According to Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Assembly group of the Conservatives in Wales, the Labour First Minister, Carwyn Jones, failed to do any planning at all in anticipation of a vote to leave the EU. On that point of fact, he’s absolutely right. I’m rather less certain about the veracity of his assertion that “… the UK Government undertook detailed planning”; the evidence in support of that is not exactly obvious. They still don’t really seem to know what to do next.
But the more important question is perhaps this: how much time and effort do we want governments to spend on detailed planning for an eventuality which they consider unlikely? The answer to that surely depends more on an assessment of the probability of the outcome rather than on the desirability of it in the eyes of an opposing politician.
After all, I don’t recall Mr Davies demanding that the government – either in Cardiff under Labour or in London under his own party – should prepare detailed plans for the future of Wales and the UK after a Scottish ‘yes’ to independence in 2014. Neither government prepared for that eventuality – and I rather suspect that he would have criticised any such planning as a waste of public resources.
Of course, given the result of the 2014 referendum, that lack of planning didn’t really matter. That simply proves that hindsight is a wonderful thing; but it’s not much use as a planning tool. In the run-up to the EU referendum, most observers believed (albeit wrongly, as it turned out) that ‘remain’ would gain a narrow victory. At that point, the most obvious priority for the Welsh Government was dealing with the steel crisis. Would anyone (other than, perhaps, the leader of the Tory Assembly group) really have preferred ministers to take their eye off that ball to prepare a detailed plan for something that they thought was not going to happen?