'What does Brexit Mean?' - Leanne Wood Times article

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This article first appeared in the Times Red Box on October 21, 2016

Brexit means Brexit – but what does Brexit mean? The air above Westminster is still heavy with the question which has dominated political debate in the UK for the past three months.

Answers are scarce. No one seems to have plans or solutions, but time has already betrayed the Leave campaign’s unforgivable disregard for fact, truth or responsibility.

£350 million a week for the NHS. Full control of immigration. No negative impact on the economy. As the pound plummets, the promises made by the Brexiteers are proving hollow.

Now that the Prime Minister is forced to fight her opponents’ battles while struggling to unite her party, little attention is paid to how this momentous decision will impact everyone outside Westminster.

There is another question yet to receive due exploration, be that through denial or disinterest on behalf of the Welsh and UK governments respectively. What does Brexit mean for Wales?

I am in no doubt that now is a defining time for our nation. One of risk and opportunity that, for better or worse, could shape not only the Welsh constitutional landscape but the way in which people in our communities live their daily lives.

On June 23, people throughout the UK voted to “take back control”. They did not vote to centralise power in Whitehall, nor did they vote to give the Tories a mandate to pursue an increasingly right-wing and regressive agenda.

When it comes to politics, people want decisions taken closer to them and their communities. This principle of subsidiarity lies at the heart of Plaid Cymru’s philosophy. We want Wales to have a greater say over our own affairs and a settlement that guarantees fairness in terms of powers and resources.

The process of leaving the European Union has already thrown up many economic and constitutional challenges. If Theresa May is adamant that the union is to survive, then it’s time she recognised and respected the fact that all constituent nations have a stake in its future.

Wales must not be a bystander to Brexit. Instead, Plaid Cymru believes that there must be a Welsh voice at the negotiating table. We also want to see a dedicated Minister for Brexit in Wales with an understanding of what it will take to protect jobs and trade, and enhance our country’s standing on the world stage.

As a net exporter of goods and, at present, a net beneficiary of EU funding, Wales cannot afford to have the terms of our future trade deals dictated by Theresa May and her Three Brexiteers. Wales must have a voice.

Maintaining single market membership is vital for our economy. It is something Plaid Cymru has advocated since the result of the referendum was announced. We will continue to make the case for protecting the 200,000 jobs in Wales linked to the UK’s largest trading bloc.

The result tells me that maintaining the status quo alone is not acceptable. In Scotland where people voted to remain, a second independence referendum seems inevitable.

Wales must not be a silent partner in the UK as other nations demand a say over their destiny.

A significant transfer of powers from Westminster to the Assembly is crucial if we are to strengthen our economy and public services here. The Prime Minister’s commitment to “a country that works for all” will ring hollow if Brexit leaves Wales in a weaker position than before.

We now face an increasingly divisive and right-wing Tory UK government that will not act in Wales’s best interests, and a Labour Government at home too weak to stop them, it is left to Plaid Cymru to put the case for an alternative politics that will empower people in the hope of countering the disillusionment that is denting our democracy.

Plaid Cymru’s vision of self-determination is rooted in the belief that we will be better placed to protect our communities when decisions about Wales are made by people in Wales.

Brexit may pose its challenges but we’re also now faced with a real opportunity. We must not let it slip away.

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