A Happy New Year to you all – Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
The beginning of a new year is a time to look forward, and what a year we have ahead of us. We’re facing one almighty junction, and we have to decide which way we head. What drove us to this junction is a vote back in June 2016, where people were asked to decide – on the basis of what was promised, on the sides of buses among other places – whether they wanted to remain members of the European Union, or to leave.
I voted to stay, based on my understanding of what it actually means for Wales to be a EU member. For example, we in Wales get more money out of the EU than we put in. We in Wales also export more to the EU than we import. We on Anglesey are on the frontier, with a direct border crossing to our nearest EU neighbour, so it makes sense to have frictionless single market and customs union movement. Add to that the wider benefits for a small nation like ours of being part of a pan-European ‘network’, that helps our local University and boosts research, that provides opportunities for our young people, that makes travel as easy as possible, and it was a bit of a no-brainer to me.
Others voted to leave, and I fully respect their choice. Based on how it was suggested that Brexit could happen – painlessly and with money returned to be spent on the NHS etc – others, including friends of mine, decided to jump, and currently that’s where we’re headed. But I think it’s only right that people decide now at what risk that jump is made.
A leap in the dark can be a good thing. A fresh start. But don’t confuse that with a leap in the dark when you pretty much know that in that darkness somewhere is a cliff edge.
“Things couldn’t be worse than they are now,” some thought during that referendum. I have a huge amount of sympathy with this kind of search for ‘better’. That’s why I’m in politics – because I know Wales and our communities on Anglesey could strive for so much more than we achieve now. But I have no doubt that when it comes to our membership of the EU, things could indeed get worse. Much worse.
So let people decide now, on the basis of evidence we have now, whether what was promised can be delivered. (The promise of vast extra amounts of money for the NHS had been shown to be nonsense within hours of the referendum result, for example.)
It’s not about re-running the referendum – we know what people said in June 2016 – but rather about deciding what is actually deliverable. It’s about the sheer practicalities of it all. But I’ll also continue to make the emotional case that being in the EU works for us.
In our first staff meeting of the year this morning, my team all pledged to be as positive as we can throughout 2019, so let’s be positive Welsh Europeans.