Daran Hill assesses what the recent Brexit events mean for Wales
Let’s get the obvious error out of the way soon. Wales should have been mentioned somewhere in the Brexit agreement.
Of course, some would have liked a mention of Wales on every page. It was an immense tactical error not to at least try and reflect the complex situation in every part of the UK at least somewhere in the document and it just feeds the sense of dislocation and alienation here. It would have avoided the easy criticism of a complex deal that Plaid and some Labour leadership candidates have all latched on to. It also creates an unnecessary headache for the Assembly Conservative group, the vast majority of whom can be assumed to be supporting the Brexit deal negotiated by the Prime Minister. (Though it does surprise me how little that assumption has been tested by the media this far).
Having said that, unless you are intent on viewing this crisis from a Wales-only perspective, it is impossible not to see the current situation from a much broader viewpoint. The real issue here is about who governs Britain and the basis on which they do so. It is about the authority of the current UK Government. It is about the unity of the Conservative Party. It is about whether Labour could lead an alternative government and whether it could negotiate and exit deal with more support. It is about seeking to respect the European vote of 2016, or discarding it as an anathema for whatever reason. It is about the operation of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. It is about voting strength in the House of Commons.
Boil it down from where we are. There are by now five camps of thought: Brexit anyway without a deal and on WTO terms; renegotiate the deal to deliver more detachment; support the Brexit deal achieved by the UK Government; allow a Labour or Labour led government to negotiate another deal with less detachment; or hold another vote in the hope it delivers another verdict (I don’t use the term People’s Vote as it undermines the votes of the 33,614,074 who went to the ballot box last time.) I make few judgements about the relative size of these groups. They are not five of proportional size. Indeed, the second category may be very small now, but I suspect has the capacity to grow, much like the fifth one has.
But unique or peculiar to Wales these viewpoints are not. These are all UK wide positions that other parts of the UK and the political system slot into. There is an implicit dominance of the whole political debate across all four countries that has been there for two and a half years. Carwyn will sign as many letters with Sturgeon as he wants complaining they don’t get to see the detail, are not being listened to, or any other perhaps legitimate complaint. The scale of this crisis is UK wide and the Prime Minister is approaching it in terms of priority. If Wales can’t even get a tactical mention in the Brexit agreement, it won’t get much of a mention at the highest levels of government for some months to come. I can’t see that changing even if Carwyn writes a letter in BOLD CAPITALS.
From the moment Wales voted with England in 2016, we automatically ended up in a pecking order below Northern Ireland, Scotland, and even Gibraltar. Perhaps the Welsh establishment crying foul now might care to reflect on that fact for a while. The leadership Carwyn and Leanne gave their respective parties on this issue during that referendum campaign was paltry and pathetic. Plaid got their act together and put their back into it anyway, Labour did not. That – in the most offensively sweeping way – is why Wales voted Leave in June 2016.
Excuses about feeling tired or the bias of the media don’t wash with me. The same level of election fatigue was apparent in Scotland, Northern Ireland and London, but they all voted remain. Unless Wales is particularly politically lazy nation – and it might be – there is no legitimacy in this comparison.
Truth be told it wasn’t just external factors, it was the complacent, smug, preachy, metropolitan elite running Remain in Wales that messed up. They spent the bulk of the campaign talking to each other at the expense of the bulk of the population during the referendum. Their detachment and constitutional navel gazing was laughable. And since that failure they have written books blaming others and offered supposedly independent commentary blaming others. If we do get a People’s Vote, expect these same June Criminals to reappear and try to have another stab at trying to run something successful.
Maybe at least one mention of Wales could have factually been made by the Prime Minister in the Brexit deal: it was done to respect the wishes not just of the majority of the UK, but of the majority of the voters of England and Wales.
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3 thoughts on “For Wales, See England”
Whereas there is little that we would otherwise agree about, the authors penultimate paragraph tentatively grooms the true character of the problem. In 2016, too many Remain canvassers were dissuaded from knocking working class doors. Whether this motivated by (an ultimately catastrophic) assumption that working class people wouldn’t vote or a subliminal recognition that the official campaign had little to offer them in lieu of concrete benefit, the outcome has hampered subsequent attempts to rescue the situation. If we have another plebiscite, Remain will have to do a lot better. Accepting that the majority of Welsh leavers voted in line with deeply-felt economic grievances, it becomes clear that any successful pitch would have to; 1: be directly communicated and, 2: offer real concrete benefits made easier by continuing membership. This means positing the UK as an engine for redistribution with the appropriate price-tag attached. The truth is that there is a price for staying in the EU. However, far from being measured in terms of payments to the institutions, it would be better assessed as the cost of repairing Wales and, indeed, the UK. It is one thing to talk about a different campaign – quite another to push for a sustainable settlement that ensures joint prosperity and consent!
So those who might have swung the Referendum to Remain were put off by a “smug, preachy, metropolitan elite” running the Remain campaign.
They were however apparently not put off by a group of sweet talking snake oil salespeople selling Leave.
Ultimately it’s not those who run campaigns who are responsible but those who put crosses in boxes.
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