Forget ‘Global Britain’, only independence will let Wales play its part in the world

Like Ireland, Wales needs independence to fully play its part in the world.

‘Global Britain’, is a misnomer and a delusion that reimagines the past, ignores the present and in its naivety, diminishes our future. In two words, it captures the ignorance and arrogance of Westminster towards the non-England UK, ignores the lessons of the last four years of failure and epitomises the sense of entitled exceptionalism that has diminished our relationship with our European friends and allies, our standing in the world and the safety of our citizens. 

Better suited for headlines rather than as a serious foreign policy strategy, ‘Global Britain’ is little more than a slogan created to instil confidence in the Conservative party after the self-damage of Brexit and to occupy its anxious backbenchers. Yet Labour, once strong supporters of international solidarity, have enthusiastically joined in the flag waving as they desperately seek to re-establish legitimacy in England. 

This is most apparent in the supposed first pillar of ‘Global Britain’. Dominic Raab said this is the desire to continue to be “the best possible allies, partners and friends with our European neighbours.” Those neighbours, the Prime Minister acknowledged in his post-trade deal speech, are bound together in the European Union – a creation of the European desire for peace, protected by political, economic and social interaction and integration. 

Yet without even noticing their hypocrisy, the UK Government rejected this vision of peace and prosperity in Europe. Clouded by a sense of misplaced superiority and political nativism, the UK Government deliberately chose delusion and nostalgia over geopolitical reality and global interdependence, while Labour meekly endorsed the Tories’ historically damaging deal.

As a consequence, we are now alone and weakened in rough seas, buffeted between the geopolitical rocks of the United States, the European Union and China. That is why Plaid Cymru wants Wales to have a close relationship to the rest of Europe because we support the shared values, political and economic interests and recognise the sheer geography that draws us to the European mainland. 

The second pillar of ‘Global Britain’ – that the UK will be an “energetic champion of free and open trade” – is equally inconsistent. The UK government just struck the first trade deal in history that increased barriers to trade, leaving us poorer and with fewer rights. 

Perhaps worst of all though is this Government’s claim that the UK will be a “stronger force for good”. This comes from a Government that has cut the international aid budget, supplies arms to autocrats and lavished praise on demagogues like Donald Trump. 

With Labour enthusiastically signed up to this strategy, Wales urgently needs to conclude its own lessons from the last four years, and how can we move forward.  Inspiration for this debate, I argue, should come not from the crumbling walls of Westminster but from across the Celtic Sea. 

This year, the Republic of Ireland again took up a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Its admirable success as a small nation like ours, thriving within Europe and playing an important global role, is an emphatic rebuttal of the unionist contention that nations like Wales and Scotland are too small and too poor to be independent and successful. 

The last four years have shown that the London-shaped ‘national interest’ itself is misleading and all too often fails to acknowledge or respond to the reality that actually there are four unique and often diverging national interests within the UK. These for too long have been ignored, maligned and rejected by Westminster. 

That is why as a reasonable first step, Plaid Cymru will continue to campaign for equal powers amongst the four governments of the UK to approve future trade deals. A further step must be that the four nations are given greater freedom to enact their own international priorities, from combating climate change to promoting peace, trade and cultural exchange. 

The alternatives otherwise are bleak. Global Britain’s withdrawal from Erasmus is a disgrace – a punitive decision which curtails the life opportunities of our best with no alternative arrangements, as is the UK governments rejection of mutually beneficial EU offer of 90-day visas for performers.

‘Global Britain’ is a rhetorical plaster on a beaten, tired and disunited Kingdom exhausted by its own internal contradictions.  If we together reject the ‘Little England’ approach of barriers and borders, Wales can achieve great things as an independent, sovereign nation, free to make a positive and honest contribution to address the global challenges of our times. ‘Global Britain’ comes nowhere near that aspiration. 

Hywel Williams is the Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon in North Wales

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