"The country has taken a fundamental decision. I am deeply disappointed with the result."
First Minister Carwyn Jones said:
The country has taken a fundamental decision. I am deeply disappointed with the result.
This was a referendum I was never convinced we should have – not because I object to the democratic decision taken today – but because of its timing so soon after elections and I always feared that the debate would never really be about the EU.
This argument has not been one that represents a great advert for our political discourse in Britain.
But, a decision has been taken. And we must respect that.
Just last month I was elected First Minister and the head of the Welsh Government – I promised then, and I repeat today, I will be the First Minister for the whole of Wales. No matter how you voted yesterday, no matter how you voted in May, this Welsh Government will fight for your interests.
Now is the time for Wales to unite and to think clearly about our future. Even before yesterday’s vote I said that no one party had the monopoly on good ideas, and now more than ever, we must rely on the abilities of all.
I have spoken to the First Minister of Scotland this morning. The Prime Minister has already said that Wales should be fully involved in negotiations on the terms of UK withdrawal and our future relationship with Europe – and I’ll be holding the UK Government to that.
We will have a meeting of the Cabinet on Monday.
My urgent priority is to protect the interests of Wales. The Welsh Government has 6 key priorities arising from these changed circumstances.
Firstly, we must protect our jobs. For the Welsh Government now, doing everything we can to maintain economic confidence and stability is our number one task. We have built excellent, proactive relationship with Welsh businesses and inward investors, and these will need to intensify following yesterday’s vote.
Second, the Welsh Government must play a full part in discussions about the timing and terms of UK withdrawal from the EU. Our participation is essential, not just for directly devolved issues, but for the whole range of issues affecting vital Welsh interests.
Thirdly, it is vital that the United Kingdom negotiates to retain access to the 500 million customers in the Single Market.
Four, we should negotiate continued participation, on current terms, in major EU programmes like CAP and Structural Funds up until the end of 2020. This will facilitate continuity for citizens, communities, businesses and investors while arrangements are made for the longer term.
Five, Wales is a net beneficiary from the EU to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. There is now an overwhelming case for a major and immediate revision of the Barnett Formula taking into account needs arising from EU withdrawal and I call today for the promise made that Wales will not lose a penny to be guaranteed.
Sixth, and finally, withdrawal from the EU is a massive constitutional shift for the UK and it has equally far-reaching implications for the devolution settlement. The relationship between Devolved Administrations and the UK Government must now be placed onto an entirely different footing.
The Welsh Government will fight for the people of Wales in all of these vital areas, but also strive to unify the divisions exposed by this vote, taking Wales forward together, which I believe is what the nation now wants and needs. Passions have been raised by this debate, I acknowledge, but it’s now a time for calm, rather than knee-jerk reactions. Many will be concerned about the vitriol that seeped into the campaign – this will not help us with the significant challenges that now face us all.
We also need to find a way of talking to one another again – we may have voted different ways, but we remain neighbours, friends and family.
The challenges we faced yesterday, on the NHS, on the economy, in education, we still face today. And we must rise to those challenges, and deliver for the Welsh people.
It is too early for anyone to fully analyse why the country voted the way it did last night – but one thing is obvious. Areas of Wales and England that contain post-industrial communities, often deprived communities, voted out – even though they had often benefited massively from European funding. Even though those communities voted for parties in May who supported a Remain vote. Too many people in these communities feel that politics, and our economy, has left them behind, and we have a real task ahead to undo that sense of alienation.
I said after the May election that it represented the start of the conversation with our communities, and I meant it. For the good of our nation and its future we must come together and rise to the challenges before us.