Brexit has shattered the Welsh Nationalist illusion of “Independence in Europe”

Brexit has shattered the Welsh Nationalist illusion of “Independence in Europe”

If you lived through a general election in Carmarthen – or anywhere else in the Welsh-speaking heartlands – in the 1980s, you would have heard this refrain: “Annibyniaeth yn Ewrop” or “Independence in Europe” for the non-Welsh speakers. The central plank of policy for both the Welsh Nationalists and their Scottish cousins was that they could sever the Gordian knot with the hated English taxpayer because the burghers of Brussels would pick up the tab instead.

Brexit has shattered this illusion. Not just because seceding states would need to accept the euro and a host of regulations from which the UK is currently exempt, but because without the UK contribution the EU will be a shadow of its former self. Why else are the figures quoted by the Commission as the price of Brexit getting higher by the week?

You don’t have to be Einstein to realise it will not be business as usual. The UK contributes an eighth of the European budget. When you take into account what member states take out, we’re the third largest contributor to the EU. This is an awful lot of money for the hard-pressed German taxpayer to find. The EU without the UK and without the British contribution will be a far more austere place. Less jam for everyone, and for many no jam at all, not even on the Welsh cakes. The prospect of having to dig deeper is hardly going to dampen Euroscepticism in Holland, France or Germany either.

Moreover, there is the other dirty little secret of Welsh nationalism. The other rallying cry you would have heard in the 1980s was against the “mewnfudwyr” or “incomers”. While this may come as a surprise to some of Plaid’s newer English-speaking supporters, the party has spent decades arguing for a curtailment of English immigration. Much of its traditional voter base is therefore staunchly anti-immigrant. A few decades ago when British Coal entreated us all to come home to a real fire, Not the Nine O’Clock News suggested that this could be accomplished by buying a property in Wales.

There are legitimate concerns amongst many who vote Plaid that they are in danger of losing their language, way of life and religion because of immigration. While this might have been a pre-occupation of rural Wales in previous decades, this apparently is now a concern shared by the UK population at large. Indeed, it is cited by some researchers as the primary cause of Brexit.

Plaid’s policy on the EU is completely at odds with the aspirations of many of the people who have been voting for it for the last fifty years. It would also seem to be at odds with the majority of the Welsh population who voted for Brexit. Time to advocate throwing open the floodgates to unlimited EU immigration? Probably not.

Given the increasingly belligerent attitude of the European Commission, it is clear that we need a strong, stable government to stand up for Britain and for Wales. For example, there is much to be done on ensuring we get a good deal for our farming community and ensure continued access to markets for Carmarthenshire’s renowned agricultural produce.

It is probably best given our recent experience of opinion polls to take the present ones with a shovel of salt. However, as has been demonstrated by Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives in Scotland, Brexit has irreversibly changed the dynamics of politics in these islands forever. It has removed the perverse incentive to Balkanisation that “Independence within Europe” represented.

Brexit is therefore already strengthening the UK and posing a massive challenge to our home-grown nationalists.

Photocredit: Walt Jabsco