Wales politics

Welsh Government's Brexit reaction 'lethargic', says leading academic

Prof Richard Wyn Jones

The Welsh Government's response to the Brexit vote has been "lethargic" and lacks "reality", a leading Welsh academic has said.

Professor Richard Wyn Jones said Welsh ministers must slay "sacred cows" like Communities First and said having a coalition would be "crucial".

He argued the full replacement of EU aid to Wales was not a "realistic prospect".

The Welsh Government says it is working "intensively" with its UK counterpart.

In the wake of the referendum vote, which saw Wales back Brexit together with England, Carwyn Jones has called for the funding Wales gets from the EU to be safeguarded.

Prof Jones, who spoke to BBC Wales after he criticised the Welsh Government's referendum reaction in a debate at the National Eisteddfod on Brexit, said he understood ministers were in a "very difficult position" after voters rejected their call for a Remain vote.

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Image caption First Minister Carwyn Jones is 'committed to the best outcomes for Wales', the Welsh Government said

The Cardiff University Wales Governance Centre academic said the Welsh Government's negotiating hand with the UK government was "much weaker than the Scottish and Northern Irish governments.

"That said, there seems to be a kind of lethargic reaction, almost a kind of business as usual reaction. I think it lacks reality," he said.

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He said there was a "serious crisis for Welsh public finances" with Wales a "major net beneficiary of EU money".

"They seem to be proceeding as if telling London we just want to keep the same amount of money coming to Wales is a realistic prospect," he said.

"It clearly isn't, not least because the economy may well contract and there will be less money generally."

'Unaffordable'

Calling for a fundamental rethink in the way public policy is done in Wales, Prof Jones said some schemes looked "unaffordable in this new context".

"Some sacred cows have to be slain," he said, citing Communities First - a Welsh Government programme aimed at tackling poverty - which he called a "failure" during the debate.

Prof Jones said: "I think most people who look at this know that the delivery over years has not matched the aspirations.

"Is that the best way of helping these communities? Probably not."

"I think we need to build a sustainable stable government in Wales, which is actually willing to make some hard decisions," Prof Jones added.

He told the discussion at the Eisteddfod that a coalition government in the wake of the vote was "crucial".

'Little surprising'

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "On Brexit, the first minister and cabinet are committed to getting the best outcomes for Wales and make no apology for doing so.

"This includes seeking a cast iron commitment that Wales will not lose a penny of the EU money budgeted to us in the period up to 2020.

"It seems a little surprising that anyone who prioritises Wales' interests should argue against that aim."

The spokesman said the government was "working intensively" with the UK and other devolved governments across "wide policy areas".

"All this work is being taken forward while continuing to maximise delivery of the existing EU programmes in a calm and consistent way - to do otherwise would be letting down the people who benefit from them," he said.

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