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“Securing Wales’ place in the European single market, reforming the UK as a more federal union, and building stronger links with the United States- those are my goals for Wales”

First published:
9 September 2016
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

Addressing an audience at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in a speech titled After Brexit: Europe, the United Kingdom and Wales, the First Minister will set out his vision of what a post-Brexit, outward looking Wales should look like, within a reformed UK, with continued access to the European single market.

The First Minister will say that Wales will not give its consent to any Brexit deal unless the UK secures continued access to the European single market, arguing that without that guarantee, “we risk inflicting needless economic harm on our country, and on our citizens.”

Carwyn Jones will say:

“As the First Minister of Wales, my responsibility is to protect the interests of the Welsh people. I won my own political mandate at the Welsh Election just four months ago – there’s no doubt that the European referendum knocked us off our stride but we have big ambitions for Wales and my administration is determined to deliver on them.  

“We want a dynamic business environment, while also delivering strong public services, funded through fair taxation. The two go together: we can only pay for those services if we have a prosperous economy. We are inclusive. We are an outward facing nation. I believe that Wales is best when it trades and co-operates with the rest of the world.”

On Wales’ role in negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU and forging a new relationship with the EU, he will say:

“I believe that the interests of Wales and the UK were best served by remaining in the European Union. The people took a different view, albeit by a fairly narrow margin. Of course, I respect the result of the referendum. However, I am absolutely clear that Wales is, and will remain, ‘open for business’.

“I believe it is absolutely vital that when we leave the EU, the United Kingdom must retain access to the single market. Without that guarantee, we risk inflicting needless economic harm on our country, and on our citizens.

“I have absolutely no intention of allowing Wales’ fate to be left to chance, for us to be passive observers in this most momentous of decisions. Wales and the other devolved nations must play a full and active role in the negotiations to leave the EU, to ensure our interests are fully protected.

“If this becomes a two way dialogue between Brussels and London, it will fail. Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast must also have seats at the table.  Whatever deal is finally negotiated, its acceptance should be subject to the support of the four Parliaments that now legislate for the UK.

“I cannot envisage consent being given by Wales unless the UK both secures access to the single market and delvers solid assurances to our citizens from other EU countries.”

On Wales’ future in the UK, he will say:

“I believe that the interests of Wales are well served by our membership of the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom is better and stronger for having Wales in it. This is a view shared by a large majority of Welsh people.

“In the EU referendum campaign, the leave campaign promised time after time that Wales would be no worse off financially if we left the EU. Many of those campaigners are now in prominent positions in the UK Government. They have an absolute duty to deliver on what they promised.  

“But a package of specific commitments for the post-Brexit world, while vital, is insufficient. I believe the process of withdrawal must be accompanied by a reformed governance of the United Kingdom for the long term.

“There can be no return to the old constitutional status quo, where the United Kingdom was one of the most centralized states in the developed world. But we have to embrace the new reality with fresh constitutional thinking if our British Union is to survive the new tensions created by EU exit.

“Unless we take this seriously, nothing - up to and including the break up of the UK into its component parts - would be inconceivable. Let me emphasise; that is not something I wish to happen. Far from it. But scenarios that seemed little more than political fantasies a few years ago could become plausible if we fail to make the radical changes necessary to put the UK’s constitution on a sustainable footing.”