Andrew RT Davies AM: The Welsh political establishment needs to grow up and accept the referendum result
Previously published on Brexit Central HERE:
It’s easy to forget that the majority of Welsh voters backed Brexit in June, such is the hubris of the Welsh Labour Government. But the political establishment in Wales has Europhilia hardwired into its DNA, and instead of accepting the result graciously a profoundly toxic political narrative is emerging; a sense that they are actively willing it to fail.
The result of the referendum revealed a First Minister out of step with the people he represents on this issue – with 54.6% of his own Bridgend constituents voting to exit the EU – and whilst David Cameron took the brave decision to step down as Prime Minister in the wake of the result, we’ve seen no such humility from Carwyn Jones.
Instead, Welsh Labour and their nationalist allies press on arrogantly, claiming to be the authentic voice for Wales, steadfastly refusing to countenance the fact that their world view isn’t shared by the majority of their own public.
I took some solace from Dan Hannan’s insightful observation for ConservativeHome last week, that most remainers are not “remoaners”. He is, of course, right. And it is true that the tedious, tawdry prophecies of Armageddon from the opposite benches in the Assembly are not representative of the wider public – just 31% of whom back a second referendum, according to YouGov.
In fact, the reaction I’ve had from the public, businesses and farmers has been very positive. The doom and gloom merchants are in the minority and while they’re still out in (ever-decreasing) numbers waving placards, the vast majority of the public just want us to get on with making a success of our new relationship with the EU.
Unfortunately, whilst my party has moved on pragmatically into the post-referendum era not everyone is ready. The Labour Party is in a mess of its own making. Whilst Carwyn Jones wants single market access, Corbyn doesn’t. Owen Smith wants to force the public to vote again, but Carwyn Jones thinks that would be bad politics. Corbyn, meanwhile, isn’t sure if he wants to be in the EU or not – and the other two certainly disagree with him there. Confused anyone?
But one thing’s clear, whilst the First Minister flip-flops over freedom of movement and when Article 50 should be triggered, the ground is inexorably shifting and Wales is missing an opportunity to shape the debate.
With more than £1 billion of structural funding yet to be allocated between now and 2020, there is a pressing need to reconsider how this money should be spent. Outcomes should be paramount, not egos. And just because things have been done in a certain way before, doesn’t mean they have to be done in the same way in the future.
Support for Brexit was at its strongest in areas which have received the most in EU funds. That’s not ironic, it’s a judgement of Welsh Labour’s failure to make a success of three successive rounds of structural funding.
Similarly, with farming support: whilst (the) CAP might have fit when it was created, would we want to repeat its mistakes in the future – or are we better off starting afresh with a new system of support designed and tailored to meet the needs of British farmers and rural businesses?
But these questions will remain unanswered until the Welsh establishment grows up and accepts the outcome.
The public deserve better. They voted to leave the European Union and they want to see politicians making a success of our new relationship with the continent, not engaging in petty student politics designed to create prolonged uncertainty and unsettle people.
Brexit presents Wales with a valley of opportunity that could be best answered by a diverse range of positive and constructive voices – not just a chorus of politicians who opposed leaving the European Union.
I have been clear from the start that my party is willing to enter constructive discussions, and if the First Minister truly wants to speak for Wales as a whole then he must offer a voice for the majority in this country who took a collective decision to leave the EU.