and intolerance and the other was willing entered into on the basis of equality and co-operation.

    One union was created to avoid war while the other looks for war.

    The UK and its dictatorial far-right supporters are nasty. That’s why we need to stay in the EU and dump the UK.

  8. Think of your children and grandchildren. Why did we take the leading role in two world wars. Horrendous as they were in many respects. We mest never allow ourselves to be isolated and disregarded by most of europe for generations. Have the courage to retain our independence and run our great nation in the way we would want and deserve. How can I as a lone individual help to ensure brevity wins* nm

  9. What have the two world wars to do with our future within the European Union? The EU is a democratic organisation, probably more so that Westminster, with liberal policies. While the UK played a role in the WW it was the Russians and Americans who won it, everyone else just happened to be on the winning side. The two countries that actually won WW2, the USSR and USA, have both moved on and put it behind them. To most of the world the wars are history. It seems the UK is stuck on its own trying to delude themselves that the wars still matter and that we really won them.

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