15/03/2017 The Wales Report


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15/03/2017

What next for Wales on the Brexit journey? And is there a role for Ukip once the UK leaves the EU? The Wales Report speaks to the Assembly group leader Neil Hamilton.


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The Brexit process will soon be under way, with a brand-new question

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mark over the future of the United Kingdom.

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Will Ukip have a role in Wales after Brexit?

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We speak to Assembly group leader Neil Hamilton.

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And we look at the very long road to local government

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reorganisation in Wales - will the latest

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Good evening and welcome to The Wales Report.

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be formally under way, and, as Westminster gave

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its blessing to that, the Scottish government

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was demanding the right to hold a second referendum on independence.

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Lots of talk about Scotland and Northern Ireland

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and the future shape of the UK, but very little about how Wales

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Remember, you can have your say, join in the debate on Twitter.

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So, by the end of the month, the letter will be sent,

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and Article 50 will be triggered, starting the formal process of

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At the same time, we now have the prospect of a second

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The potential consequences of Brexit are becoming ever more apparent.

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Theresa May has two massive constitutional issues to deal with.

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On the one hand, the UK's withdrawal from the EU, and on the other hand,

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now the real potential of a second Scottish independence referendum and

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the possibility of Scotland leaving the UK. Now, already we know that

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Wales wasn't really featuring high up on their list of priorities for

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the UK Government, so now they've got this other massive issue to be

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dealing with, as I say, in terms of bandwidth, it leaves Wales in a more

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vulnerable position. So where does Wales fit into this

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constitutional jigsaw? The First Minister, Carwyn Jones,

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has insisted that the UK's nations are "stronger together",

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but Plaid Cymru says any move towards independence in Scotland

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needs to start a debate If the UK ceases to exist, we need

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to be thinking about what is best for Wales. It is time that we had a

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far-reaching national conversation about where we want to head as a

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nation. The people of Wales will ultimately decide on our

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constitutional future. But we cannot come to decisions about where we

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need to head unless we have the conversation. And I think what's

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happening in Scotland is a stark reminder for us that we can't just

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float as a nation. We have to be clear about where we are heading.

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And I look forward to having that conversation in the months and years

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ahead. And this is certainly a story that will run and run when the

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starting gun is fired with Article 50 being triggered at the end of the

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month. There is growing discussion about leaving without a deal, the no

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deal deal. If the UK leads without a deal, we

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talk about the UK crashing out of the EU, and this would have huge

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economic and political implications for the UK as a whole and also for

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Wales. So it would have huge trade implications, and we would see the

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imposition of tariffs, we would see customs checks with cost,

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inconvenience, time implications. As I say, for the UK as a whole and for

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Wales. Joining me to discuss all this

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is the Conservative MP and chair of the Welsh Affairs Select

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Committee David Davies. And the Labour AM and former

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MEP Eluned Morgan. Thank you for joining me. Just a

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start with you, what we've seen over the last couple of days is Brexit a

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step closer and that has led to Nicola Sturgeon saying, well, there

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will be another independence referendum in Scotland soon. Do we

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just accept in Wales we are an afterthought in all this? We're an

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afterthought. The fact is, Brexit will impact on Wales more than any

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other part of the UK, I think. Certainly financially will receive

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?680 million a year from the EU. And the fact is, 67% of our trade and

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goods goes to the EU. Those facts might not be in dispute, but a

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Westminster point of view, my point is, they will be looking at Scotland

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and thinking, that could lead to the break-up of the UK, they will be

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looking to Northern Ireland, questions over the relationship and

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the Borders. Even Nicola Sturgeon has said there is scope here for

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negotiation. If we went for a softer Brexit, one that meant we could have

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access in the single market, then there would be a reconsideration of

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that situation in Scotland. That's the situation we want for Wales. We

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want as close as possible a relationship with the single market.

