Plaid Cymru recently announced their new policy to push the UK to rejoin the European Single Market – today, we argue why we believe they were wrong to do so.
Yes Cymru is a single policy organisation that is focused on the promotion of Welsh independence. While it does raise awareness of current affairs affecting Wales such as the housing crisis, it adopts no official position on other political or constitutional issues. And, so it is with Brexit.
While the UK Brexit referendum was divisive, Yes Cymru adopts no official position on the matter. We recognise that our supporters sit on all sides of the political spectrum and that Yes Cymru must continue to function as an umbrella organisation that welcomes all members, irrespective of political colours.
Indeed, according to many studies, nearly a third of Brexit supporters in Wales back independence. Between 10 – 15% of Conservative party members in Wales also support independence.
We must also recognise that a majority of the electorate in Wales voted in favour of Brexit by a majority of 52% to 48%.
Furthermore, it is our belief that in an independent Wales, the issue of Single Market or EU membership must be settled by the people of Wales.
With all these points in mind, we were surprised to hear that Plaid Cymru last week announced their new policy of promoting Single Market membership, while remaining a constituent part of the United Kingdom.
Billed as an attempt to “undo” the damage caused by Brexit, Plaid Cymru has outlined the immediate practical steps Wales and the rest of the UK could take to pave the way to establish a closer relationship with the European Union including, preparing to re-join the Single Market, re-joining the Erasmus scheme, devolving visa schemes to Wales, reducing barriers at Welsh ports and devolving funding schemes.
While the issue of EU or Single Market membership itself still remains contentious, the policy serves to undermine the raison d’etre that separates Plaid from Welsh Labour – that of Welsh independence. For, how can they purport to promote Welsh independence while also seeking to promote EU membership as a member – and not as an equal partner – of the United Kingdom?
And while there are titbits in the policy announcement hinting at an increased role for Wales within the framework of UK Single Market membership, there is no evidence that a future UK Government would be even prepared to consider these points, let alone consult with the Welsh Government regarding the terms of the UK’s membership.
Indeed, as another commentator has succinctly put it, the policy of promoting UK membership of the Single Market and Customs Union is essentially “built around an argument of strengthening the UK economically”.
It also tells those hopeful of re-joining the Single Market and perhaps the European Union that they need not bother with supporting independence, because the ultimate objective is to re-join the Single Market. This is disingenuous as both the UK Conservative and UK Labour party have made no such commitment to explore possibilities to re-join either, and even in the event that they did so, Plaid would have no role or input in any negotiations. Indeed, the very premise of supporting re-joining the Single Market undermines the concept of Welsh independence and Wales’ autonomy for these very reasons.
While this may be a cynical ploy to snap up remainer votes at the next parliamentary election, we contend that this is a misguided strategy. We hold that the decision of Welsh membership pf the Single Market should be left to the people of Wales in an independent Wales.
(First Published in Pembrokeshire Herald by Maria Pritchard)