Monday, 16 September 2019

Let's not repeat the mistake

There’s no doubt that the increase in support for independence highlighted by a poll last week is stunning.  Neither can there be any doubt that this is good news for independentistas – it shows that opinions can and do change, and that they can change rapidly in the right circumstances.  There are, though a couple of concerns which should be noted.
The first is that a change which happens rapidly can also be reversed rapidly, and there has to be at least a question over the depth of the commitment to independence revealed by this poll.  A change driven by potentially transient factors may not be sustained long term.  Whilst it’s a good basis on which to build, and shows a growing willingness in principle to consider the concept, there is a need to do more than simply widen the support – it also needs to be deepened and strengthened.
But my second concern is bigger, and it revolves around the finding that 41% would support independence it if meant that Wales could remain in the EU.  As an expression of the number preferring membership of the EU to continued participation in the UK, it’s a useful headline figure, and very encouraging news.  I can’t help wondering, though, if it doesn’t also highlight the dangers of offering over-simplified options as binary choices – in the same way as happened with the EU referendum itself. 
If the question had included the wording “even if that meant customs posts along Offa’s Dyke”, would the response have been the same?  Yet, unless there is some as yet unstated solution to the Irish border problem, that is the likely outcome of a scenario where Wales is in the EU and England outside it, because the problem isn’t, and never has been, specifically about Ireland.  The problem arises where two countries or groups of countries want to both have entirely open borders for the movement of goods and services and at the same time operate different regulatory regimes.  There is no known way of achieving both those outcomes without compromising the integrity of one or both market regimes.  So, if England were to choose to be outside the EU whilst Wales, Scotland and (a united?) Ireland chose to be inside, there could be free movement of goods between Wales, Scotland and Ireland, but not between those countries and England.  The border problem doesn’t go away, it merely moves.
None of this invalidates the extremely interesting and encouraging result that as many as 41% currently would prefer to remain in the EU, but those taking it as a mandate to pursue such an objective need to spell out the probable consequences and what they would do about them.  Otherwise, there is a danger that a strong campaign could create a clear majority for an outcome expressed in over simplistic terms which is undeliverable in practice.  And we’ve had quite enough experience of that sort of outcome over the last three years.


DaiTwp said...

I personally believe that it's important for the indy movement to stay away from the EU question and concentrate solely on as you say widening and deepening support for independence. The advantage of groups like Yes Cymru and AUOB Cymru is that they can and have managed to do that. Your question is more pertinent to Plaid Cymru which as a political party has to have an opinion on most things. Not quite sure how they square that hole. I suppose membership of the EU is the preferred option for majority of those who'd be inclined to support independence although that's just a hunch rather than me having any hard data to back that up.

Jonathan said...

I am a strong Remainer and am willing to march for it. I am also strongly for Indy. But I do not feel obliged to work the thing to a final logical conclusion eg an EU Border running down Offa's Dyke because what I am expressing is my direction of travel, not what I do on arrival.
Here in the practical world my plan goes like this.
I fight Brexit. In doing so I promote the idea that a country run by Queen+PM has something wrong with it. So the UK needs a reboot - UK Constitutional Convention.
I fight for Wales, and am helped by the fact that the UK is crumbling and may move to a Convention. Great, I tell myself! So when I suggest a Constitutional Convention just for Wales people will be much more receptive because the whole of the UK including Wales is now thinking about Constitutions. Which they don't normally do.
When the USA was formed you had precisely this process. You couldn't have had the Federal Constitution without North Carolina and 12 other colonies running their Conventions and writing their Constitutions in parallel. Synergy, see

John Dixon said...


I don't think we're far apart on any of that. But in 'fighting for Wales', context is important and significantly shapes the debate. I believe that it is considerably easier to convince people to make the change in a context where it is largely a political change and relationships with the outside world would be largely unaltered than in one where the act of becoming independent is very much about also changing those external relationships. 'Independence' within the EU is very much in the former category. 'Independence' outside the EU could be as well, as long as we accept continued membership of an England-dominated trading regime. But 'independence' coupled with a commitment to rejoin the EU is very much in the second category and strikes me as a much bigger potential problem - and potential problems are a deterrent to supporting the outcome.

Jonathan said...

We have a choice of routes. I accept that we are in reality tightly tied to England. So we have to work in that context. That's why I 'firefight' in the short term to stay in the EU. So that England stays in and we do.Having settled that I'd go for Dominion Status within the UK ie still in step with England and in terms they understand and we can live with. Like Ireland after WW1. Huge advance for Wales if we run nearly everything except Defence, the £. Then step 3, Dominion Status to Indy. Step 3 would raise the really big issues: Defence.EU in our own right? Join Euro?. Ditch Monarchy? Break with England? I think the Step 3 issues would freak Wales out as we are now. Which is why we need to grow up through the Dominion stage, like puberty. Though if you are infantilised, as Wales has been, Dominion/puberty is a lot to cope with on its own.

Spirit of BME said...

I have always felt as Wales is not a member of the EU and to echo DaiTwp`s (I don`t think he living up to his name) we should not indulge in the question until we get our feet under the table.
What surprised me in 1975 and currently the nationalists who support what Little Guy Verhofstad stated in the Liberal anti-Democratic Conference on Saturday, when he supported the “world order” of empires and declaring that the EU was an empire.
Wales relationship with an empire has not been a pleasant one, but strangely people are attracted to big powerful things. In Victoria`s reign, the Eisteddfod gave thanks for the Queen and Empire and the oppressed people of all colours were proud to call themselves “British”. I met several in East Africa and India – all very odd!!