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So it now depends on what Theresa May can negotiate but she has to

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understand so we're relying on Nicola Sturgeon getting the best

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deal for Scotland, and then the best deal for Wales? We have a common

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interest in that we both want to see as closer relationship as possible

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with the EU in of access to that single market. -- as close a

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relationship. So we could see Nicola Sturgeon saying we will hold the

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second referendum for independence and that might soften her approach

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to Brexit or make Brexit a bit softer. How would you respond to

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that? I think it's inevitable Nicola Sturgeon was always going to find

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another reason for calling a referendum, another one. She holds

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the principle that if you don't get the answer you want in one

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referendum, you hold another and another and another. I don't think

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it was a surprise to me or anyone else I know that she found another

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reason for doing it. As far as a close relationship with Europe is,

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we want a good relationship with the rest of the European Union and we

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want to sort out issues like those who have come over here, like my

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wife, for example, to make sure they can stay, to stop all this

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scaremongering. So all these things Nicola Sturgeon, these reasonable

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requests cheesemaking, are things we have signed up to anyway. Would

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Scotland leaving the EU be -- leaving the UK be paving way for

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Brexit? There was with going to be a second referendum, whether it was

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over Brexit or something else the government did that they didn't

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like, I don't think the two up. But my question to you is, would it be

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the price worth paying? I don't accept that the link between the

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two. There was going to be a second referendum regardless of what

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happened over Brexit. Even if Britain had voted to stay in the EU,

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Nicola Sturgeon would have found an excuse to have a second referendum,

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so there was always going to be won, and if she loses this, there will

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probably be a third and a fourth as well. So there was with going to be

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a possibility, not even a possibility, a certainty, a

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likelihood, of another referendum. And it is ironic that the arguments

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Nicola Sturgeon makes to stay in the EU are the very arguments she should

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be making for Scotland to stay within the union, but that is a

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decision for the Scots to make. We have to respect that, just as I hope

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Nicola Sturgeon respects the fact most people voted to leave the

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European Union. What we have been hearing from Theresa May and Philip

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Hammond about the negotiations with the rest of the EU, they have said,

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well, if we don't get a deal we are happy with, we will just leave. They

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will fall back on the well of trade organisation rules and return to a

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low tax, low regulation economy. What would you make of that if that

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were to happen? I think that would be catastrophic, not just the Wales

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but for Britain. We would have a change in the social model we have

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because you can't fund education and health the way we do at the moment

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unless you have a tax base from which you can tax. But they would be

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arguing we would attract more businesses and tax that way. Trade

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with the EU is crucial to our success, and however many trade

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deals we do with the rest of the world, the fact is, people trade

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within close props that -- proximity to each other. They are more

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comfortable that way and it makes more economic sense. So we can dream

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about signing up to trade agreement that may or may not come about, and

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don't forget, we export much more than we import, so it is other

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countries that will do well out of trade deals with Britain in future.

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Our key objectives should now be to make sure we get free and unfettered

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access to that EU market, because if we don't, there will be a price to

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pay in terms of jobs in Wales. Is there a danger here that by

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concentrating on what they would do in the event of not being happy with

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the negotiations, that Theresa May isn't allowing enough scope to have

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those kinds of discussions about what trade should look like with the

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rest of the EU after Brexit? I think the real danger here is that all of

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these voices offside, whether from Nicola Sturgeon or people in the

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Labour Party who don't like the result of this, saying, OK, we will

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have another vote in Parliament if we don't get the deal we want, but

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we need to go into these negotiations making it clear that if

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we don't get a trade deal, we will walk away and trade under the WTO

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rules. And frankly, I don't see anything wrong with a low tax, low

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regulation economy. But the trouble with that is, you have no mandate to

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implement it. You don't have a general election, which would need

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to happen to be able to press ahead with such a fundamental change in

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the UK's economy. I think people would be quite happy if we were able

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to reduce taxes, but we would still want to be able to deliver public

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services in the highway we do. And look at Wales. Shorter NHS waiting

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lists, better exam results. We are already delivering better results

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than under 18 years of Labour. But you are proposing to cut back? We

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are not proposing to cut back at all. If it attracts business in, it

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will increase the tax revenue we have, and I thought Labour was

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signed up to reducing red tape just as we are, so I am very surprised

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about that. If they want to go out and campaign on the basis of very

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high taxes and high regulation, that's up to them. What you think

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will be happening over the next few weeks? How this will play out? We

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want to keep environmental protection, social protection, but

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also, if you look at corporation tax, we would have come in under

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Ireland. We would have to reduce hours from 19% down to 12%, their

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level, which is 100 billion out of the economy. That's how much we

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spend on the NHS in this country. Let's get real. We are talking about

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a fundamental change in the way our society is run, and as you say,

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nobody has voted for that. Plenty more to talk about and plenty more

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time to talk about it for the moment. But right now, thank you for

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But right now, thank you for your company.

