Hywel Williams – 2021 Speech on Global Britain

The speech made by Hywel Williams, the Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon, in the House of Commons on 11 January 2021.

Global Britain reimagines the past, ignores the present and, in its naivety, diminishes the future. It is a product of the exceptionalism that diminished the UK’s relationship with the EU. Global Britain captures the arrogance of the Westminster Government towards the non-England UK.

The Foreign Secretary said that global Britain will be

“the best possible allies, partners and friends with our European neighbours”.

Those neighbours are bound together by a European vision of peace, protected by political, economic and social interaction. This was rejected by this Government. Delusion and nostalgia trump political reality, trump global interdependence and even trump geography itself. The delusion is obvious to all, save for the deluded. My party advocates a policy for Wales of proximity to Europe. We recognise our shared values, our diversity, our political and economic interests and the sheer fact of geography that draws us to our mainland.

The Foreign Secretary said the UK will be an

“energetic champion of free and open trade”—[Official Report, 3 February 2020; Vol. 671, c. 26.]

having just struck the first trade deal ever that put up barriers to trade. Most distasteful is the claim that the UK will be a “stronger force for good”—this coming from a Government who have cut international aid, have supplied arms to autocrats and have lavished praise on demagogues like Donald Trump, and that is going well, is it not?

This year, the Republic of Ireland has again taken its seat on the United Nations Security Council. This achievement for a small nation is an emphatic rebuttal of the Unionist contention that nations like Wales and Scotland are too small and too poor to be independent and successful. These past four years of failure have proved that one London-shaped national interest does not serve our four unique and diverging sets of interests. We have our own international priorities. For now, we must have equal powers to approve future trade deals. That is imperative.

Global Britain’s withdrawal from Erasmus is a disgrace: curtailing the life opportunities of our best, and with no reciprocal arrangements for students from our neighbours. But not to worry, we will have, I am sure, a “world-beating” alternative, no doubt destined to join all the other world-beating triumphs of this Government. Finally, there is the Government’s stupidest self-damaging spasm: the little England denial of visas for performers, rejecting a reasonable and mutually beneficial EU offer of 90-day visas both ways.

Wales can achieve great things as an independent sovereign nation, free to make a positive and honest contribution to address the global challenges of our times. Global Britain comes nowhere near that aspiration.