By Hallum Cowell
On Wednesday 27th of March, Cardiff University hosted a talk on the subject of potential changes Wales may experience as a country once the UK exits the European Union.
The event had a panel of five experts from both Universities and civil society organisation, the Welsh Centre for International Relations. The event was a joint venture between the Welsh Centre for International Relations and The Welsh Governance Centre.
After a short speech from the event’s chair, Susie Ventris-Field, in which she described the current political situation as “somewhat chaotic,” each other panellist was given a ten minute time slot to talk about Wales post-Brexit.
First was professor Kevin Morgan from Cardiff University, who stated “no matter the outcome of Brexit, the UK will pay to play in some EU programmes”. These programmes included Horizon Europe, Erasmus +, which is the programme allowing students to spend time studying in universities in other EU nations, and Creative Europe.
Professor Morgan mentioned that Wales could lose its structural funds from the EU and that Wales needs to focus on building better relations with other “sub-states” in similar positions to Wales, such as the Basque autonomous community, and other regional governments.
Next was Dr Rachel Minto from the Welsh Governance Centre, who spoke about the “relevance and importance of including civil institutions”. She then spoke about how political actors from the UK have access to EU networks, and that this matters for three main reasons: “capacity”, because we gain lots of resources and experience from other EU nations, “profile”, as Welsh actors are seen as independent rather than just UK actors, and “norms”, as in using and adapting to EU norms.
Dr Minto finished by saying that “we need to acknowledge the importance of CSO in Wales post-Brexit”.
Thirdly Dr Elin Royles from Aberystwyth University talked about how there had been much work done in an effort to secure Welsh international relations, and that a clear goal from Welsh institutions would help focus efforts on ways the country could retain and obtain secure relations post-Brexit.
She said: “There is lots of ambition in Wales, we should applaud ourselves”.
Dr Royles then added that intergovernmental relations are important, but the Government in Westminster needs to recognise Welsh agency and how Wales would benefit from following the same play book of grabbing Westminster’s attention that Scotland uses.
If Wales and Scotland could get the same result out of the EU, as Scotland “normally does quite well”, then that would be a good thing.
Lastly, Dr Chris Huggins of the University of Suffolk spoke of opportunities in the EU and how “regardless of what happens the opportunity will still be there”. However, he acknowledged that there would be less opportunity if we left the EU.
Dr Huggins also talked about how a lot of political actors come from the bottom up in the political hierarchy and that we should be clear on what “brand” Wales is so that investment and tourism can be encouraged.
Towards the conclusion of his speech, Dr Huggins spoke of aligning Welsh political, cultural and commercial goals.
Following these speeches form the panel of experts, there was a round of questions from the audience. The first of these asked what the Welsh government could do to protect EU 27 citizens in Wales amid the rise in hate crime and xenophobia since the referendum.
Ventris-Field replied that Wales wants to be a “nation of sanctuary”, but expressed that to do this Wales requires more than government policy, needing to also make sure the Welsh people share this notion.
Another question related to the damage done to trust in the UK through Brexit; a major element of diplomacy in the eyes of the EU 27 member states.
The panel responded by agreeing that trust had been damaged but mainly to the UK Government in London.They expressed that the Welsh government could be seen as separate to that and retain some trust from the EU 27 post Brexit.
Two guest speakers were present to partake in the event following this. The first of which was Samuel Jones Perry, who talked about how Wales “can’t avoid the outside world.” The second speaker, Eluned Morgan, Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, talked of how Wales is “running towards the EU” and how we “stand on the edge of a new world”.
A talk also occurred last week on campus on Friday 29th of March, the date the UK was intended to exit the EU prior to the short Brexit extension arranged in Brussels earlier this month. Titled ‘Brexit! The Urban and Regional Implications’, it was organised partly by Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning. The talk covered potential ways of limiting economic impacts on British regions and urban areas post Brexit.
With multiple Brexit-related events occurring on campus, there are multiple opportunities for students to learn more here about the issue as the UK moves closer towards exiting the EU. To keep informed on Brexit, keep up to date with Gair Rhydd’s news, politics and comment sections and check Cardiff University’s website for events similar to those mentioned.