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The party which played a key role in the UK's decision

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Since winning seats in the Assembly elections last year,

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the group has made its mark, with disputes, resignations and

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So with Brexit another step closer, what next for Ukip in Wales?

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Earlier, I spoke to Ukip's Assembly group leader, Neil Hamilton.

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First of all, we have just seen Brexit will now be launched by the

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end of this month, and that almost immediately led to Nicola Sturgeon

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calling for a second independence referendum. Would you look at all

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the constitutional up the -- upheaval caused by Brexit, is that

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what you were anticipating? It is a game of gesture politics by Nicola

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Sturgeon. She knows Theresa May won't grant her a second referendum

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and she's just trying to back her into a corner. I would just call her

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bluff. Because I think the referendum vote would be more

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emphatic to remain part of the UK if there was a second one, particularly

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now we are going to leave the EU. Scotland does four times as much

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trade with England as it does with the rest of the EU. But would it be

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a price worth paying hypothetically if Scotland left the UK. Would it be

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a price worth paying for Brexit? That's a matter for the Scottish

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people. I'm in favour of maintaining the integrity of the UK! Indulge me

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for a moment. If that's what Scottish people want, then so be it,

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but I don't believe there is a majority for independence in

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Scotland and I think there's an even bigger majority against independence

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in Scotland once we've left the EU than previously. I'm going to ask

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you to indulge me in another hypothetical situation if you may.

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What Scotland the UK and then Northern Ireland, they left the UK

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as well? Where would that leave Wales politically? Well, there's

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even less demanding Wales for independence and there is in

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Scotland or Northern Ireland. -- demand in Wales. If you look at the

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vote on the EU it's pretty much the same as in England, if not even

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more. So I think the political culture in Wales is much more

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reliance I think we would survive very happily. Do you think that

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would change if it was a United Kingdom of Wales and England,

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without the other Celts, if I can put it like that? Well, it would be

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more lonely in a sense, and I would regret that. It would also mean

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England would be overwhelmingly the larger partner than it is now.

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England now is 85% of the UK and if it was just Wales and England, then

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3.1 million people against nearly 60 million, Wales would be much more of

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an appendage. But given we have a devolution settlement, I don't see

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anything very much would change. With that devolution settlement and

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Ukip's place in Wales after Brexit, where do you fit into it? Is there a

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danger you can win the war on Brexit but then lose the peace by becoming

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largely irrelevant? No, we are still on 15% in the polls nationally in

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the UK. We have our group and make a lot of noise in the Assembly... You

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might generate a few headlines for various reasons but what are you

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achieving in Wales? We are an opposition party. We are not part of

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the government so we can't push through legislation but we'll here

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to stay and our role is to grow stronger in the system and become a

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bigger political force to be reckoned with. But if you look at

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the recent by-election in Stoke and the leaders who stood there, the

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problem was Brexit wasn't a big issue there. It was fought on local

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services, NHS, schools, local political issues, and on those

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issues, voters don't care or know what Ukip is about there. Is that

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the problem? Selling I think we should have concentrated on policies

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that were closer to people. Or should have put more in the NHS.

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That is the sort of policy pledge I will make in Wales because we are

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they any party that says things like that. For the local elections, you

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will be pitching it as a foreign aid issue which isn't a devolved to

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Wales, let alone councils. The point is life is about choices and the

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government spends our money, in certain ways, so we think it would

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be better spent in other ways. Wouldn't it be better for you to

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concentrate on issues where Welsh councils are able to enact change,

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rather than something that is a matter for the UK government? We

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will do that too. For example, ?300 off the average electricity bill if

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we scrap subsidies for wind farms. Ukip is the only party putting that

:16:44.:16:49.

policy forward. We will put more money into the pockets of working

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people, that is what we are about. Looking at the council elections, we

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saw the acting chair or former acting chair, saying he thinks the

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party in Wales is unravelling but he doesn't think the campaign will get

:17:04.:17:07.

off the ground. Is that a fair reflection? I know Chris Smart very

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well. He left in frustration because of internal rows over Arron Banks.

