Attemps to explain Brexit away as an ‘English phenomenon’ infuriate me to my unionist core

Attemps to explain Brexit away as an ‘English phenomenon’ infuriate me to my unionist core

Brexit is often explained away as an English phenomenon. This is something that infuriates me to my unionist core.

It’s a philosophy that fits the agenda of nationalists in Scotland and Northern Ireland – where a majority voted to remain in the EU – but which ignores the strength of leave support here in Wales.

This is an inconvenient truth which has severely damaged the political self-confidence of the Welsh establishment.

Generations of Labour politicians pride themselves on their ability to speak for – and, by extension, read – the Welsh public, and yet many of their biggest faces have spent the last 18 months looking rather detached from the reality.

Indeed, the most striking manifestation of this failure to spot the prevailing public mood was in the First Minister’s own constituency of Bridgend, where the public voted to leave by a margin of almost 10%.

In spite of this reality check, Carwyn Jones has struggled to adapt and in 2018 that needs to change.

The challenge to the Welsh Government next year is to bring a new sense of maturity to the process of negotiating our exit from the European Union.

There are huge opportunities ahead, but challenges too. And it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that the biggest impediment to Brexit progress has to date come from within. A hardcore minority – vocal, but small in number – desperate to undermine the process at all costs.

At this time of year it’s especially important to focus on those things that bring us closer together as a society – rather than the things which divide us. And there’s no question that the country would be better served if politicians across the divide came together for the benefit of the people.

New Year’s resolution No.1 for Carwyn Jones should be to move on from the referendum.

The Welsh political establishment mouths the right words about accepting the result, but the Labour Party’s intransigence on single market membership paints a different picture altogether. There is little evidence to suggest that Carwyn Jones is ready to deliver on the will of the people.

Regardless, the process continues without his support. And whilst few predicted a successful conclusion to Stage One of the Brexit negotiations with Brussels, we enter 2018 looking ahead to trade negotiations.

The devolved nations have an opportunity to play an integral part in the coming months.

A strong and vibrant union must be underpinned by new schemes in areas like farming and regeneration, and 2018 is an opportunity to drive forward agreement on UK frameworks in a number of areas; not just in terms of funding, but by putting in place a constitutional machinery that ensures fairness across the nations and regions of the UK.

The United Kingdom is the most successful economic, social and cultural union that the world has ever seen. But it’s strength over the generations has been its flexibility, and ability to adapt to meet changing circumstances.

Instead of obsessing over the negotiations in Brussels, politicians in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and England need to work constructively to help to reshape the union to meet the national interest. Even if at first glance that doesn’t appear to match their party interest.