What next for Wales in Europe?

Steffan Lewis proposes a National Mitigation Plan for Wales following the referendum.

I deeply regret that a majority of my fellow citizens chose to withdraw from the European Union last week, but I accept that it was their democratic right to exercise.

During the campaign, a vow was made to the people of this country. That vow was specific and it was repeated. It included a commitment to increase spending on the NHS and a commitment that the British State would cover every penny of lost EU funding to farmers and aid to deprived communities.

That vow was made to the people of this country, many of whom live in some of the poorest communities of this continent, and Plaid Cymru will not allow them to be lied to. They stand to lose too much.

Plaid Cymru waits with sceptical anticipation for the emergence of the first British Prime Minister in history to emerge from Downing Street in September and announce a record, unprecedented increase in investment in Wales. Of course, that new Prime Minister will have to do so without any savings from EU membership, because as we learnt over the weekend, the Brexit plan may include membership of the European Economic Area, which comes with a substantial membership fee.

There is now a gap before the appointment of this new Prime Minister, which will be a crucial time for the Welsh Government to work to further the Welsh national interest.

I propose that the Government should compile a National Mitigation Plan for Wales, based on three broad strands of enquiry.

Firstly, we need to see a plan setting out the steps that can be taken within Wales to support those communities who are facing the greatest uncertainty, like the West and the Valleys who will be seeking alternative sources of aid, and rural communities who will require greater levels of financial support.

We should see a plan for the introduction of an Economic Fairness Bill so that the Welsh Government can introduce an internal regional development policy to support all corners of our nation.

Secondly, as part of this National Mitigation Plan, we need to look at changes needed at a British Isles level that further Wales’ national interest. For example, a consideration of the creation of an Investment Bank of the Isles, along the model of the European Investment Bank. It could provide finance for schemes that would otherwise be funded by EIB and also act as a mechanism for the delivery of new structural funds to replace the EU funding we stand to lose.

Proposals should be published for the immediate constitutional changes needed to strengthen Wales’ position so that we are not now incorporated into a monstrous England and Wales entity that works against Wales’ interests.

Finally, the National Mitigation Plan should address Wales’s place in the international community, including, of course, our newly redefined relationship with other European countries. The Welsh Government should gain full and unfettered access to the British State’s diplomatic network, so that a distinct Welsh voice for securing trade and building relations can be established. We should also renew efforts to attract other countries to open diplomatic missions in Cardiff as part of this process.

In next few months Welsh Government has an opportunity in which it must stand up for Wales’ national interest. I urge them to produce a National Mitigation Plan as soon as possible to ensure that Wales has a distinct voice in our new political landscape.

Whatever way people voted last week, many on all sides will be looking to the future anxiously. A sad irony of the referendum campaign was a fundamental and intentional misunderstanding of the principles of ever closer union. That part of the treaty of Rome, in fact, refers to the ever closer union of the peoples – not governments – of Europe.

My hope, against all odds, is that the people of this nation can continue to stand with the people of this continent and that the dream of Wales in Europe will never die.

Steffan Lewis is an AM for South East Wales.

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