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He's no longer remember of Ukip. I think under Paul Nuttall's

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leadership we will refocus our attention on local issues, Welsh

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issues in Wales. Paul Nuttall said you're put in place a coordinator

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for local elections. Has that happened? Well, there will be

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nationally a coordinator for local elections in the UK. In Wales, Ukip

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is a small party, in terms of membership. Each branch will be

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putting up candidates in their own local government area, but there

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won't be any central direction, as such, although we will give them

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every possible assistance we can. Is there a danger you won't get very

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many candidates, therefore not much support? And what will happen when

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Ukip is Brexit is dwindled into irrelevance? Our party membership is

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keeping up. We're still at the same point in the polls as we were in

:18:16.:18:19.

general collection. So, your stagnating. We've concentrated all

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our efforts on winning the referendum, which we did. We

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wouldn't have won without Ukip. And we have four years between now and

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the next local elections, three years until the general election. So

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there is lots of work for us to do, and we will repair the deficiencies

:18:39.:18:43.

of the past in terms of organisation in Wales. The other political

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parties in Wales have come together to put out a statement opposing

:18:50.:18:52.

racism in the upcoming elections. You haven't signed up to that. Why

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is that? We wanted to add a paragraph. The letter as Rafter by

:18:58.:19:02.

the level government read as though people were concerned about

:19:03.:19:04.

immigration, therefore they were racist. The majority of those people

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are not racist, and we wanted to put in a paragraph to reflect that only

:19:09.:19:13.

refused to do so, so we put out our own statement. They say it reflects

:19:14.:19:17.

badly on the party. Was it a stitch up? It reflects badly on the Labour

:19:18.:19:24.

government in Wales which refuses to accept that uncontrolled immigration

:19:25.:19:27.

has had a disastrous effect on people with low wage incomes and

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Ukip will stand up for them! Brexit may be dominating

:19:30.:19:32.

the headlines, but in a matter of weeks we'll be going into another

:19:33.:19:35.

round of local elections in Wales. Before the political parties

:19:36.:19:38.

define their campaign themes, there's time to consider how local

:19:39.:19:40.

government - the councils who deliver public services -

:19:41.:19:42.

should be reformed. It's been three years

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since the Williams Commission recommended cutting the number

:19:46.:19:47.

of councils in Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones said

:19:48.:19:49.

at the time, "The status Since then, proposals

:19:50.:19:56.

for mergers have come and gone, and there's been a local government

:19:57.:20:01.

bill, but still no clarity on what the future of local

:20:02.:20:04.

government will look like. Councils are responsible for the

:20:05.:20:19.

services that impact on our daily lives. From roads to rubbish. In

:20:20.:20:23.

recent years, they've been under considerable financial strain. It's

:20:24.:20:29.

never been as bad as it is now. And none of us came into politics to cut

:20:30.:20:35.

things, to close things. It is a completely new ball game. Councils

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used to be about providing services, building leisure centres, building

:20:42.:20:47.

homes for elderly and infirm, really putting that fabric into society.

:20:48.:20:50.

Well, we haven't been able to do that for a very long time. It has

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been a long and bumpy road. While these cuts have been implemented,

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there is the additional confusion of local government reform. There's

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never a good time to do local government reorganisation. If you

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could have been a worse time, it would be been hard. We've had

:21:08.:21:11.

responses of budget cuts and then have these discussions which caused

:21:12.:21:14.

uncertainty in the sectors of the last few years has been a very poor

:21:15.:21:19.

time to have those discussions about reorganisation. It's been like a

:21:20.:21:23.

fairground ride. The continual shifting sands have meant we haven't

:21:24.:21:27.

been able to look long-term, we haven't been able to look as

:21:28.:21:32.

strategically as we have done. The killings with -- beginning with the

:21:33.:21:37.

