By Wiliam Rees
The forthcoming European elections provide Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales – with an opportunity to capitalise on the disarray and quagmire that Westminster has found itself in. As the Brexit process has unfolded Plaid Cymru’s elected representatives at both ends of the M4 have argued effectively that the way the UK Government have attempted to deal with the issue shows that not only is Westminster not working for Wales, but rather it is not working at all, with MPs failing to find a solution which can command a majority in the House of Commons.
Plaid Cymru believe Brexit will have a substantially negative effect on the Welsh economy, whilst also resulting in a power-grab by the Conservative UK Government who have attempted to stop powers being returned to Cardiff Bay from Brussels in the event of Brexit, whilst instead being kept in the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster. Despite Wales voting to leave the European Union by a slim majority, they are also concerned that Brexit is being implemented against the will young people in Wales who substantially voted to Remain in the European Union. The latest polls have also shown that if a second referendum was held now, Wales would vote to remain.
Consequentially, Plaid Cymru are positioning themselves as the Remain party in Wales, arguing that they are the only party who back a People’s Vote with the option to remain on the ballot who can win seats in Wales. Polling analysis has shown that if supporters of the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats voted for Plaid Cymru in this election, they could pick up a second seat and stop Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party winning one of the four Welsh seats up for grabs.
If Plaid Cymru were successful in picking up a second seat, it would mean that not only would long standing senior MEP Jill Evans be re-elected for a fifth term, but also young activist and former NUS Wales Deputy President Carmen Smith would become Wales’s youngest ever MEP aged 23. Miss Smith said that her campaign would focus on three main issues, namely “securing a people’s vote, environmental issues and empowering young people”. Completing Plaid Cymru’s list of candidates are writer and academic Patrick McGuinness, and Ioan Bellin, a previous European elections candidate on two occasions and current Chief of Staff to Helen Mary Jones AM.
The elections are an opportunity to Party leader Adam Price AM, who faces his first nation-wide electoral test since being elected by party members last summer, to show that he’s putting the party on the right track heading into crucial Welsh Parliament elections in 2021. Mr Price has stated that these elections are an “opportunity to send Westminster politicians a message they cannot ignore: Wales rejects their dangerous, damaging Brexit” and to “make Wales matter”.
Additionally, with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealing plans this week to plan a second Scottish Independence referendum if Scotland is taken out of the EU against its wishes, Mr Price has warned that Wales could do the same if Brexit were to happen without a People’s Vote. In a statement released to the press Mr Price said that “If Wales suffers being taken out of the EU without a People’s Vote, then it should hold its own referendum on independence. In the face of such a huge constitutional shift, the people of Wales must have the right to decide their own future – be it a brighter future as an independent country at the heart of Europe or as a forgotten second-class region in a dying British state.”
Therefore, there is clearly a lot at stake in these European elections which could prove decisive in effecting the outcoming of the Brexit process as well as leading to a substantial change in the relationship between all the countries in the British Isles.