Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Brexit and independence

The clarity with which Plaid’s new leader has expressed his opposition to Brexit is to be welcomed.  Whether it will win or lose votes for his party is an open question; I suspect that there will be some movement in both directions.  But if a political party is serious about seeking those changes which it believes to be in the best interests of its country, then it has a responsibility to lead, rather than follow, public opinion; to set out what it thinks and seek to win support for that view rather than merely regurgitate whatever the latest focus group tells it.
I don’t disagree either with Adam’s suggestion that a messy and damaging Brexit might well fuel the demand for independence for Wales, and I don’t see any inconsistency in the two positions.  Peter Black’s claim that this in some way suggests that Adam’s opposition to Brexit is insincere and that, deep down, Adam wants a bad Brexit in order to promote the independence agenda is more than just mischievous party politicking, it’s an attempt to distort the meaning of a very clear statement of opposition to Brexit, presumably in an attempt to claim that only the Lib Dems are really sincere in their opposition to Brexit.  But isn’t using Brexit to try and further the aims and interests of one political party exactly the sin of which Peter accuses Adam?
I’ve argued previously that there is a problem with the idea that Brexit will fuel the demand for independence, though, because Brexit will inevitably redefine what independence means – and probably not in a good way.  To completely misquote the porter in Macbeth, Brexit risks provoking the desire but taking away the performance.  Assuming that the Brexiteers get their wish and that we end up with what they are choosing to call a ‘clean break’ in order to avoid discussing the detailed implications, then the idea that Wales can break free of the UK (i.e. England) regulatory regime and re-join the EU is attractive but full of practical difficulty, with the inevitable requirement for a border along Offa’s Dyke.  The natural and sensible desire to avoid that border because of the close integration of the Welsh and English economies rules out EU membership and implies close adherence to the English regulatory regime.  It’s considerably easier to see Wales making the transition to independent EU member state whilst the UK remains part of the EU than some years after a complete break.  My view remains that the easiest route to independence is still via ‘internal enlargement’ of the EU, however difficult a process that might be in practice. 

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