Welsh, Scots concerned at EU exit talk
“Corrosive English nationalism” is driving the debate on Britain exiting the EU and such a move would be a “disaster” for the Welsh economy, Wales’s first minister Carwyn Jones has said.
Wales faced five years of uncertainty about its future since Britain’s prime minister David Cameron announced a referendum on EU membership earlier this week, Mr Jones told a conference of the British-Irish chamber of commerce in Dublin.
“The question is why it is taking five years to resolve this question,” he said. He also questioned which powers Mr Cameron wanted to take back from the EU, warning that some powers had already been devolved to Wales and “we don’t want to see them moved back from Cardiff to London”.
He said 500 firms in Wales exported to the EU and there were 150,000 jobs dependent on that trade. There were 50 Irish firms based in Wales which generated 2,600 jobs with some of the major firms including Glanbia, Kingspan and Smurfit Kappa, he added.
Minister for Europe Lucinda Creighton said Mr Cameron’s speech was a “pro-EU speech” since it set out the case for the UK’s continuing membership of the union. While Ireland had no right to tell the UK what to do, it had “every right” to say what the impact would be for the Republic and the rest of the EU. She said for Britain it would result in disruption to trade and investment, isolation on the world stage and the souring of relations with other states. She said such a scenario gave “genuine cause for concern”.
The UK had contributed greatly to the EU and was one of the staunchest advocates of the single market. But the union was not just economic but also political, she added.
The UK could be on a “collision course” with the EU over its membership and “that is not a journey Scotland’s government wants Scotland to take”, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister said.
She said the announcement to hold a referendum in the UK created uncertainty, would deter foreign investors and “threatened tens of thousands of jobs in Scotland”.
An independent Scotland was vital to avoid “leaving these decisions in the hands of the Westminster government”, Ms Sturgeon said. By leaving the UK, Scotland could use taxes to encourage research and development and tackle inequality.
The British government’s decision to cut capital spending rather than investing in infrastructure was “flawed” and showed the need for Scotland to be able to make its own decisions. Independence would also boost economic links and trade with Ireland.
An independent Scotland in the EU would enable the country to protect its national interests. Ireland “wrote the manual” on how small nations could advance in the EU while protecting their interests. The author of that manual was the late Garret Fitzgerald, she said.