Plaid Cymru recently elected Adam Price (pictured above) as its new leader. The Welsh Assembly Member for the 53% Leave-voting Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency evicted Plaid’s hapless former leader Leanne Wood and fended off Rhun ap Iorwerth to lead Wales’ pro-Brussels separatists in Cardiff Bay.
Shortly after taking office, Price claimed to espy the “dying days of the British state” with its “shackles” of post-imperialism and called Brexit “a cataclysm”. He said Wales’ heritage and culture “must be protected” from the “Brexit catastrophe” and “every opportunity should be taken to “stop this madness” rather than respecting Wales’ Brexit vote.
In a similar vein, the Cardiff University academic and former Plaid candidate Laura McAllister OBE opined on WalesOnline that Brexit means Wales will be “stuck on the Western fringe of a shaky, outdated union of four increasingly different nations” and “won’t survive outside the EU as we stare at a future without natural allies.”
This is an odd thing to say about Wales’ neighbours on the British archipelago. Wales has been in a union with England since 1536, with Scotland since 1707 and with Northern Ireland since 1800. Alongside the English, Scots and Irish, the Welsh enjoined in the progress of British parliamentary democracy, fought two World Wars and established a modern welfare state.
The roadblock to the Plaid’s separatist project is not Britain. Rather it is the people of Wales through their Brexit vote and their Unionism.
Price won Plaid’s leadership election with 2,863 votes. Yet 854,572 Welsh voters backed Leave, more than those voting for devolution in the Welsh referendums of 1979, 1997 and 2011. Indeed, the House of Commons Library’s EU Referendum constituency estimates show that even in Plaid’s Senedd seats an average of 49% of voters voted Leave, as did 45% of voters in their parliamentary constituencies.
At Plaid’s annual conference in Cardigan, Price claimed that Brexit means Welsh independence “must be on the table” and achieved by 2030. But Cardiff and Edinburgh universities’ recent YouGov ‘Future of England Survey’ found only 19% of Welsh respondents backing separatism. The same survey found that when Welsh respondents were asked which term best described them 47% said Welsh, 34% said British but only 4% said European.
Neither is Welsh politics becoming “increasingly different” from politics in England. In the European Referendum of 2016, the Brexit vote was 52.5% in Wales and 53.4% in England. And at the 2017 General Election, 90% of Welsh voters supported Unionist parties. Welsh turnout in this General Election to the UK Westminster Parliament was 69% compared to 45% in the 2016 elections to the Welsh Assembly (barely more than those voting in the 2017 Welsh local authority elections).
The vast majority of people in Wales are rightly patriotically Welsh and British, but unlike Plaid’s elitist ideologues they don’t want Wales run by the EU. Plaid’s problem is that the popular conception of sovereignty in Wales is that of a people who overwhelmingly self-identify as Welsh and British, most of whom also voted for their United Kingdom’s departure from the EU.
Simultaneously trying to overthrow the Welsh electorate while demanding independence by 2030 shows a lack of respect for the wishes of the people Plaid wants to govern. It is therefore unsurprising that at the 2017 ‘Brexit General Election’ Plaid candidates lost their deposits in over a third of Welsh seats and polled only 10% of the Welsh popular vote.
The nationalist paradox of supporting national independence and European integration comes from Plaid Cymru and the SNP’s attachment to the federalist ‘Europe of the Regions’ agenda through which the EU has sought to undermine nation state sovereignty from below by fostering separatist movements while stripping powers away from the United Kingdom Parliament in Westminster.
One of Price’s first acts as leader of Plaid Cymru was to pledge fealty to the Remainist SNP at their Glasgow conference where he told SNP activists to ‘Let old Britain die’ in the wake of Brexit. Price also travelled up to meet Nicola Sturgeon in Remain-voting London to promise that Plaid’s MPs would be lined behind the SNP in a league of losers calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ to overturn the Welsh people’s historic Brexit vote.
Wales appears to be incidental to Plaid Cymru’s EU nationalism. What looms larger in the rhetoric of Plaid politicians often seems to be first and foremost a negative anti-British nationalism similar to the anti-imperialist left-wing ideology espoused by Jeremy Corbyn.
George Orwell wrote about negative nationalism in his Notes on Nationalism, observing that “intellectuals follow the principle that any faction backed by Britain must be in the wrong. ‘Enlightened’ opinion is quite largely a mirror-image of Conservative policy.”
Plaid’s left-wing pro-Brussels elitism has little resonance outside of the CF10 postcode bubble. Adam Price’s neo-Corbynista politics might go down well with voters in the London Borough of Islington and London-based Guardian journalists. But neither have a vote in Welsh elections.
Plaid’s SNP fanzine is enthralled with all things Scottish. Yet they seem less interested in the experience of Wales’ Celtic neighbour to the west which, after all, is both independent and in the EU. The inconvenient truth is that Brussels doesn’t have a good track record of looking after small countries like Ireland where Euroscepticism is on the rise.
Now that it is a net contributor to the EU budget, the terms of Ireland’s EU membership are changing. The European Commission has played fast and loose with Ireland’s land border and its trade with the UK disregarding the Republic’s economic interests.
Brussels has treated Irish democracy with contempt. When 54% of Irish voters rejected ratification of the EU’s Nice Treaty in its 2001 referendum, the EU pressured Ireland into a second referendum in 2002 to reconsider. Then in 2008 53% of Irish voters rejected ratification of the Lisbon Treaty before being told by Brussels to vote again in 2009.
The Irish Republic will soon become the only Atlanticist, economically liberal and English-speaking EU member state, in an increasingly dirigiste, anti-American bloc, which is already hungrily eyeing up the Ireland’s corporation tax regime with Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for a single European Union corporate tax remittable to Brussels.
Plaid Cymru would leave Wales languishing in the stifling embrace of a European Union that by 2030 will either be well on the way to becoming a fully-fledged Bundesrepublik Europa or it will be in the process of unravelling through its omnicrises.
And since we have never been good Europeans, Wales would be saddled with Carthaginian, not Cambrian, terms of membership. Wales would be made to sit on the naughty step all the better to punish Welsh voters for voting to Leave in 2016 and for being less enthusiastic than the English in the European Community Referendum of 1975.
Wales would end up with at best four out of 751 Members of the European Parliament, no Commissioners and possibly one seat on the Council of Ministers. Plaid would give control over Wales to the remote and unaccountable Brussels apparat in which we have no “natural allies”.
Plaid’s new leader claims Brexit is a “disaster” for Wales. Yet Brexit is only really a disaster for the left-wing state-building ambitions of Plaid’s delusional would-be governing class. Their soft nationalist left-wing elites in Cardiff Bay seem to be undergoing an existential crisis as their worldview implodes. They want Wales to be more ‘progressive’ and ‘supranationalist’ than England. But Wales’ Brexit vote denies their SNP allies the charge that Eurosceptic England is pulling the Celtic nations out of Brussels’ orbit.
Wales voted to Leave the bad union of the EU, not the good Union of the United Kingdom. In seeking to repudiate Brexit and Welsh Unionism, Plaid Cymru repudiates the people of Wales.