Williams Commission which called for ten, 11 or 12 authorities in Wales,

:21:38.:21:42.

attempts by the Welsh government to drive through change have frequently

:21:43.:21:46.

been frustrated. First, there were voluntary mergers, a few councils

:21:47.:21:50.

propose joining forces with their neighbours, only to have their

:21:51.:21:55.

proposals thrown out by the Welsh government. Then another diversion.

:21:56.:21:58.

The public services Minister at the time attempted to propose change

:21:59.:22:06.

with forced mergers which turned out to be a dead-end. Over the border,

:22:07.:22:10.

the UK government decided reorganisation was wasteful, and a

:22:11.:22:16.

pointless, expensive exercise. We've wasted three years in Wales

:22:17.:22:19.

discussing structures and merging of authorities said there has been a

:22:20.:22:24.

waste of time and effort. We now need to look forward to designing

:22:25.:22:29.

structures will be the pit-mac and place for many years. So when you

:22:30.:22:37.

strategy. As listening exercise with councils across Wales. The idea is

:22:38.:22:42.

to keep the 22 local authorities but design ways to deliver key services

:22:43.:22:46.

on a regional basis. Sometimes, you can get caught up in a conversation

:22:47.:22:50.

that takes you down a dead-end, and I think that what has happened

:22:51.:22:56.

previously. The journey has moved on. And we're going to make it work.

:22:57.:23:00.

It seems Welsh councils are much happier with the new approach but

:23:01.:23:04.

will it be radical enough to put public services on a sustainable

:23:05.:23:08.

footing? Either way, there is still a very long road ahead. It's taken

:23:09.:23:13.

many years of discussion and thousands of pages to get to the

:23:14.:23:18.

point now where we're not still clear how authorities will work

:23:19.:23:21.

together on key services. There are some areas where the Welsh

:23:22.:23:25.

government dictated this is where you have to work together, other

:23:26.:23:28.

areas are open for discussion. We could have got to this point a

:23:29.:23:30.

number of years ago. I'll be discussing the way forward

:23:31.:23:33.

with local government consultant Jeff Jones

:23:34.:23:35.

and Professor Catherine the University of South Wales,

:23:36.:23:36.

and local government consultant and former

:23:37.:23:40.

council leader Jeff Jones. We could have been at this .3 years

:23:41.:23:50.

ago. Has it been a waste of time? Quite possibly and we've spent a

:23:51.:23:54.

long time talking about local government and its functions and we

:23:55.:23:58.

have possibly wasted three years but who knows, we are where we are,

:23:59.:24:02.

there's a new White Paper, local authorities are being consulted,

:24:03.:24:05.

there is a new agenda around democracy and this is the first time

:24:06.:24:08.

we have seen what local government is supposed to be about what it is

:24:09.:24:16.

going to be about in the future. There is a regional agenda pushed in

:24:17.:24:19.

this White Paper which is new and different. We've spent so often

:24:20.:24:20.

talking about reorganisation but people at home will care nothing

:24:21.:24:27.

more than getting bins picked up, leisure centres etc. It's difficult

:24:28.:24:32.

and what people forget is local government doesn't raise a great

:24:33.:24:36.

deal of money. How does this corporation work? If you set how can

:24:37.:24:41.

local government improve your services, the Assembly needs more

:24:42.:24:45.

money, where does it get it from? Westminster. We have Brexit. Even

:24:46.:24:49.

without Brexit, the Tory government wants to reduce the public sector by

:24:50.:24:57.

36%. What worries me is you look at the long-term economic forecast

:24:58.:24:59.

within each local authority and there are some pretty awful cuts

:25:00.:25:04.

coming after next May's election. The reorganisation does not address

:25:05.:25:09.

that. That's a bleak outlook. Is there anything that working together

:25:10.:25:13.

and saving some money, will it impact on this? You look at 1996

:25:14.:25:19.

when these authorities will put in place, that a gender is still there.

:25:20.:25:23.

