EU takes centre stage

Lord Hain, Carwyn Jones and Jane Hutt
Image caption Lord Hain and Carwyn Jones launch Welsh Labour's campaign to stay in the EU, at an aerospace college

There's been a flurry of activity related to the EU referendum as the political year in Wales comes to a close.

Is this a sign of things to come? Absolutely.

Campaigners from Britain Stronger in Europe are in Wales on Thursday. I'm told there'll be a Welsh launch of the Vote Leave campaign early in the new year.

And now the head to head between Carwyn Jones and Nigel Farage in January will ensure the EU debate remains firmly centre stage in January.

In February we could get a date for the referendum. There's some speculation it could be June as the Prime Minister wants to avoid another summer of migration crisis headlines.


When you consider the possible timeline, you can see why some involved in the assembly election are nervous that devolved issues will struggle to get heard amid the noise of the first EU vote in a generation.

There are plenty who say June is too tight a deadline, with September, or even 2017 looking more likely, in which case there'll at least be the chance to catch a breath between the two votes.

Welsh Labour want to try to separate the assembly election and the EU referendum campaign as much as possible. That may be easier said than done, particularly with UKIP due to play such a prominent role in the assembly campaign.

Labour's campaign launch to remain in the EU this week threw up a headline writer's dream when two of the big beasts, Peter Hain and Carwyn Jones, clambered into the cockpit of an aircraft.

The photo call at the International Centre for Aerospace Training, near Cardiff airport, attracted the inevitable and admittedly cliched "in for a turbulent ride" line from some journalists. I'll have to put my hands up to that one.


There was a nod to concerns over immigration and welfare but this was Welsh Labour giving its unconditional support for membership of the EU, regardless of what David Cameron can achieve in his renegotiation talks.

Even by the standards of pro-European rhetoric, the warnings were eye-catching: a loss of more than £1bn, 200,000 jobs at stake and the end to farming as we know it.

The UKIP "ludicrous" response was expected. Stephen Crabb's decision to go on the attack was more surprising, as he called Labour's claims "outlandish" and criticised Peter Hain's record on Europe, referring to his efforts to get Britain to join the Euro 15 years ago.

Stephen Crabb doesn't have the Eurosceptic credentials of his predecessor David Jones but nevertheless we now know he's not afraid to sound critical on the subject.

Labour's central argument is that Wales is uniquely exposed to a UK withdrawal because of the scale of EU aid it receives.

This is referred to as a "great lie" by David Jones. His view is that a Westminster government would have enough extra money in the event of a withdrawal to replace the lost aid.

There's no definitive answer but expect many to have a go at dealing with the question at length in the new year.