Wales in Europe - via Griffithstown

 

What's your definition of Wales in Europe?

If your answer is Bonnie in Malmö, then I'd probably stop reading now. If it's 'net beneficiary' or 'best out' then you're in the right place. Read on.

The First Minister has used just about every available opportunity this week to repeat his message on Wales in Europe. On Monday, it was his subject of choice at the monthly press briefing. If the UK, and Wales with it, leave the EU, says Mr Jones, it would be an economic disaster. Inward investment would fall, companies would stay away, other would leave, jobs would go. For Mr Jones it is no-brainer territory - Wales benefits hugely from being part of both unions: the UK and the EU.

Anyone who suggests Wales would be better off outside the EU is nuts was the gist of his remarks.

A question about the newly re-opened Fighting Fit Gym in Griffithstown during First Minister's Questions yesterday (from Malmö to Griffithstown in three paragraphs ...) led to more First Ministerial messages on Europe. The gym had profited from EU funding. So had the Colwyn Bay Watersports Centre. In fact without the "largesse showered on that project" by Europe, it wouldn't have happened at all.

In fact £144m floods into the Welsh coffers every year. If we weren't in the EU, we'd lose it and wouldn't get it back from the UK government, said Mr Jones.

Welsh farmers get £350m from Europe every year. That would disappear, "Welsh farming would end".

And he was off, talking to the group of Conservative AMs sitting opposite him, but addressing those Welsh Conservative MPs who will use their vote in parliament later to protest about the absence of a commitment to hold a referendum on EU membership in the Queen's Speech.

"At at time when people are concerned about the economy ... want to ensure a roof over their heads, all we get day after day after day is an obsession about Europe, an incredible narrow- minded nationalism that UKIP has and has infected the Conservative party with. That is not in Wales' interest".

Tory AMs refused to rise to the bait. in this afternoon's opposition debate, questioning the Welsh government's delivery unit, Mr Jones goaded them again. They accused his government of failing to meet any number of its targets. He accused them of having "an unhealthy obsession" with the unit he said. It was nearly as bad as their unhealthy obsession with Europe. There we go again.

It was the same story at Welsh Questions in Westminster. Would jobs be "more or less secure" asked Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith, if Wales was not part of the EU. The Welsh Secretary refused to be drawn.

But when I put the same question to the deputy leader of the Conservative group here in the Assembly, there was no side-stepping, no brushing off. No, said Paul Davies, he did not believe Welsh jobs would be put at risk if Wales were no longer part of the EU. Neither did he believe that Carwyn Jones was right to say inward investment would inevitably fall away. The Welsh Government's "appalling track record on inward investment" he said, hardly pointed to EU membership paving the way to success on that front.

His colleague Darren Millar joined in.

The money we pay into the EU budget in the first place could be better used to directly support Welsh businesses. If there was a referendum on EU membership tomorrow, then for the record, both men would vote to get out.

Both were quick to add that they'd rather the Prime Minister negotiated a better deal that allowed the UK, and Wales therefore, to stay in the EU. But an economic disaster if we leave? No. To claim there'd be huge price to pay in jobs - if we left - was a nonsense.

The latest price on Bonnie to win in Malmö? 50-1.

The latest polling on whether Wales should remain in, or leave the EU? A few months ago 49% of you told us we'd better off if we left; 45% said stay in.

Place your bets on where we go from here.

 
Betsan Powys, Political editor, Wales Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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