Under this White Paper, authorities can merge if it works for the

:25:24.:25:28.

citizen. Those democratic ideas still exist. There's a regional

:25:29.:25:33.

agenda, and working together, health and social care are going to be

:25:34.:25:42.

working together under the regional partnership boards, the educational

:25:43.:25:44.

consortia, so there is an attempt to regionalise things and the issue for

:25:45.:25:48.

me how does that pan out in terms of governance? Will there be the

:25:49.:25:51.

appropriate governance structures for those? Isn't there a problem of

:25:52.:25:55.

accountability? When we look at the councils coming together and working

:25:56.:25:59.

to regional levels, the question I put to the local government

:26:00.:26:03.

secretary in November last year was if my school is being closed but my

:26:04.:26:08.

council has merged with the next three neighbouring councils, who do

:26:09.:26:13.

I hold to account? Who do I vote out? And there isn't an answer, is

:26:14.:26:21.

there? There is the problem of disillusionment. If your local

:26:22.:26:23.

councillor and someone says will you fight to keep the school open? They

:26:24.:26:26.

say it isn't anything to do with them. This is organiser to regional

:26:27.:26:33.

level. The result will then be you have fragmentation of politics,

:26:34.:26:37.

which we have seen in May. Groups are being set up in various

:26:38.:26:41.

authorities, not based on the critical parties but on localities.

:26:42.:26:46.

It is identity politics coming back into government. The problem is

:26:47.:26:51.

trying to balance that lack of accountability or loss of

:26:52.:26:55.

accountability with the savings and the positive element. It is a

:26:56.:26:59.

difficult one for councils. The themes in the White Paper about

:27:00.:27:04.

sustainability, integration of services, it is about working

:27:05.:27:07.

together for the future, and the paper is titled resilience and

:27:08.:27:15.

renewed local government, but it is renewed public services. What it

:27:16.:27:18.

builds and there is the participation of the citizen much

:27:19.:27:21.

more in developing and building their areas. Councils are being

:27:22.:27:25.

renewed. One of the other aspect of this White Paper that hasn't been

:27:26.:27:28.

mentioned is that councils can decide whether they want to continue

:27:29.:27:32.

with the system in place for 20 years, which is a cabinet system or

:27:33.:27:37.

go back to the committee system. Local authorities in Wales and

:27:38.:27:41.

councillors understood that system so there is a change for people

:27:42.:27:45.

along the way. Is there another issue here that the Local Government

:27:46.:27:48.

Association in Wales is saying over the next decade or so social care

:27:49.:27:54.

will double in terms of cost and any savings or changes will be dwarfed

:27:55.:27:58.

by that. Is that the main problem? We are living in an ageing

:27:59.:28:02.

population. I'll be using social care in the future. The problem is

:28:03.:28:07.

local government is the agency, along with the health boards that

:28:08.:28:11.

deliver social care. At the end of the day, they are an agency on

:28:12.:28:15.

behalf of what? You need the money, and my theory is and I've said this

:28:16.:28:20.

previously is that social care is a national issue. You've got to get

:28:21.:28:23.

the finance right. That might mean we all have to pay more into social

:28:24.:28:30.

care but to actually say it's up to the local government or Assembly, it

:28:31.:28:33.

is up to all of us to provide a social care future. Plenty did -- to

:28:34.:28:40.

discuss consomme. Thank you both. If you'd like to get in touch

:28:41.:28:42.

with us about what's been discussed tonight,

:28:43.:28:47.

or anything else, email us at thewalesreport@bbc.co.uk,

:28:48.:28:49.

or follow us on social media, Rhod Gilbert's enrolled

:28:50.:28:51.

in building school. That's really good

:28:52.:29:22.

for the first attempt. Not going to cry, are you?

:29:23.:29:26.

Oh...I'm welling up. But will he survive on

:29:27.:29:29.

a real building site? Do you kick people off

:29:30.:29:32.

pretty quickly if they're not up to scratch?

:29:33.:29:33.

Er, yes, we do, yeah. Pressure's on.

:29:34.:29:35.

Right, get the bucket.

:29:36.:29:38.

Arwyn Jones presents a current affairs series taking a look at issues that matter in Wales and asks decision makers about the consequences of their choices. What next for Wales on the Brexit journey? And is there a role for Ukip once the UK leaves the EU? The Wales Report speaks to the Assembly group leader Neil Hamilton.