Wales, the world & Brexit
Wales currently has little influence on global affairs. On the world stage, the Westminster government speaks for the whole of the UK. Because England makes up 84 per cent of the UK’s population, it is the needs of England that drive our negotiations and relations with other countries. We have seen this already during the Brexit negotiations: in January 2017 it was revealed that the British government considers the steel industry a low priority in future trade talks. It doesn’t matter to England, so it’s sent to the back of the queue.
We've also seen it during the development of a post-Brexit immigration policy. The UK Government set an income threshold for prospective immigrants based on average salaries which were distorted by the south of England. It resulted in key sectors in Wales traditionally reliant on migrant workers to fill labour shortages - such as social care, hospitality, the NHS and the food industry - facing completely avoidable uncertainty.
An independent Wales outside the EU
Whatever your view on the EU, independence is the only way of guaranteeing Wales’ future relationship with the EU post-Brexit. If we have to negotiate new trade deals, then these deals need to be ones that favour Wales. The British government can’t be trusted to put the Welsh economy first. Their priority is to protect banking and financial services, based in the south-east of England. Welsh industries won’t be anywhere near the top of London’s list when it comes to trade talks.
An independent Wales (outside the EU) would be able to do its own deals, meaning that it could fight for a fair settlement on the parts of the economy that matter to us.
Single market access without EU membership
We could follow the example of Switzerland or Norway and pay a fee to access the single market (either within or outside the European Free Trade Association). We could also negotiate our own free trade agreement with the EU.
Rejoining the EU
Alternatively, an independent Wales could hold a referendum on full EU membership, and depending on the result, could apply to rejoin via Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty. Wales would have to accept free movement and would have to contribute towards the EU’s annual budget; but in 2016, Cardiff University estimated Wales received £245million more back from the EU than we paid in under the UK’s membership. The process wouldn’t be an easy one, but the fact remains that an independent Wales must make its own decisions on its place in the world.
Whichever way you voted in the EU referendum, the fact of the matter is that Welsh interests would be best served by having a seat for Wales at the global negotiating tables, arguing Wales’ case. Recent events have shown us, perhaps more clearly than ever, that rather than being “stronger together” in the UK, Wales’ voice is lost entirely when it comes to negotiating the relationship with the EU and other countries.
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