UK must be open to Wales quitting union, says Welsh Government

Welsh flag Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Welsh Government said the UK is best seen as a voluntary union

The UK must be open to Wales voting to quit the union, a Welsh Government report has said.

Ministers say Parliament should allow Wales to hold an independence referendum if politicians calling for one win an assembly election.

The unionist Welsh Government hopes voters would reject splitting the union – but it says the UK is best seen as a “voluntary association”.

It follows a series of independence marches held across Wales in 2019.

First Minister and Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford called for an “entrenched and extended devolution settlement” to tackle what he sees as the challenges facing the union.

Mr Drakeford, who has been highly critical of the UK government’s handling of Brexit, was delivering the Kier Hardie lecture in Merthyr Tydfil on Thursday.

“The continuation of the United Kingdom is, today, more at risk than at any moment in my political lifetime,” he said.

Leader of pro-independence party Plaid Cymru Adam Price said there is now “no doubt that Wales should be able to hold an independence referendum”.

Mr Drakeford’s lecture coincided with the publication of “Reforming Our Union”, a Welsh Government paper that spells out constitutional reforms ministers in Cardiff believe the UK needs.

The document says that whatever the UK’s historical origins, it is “best seen now as a voluntary associations of nations taking the form of a multi-national state”.

It argues that in a voluntary association the union “must be open to any of its parts democratically to choose to withdraw from the Union”.

“If this were not so, a nation could conceivably be bound into the UK against its will, a situation both undemocratic and inconsistent with the idea of a Union based on shared values and interests.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Scotland held a independence referendum in 2014

A government in either Scotland or Wales that “has secured an explicit electoral mandate for holding of a referendum, and enjoys continuing support from its parliament to do so, it is entitled to expect the UK Parliament to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the appropriate arrangements can be made”, the paper says.

However, the Welsh Government said it would be unreasonable for such referendums to be held too frequently.

The paper added: “As a government committed to the United Kingdom, we would hope that in any such referendum the relevant electorate would vote for its territory to remain in membership of the UK.”

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