Brexit Does Not Mean Leaving Wales Behind

On Friday, our Senedd will lower the EU flag, but defiantly raise Y Ddraig Goch in is place – two Red Dragons to one Union Jack, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price writes.
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We weren’t all leavers but we are all leaving now. Yes, I wanted a green tinge to that inane and vacuous slogan that was “Red, White and Blue Brexit” and yes, loser’s consent – the most vital of characteristics in a vexed debate – has arguably been non-existent.

But there is little point in continuing to rehearse these arguments or fighting yesterday’s battles.

At 11 o’clock on Friday night, our Senedd will lower the flag of the European Union, but defiantly raise Y Ddraig Goch in its place – making it two Red Dragons to one Union Jack.

That, to me, is emblematic of the future facing Wales. It is the Red Dragon of Wales that will be taking back control, and if Plaid Cymru has anything to do with it, eventually setting us on a new course.

We need to move on and accept reality. Face the facts, even face the future. Certainly that is the dominant mood as this Friday fast approaches.

Political success can be contingent on how we respond to the march of events – events that can often seem counter-productive to our aspirations and, indeed, beyond our control.

“We need to move from simply seeking to defend status quo – economically and constitutionally – to a new strategy which moves Wales forward in this new context.”

But sometimes, the art of political leadership is to turn events that, at first seem totally adverse, to your advantage – by a form of political jujitsu.

We can value what we had and what we are leaving behind without the need for a last stand – there is no contradiction in that.

In much the same vain – there is no tension between holding Boris Johnson’s feet to the fire and fighting for Wales’s interests by securing new opportunities.

Central to our fight for the best deal for our nation whilst keeping the UK Government honest is fair participation in the Shared Prosperity Fund. We want Wales to have a voice in trade agreements, and a say on tax and procurement policies. And we want continued involvement in Erasmus and other beneficial EU programmes where third country participation is possible.

But we must also move beyond Brexit.

Both Labour and Tory politicians have called for a focus on “bread and butter issues” – I say bring it on.

On health, on education, on the economy – matters which transcend leaving the EU in the minds of most people by now – Plaid Cymru’s offer is the same to those who voted leave or remain, wherever in Wales they may live.

For 20 years we have had a Labour Government that has been insipid when in charge, incapable of change and incurious about the future.

We need to move from simply seeking to defend status quo – economically and constitutionally – to a new strategy which seeks to move Wales forward in this new context.

Seeming to defend the status quo was perhaps the weakest element of the Remain argument – after all the status quo for Wales is not a successful one in economic terms.

So instead of focusing on the losses from the Single Market, we have now to start to focus on the new opportunities in the new landscape.

Instead of focusing on defending the powers we have, we should focus on making the case for the new powers we need to take us through an uncertain transition and put us on a new economic course.

From power grab to power gain.

This should form part of a ten-year economic strategy to take Wales from where we are now, raising Welsh income per head, relative to the rest of the UK, by 10 percentage points over the course of this decade.

For those of us who want to channel our positive energy we can turn the next 15 months into Wales’s transition period.

The challenge is to respond to the world as it is today not the world as we want it to be.

Leaving the European Union does not mean leaving the new Wales behind.

Adam Price is leader of Plaid Cymru.