Small EU states can be smarter, richer and less dependent


On 27th January, the New York Times' Landon Thomas Jr. presented a provocative picture of Wales' economic prospects with political independence. He certainly did his homework, and gave his readers some original reportage. It expands the nature of our national dialogue. The “Gray Lady” should be congratulated on more compelling journalism, which challenges Welsh nationalists to raise our game too.

Faced with the choice between continued dependency on the UK state or taking full responsibility for ourselves as an EU member state, there is a much stronger case to be made for Welsh independence. At present, the 'devolved' Welsh government has minuscule fiscal autonomy.

There is little external incentive to obtain value for money on expenditure or to promote sustainable economic growth, since there is no benefit in expanding the tax base.

Wales receives £14.6 billion via the UK Treasury but is denied sovereign control over our abundant natural resources, for example, water, mineral and energy exports. We have huge untapped tidal and hydro assets. Our family farms can produce more to meet global food and niche market demands. As a sovereign EU state, Wales should have the power to generate fair taxation on these and other increasingly valuable resources. Expanding our tax base would boost our national income and create more jobs locally through added value. Fiscal transfers need not be a one-way process.

Last year, in my capacity as a Member of the European Parliament, I commissioned and published a major analysis, The Flotilla Effect, by two Harvard-based researchers, Ben Levinger and Adam Price. This demonstrated that people in Wales would be around 39% richer, and our economy would have grown by 2.5% a year had Wales achieved its independence around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Continued dependence on the UK state is not a good place to be.

Its ‘regional’ policy has been a failure: the gap between the centre and periphery has increased. Mature democracies stand on their own feet in solidarity with other nations. Wales as an EU member state can progress beyond the UK dependency portrayed by Landon Thomas.

Jill Evans MEP is President of Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales