Minister says UK exit from EU would be 'unmitigated disaster' for Wales
An exit by the UK from the European Union would be “an unmitigated disaster” for Wales and would drive away multinational firms, said Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones.
His declaration followed a proposal from a senior Conservative MP that the party should agree a pre-election pact with the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party. This was immediately ruled out by Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps. However, the proposal reflects mounting concerns among Tory MPs that their seats could be in danger in 2015.
Asked about rising anti-EU feeling in England, Mr Jones said: “If we define Euroscepticism as a desire to leave the EU, that strand of thought exists most strongly in England, but Wales isn’t free of it.
“Leaving the EU would be an unmitigated disaster for the Welsh economy, there is no question about that. We’d lose our access to structural funds, we’d lose our access to the Common Agricultural Policy, we’d lose our access to European markets,” Mr Jones added.
“When I go abroad to attract foreign direct investment into Wales, what attracts people is not Wales’s three million people – it is small; it is not the UK’s 60 million people – that is tiny compared to India and China; it is the access to the EU market that counts.
“Anything that interferes with that access to the EU market is not in Wales’s interests. We have companies based here, who are manufacturing here, which are here because they see Wales as their European base.
“If they no longer have unfettered access to the EU market, they will not stay here, I have no doubt about that.”
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said after the British-Irish Council meeting in Cardiff yesterday that the UK “would lose serious influence if it was ever to leave the EU”.
“Prime minister Cameron has made this point on many occasions about the importance of the single market and the importance of Britain being able to access that,” he said.