Welsh independence warning: Labour says referendum ‘on table’ – Union ‘never this fragile’

Mark Drakeford delivers speech at Leaders’ Debate

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Constitution Minister Mick Antoniw said a vote could take place if the UK Government’s attitudes to the Union did not change. Speaking today, the Welsh Cabinet Minister claimed “we are facing a situation where the structures of the UK are not fit for purpose”.

The Welsh Labour politician also claimed Downing Street’s “heads were in the sand” over Union related matters.

It comes just days after Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said the United Kingdom has “never been this fragile”, as his Government unveiled its “Reforming Our Union” plan to reset relations with Westminster.

The 20-point plan argues England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must be based on a partnership of equals, and calls for the creation of an independent body to oversee how “fair” funding is allocated across the nations.

It also calls for reforming the House of Lords to reflect the make-up of the United Kingdom, giving devolved ministers a say in the UK’s approach to international relations, and the devolution of justice and policing to Wales as had already been done in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The plan also suggests the UK Government should agree it will not fund other governments’ responsibilities without their consent, following criticism from Wales and Scotland that the Internal Market Act allows Westminster to allocate money to devolved areas.

The plan was originally published in October 2019, when Mr Drakeford called for a “radical redrawing” of the UK, but has been updated following Brexit as well as May’s parliament elections for Wales and Scotland.

After being asked whether “from your point of view, and from Welsh Labour’s point of view, independence is on the table, even if it’s not your preferred option?”, Mr Antoniw added to BBC Radio Wales: “I think independence is always on the table if you get to a situation where the relationships between the nations of the UK break down to such an extent that people start questioning what is the purpose of the UK.

“I remember when the Scottish independence referendum took place in September 2014 the big question was, what is the purpose of the UK?

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“There wasn’t really a very good answer to that, and we’ve got to come up with those particular answers.

“Because what we do recognise is that there’s a very significant degree of inter-dependence we have. Whether it be issues of currency, whether it be issues of trade, whether it be issues of movement.

“We’ve got to cut through to some sort of collective agreement. What are the most important things that we’ve got to do collectively, and what are the things that are best handled as close to the people and as close to communities as possible.

“That really is what the nature of the debate is about.”

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One of the major issues among Welsh voters was the constitution in the 2021 Senedd elections with support for Welsh independence rising as high as 35 percent in April in a Savanta Com-Res poll.

Another poll conducted in early May however put support slightly lower with 28 percent saying they would vote yes, 57 percent said they would vote no and 14 percent were undecided.

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