Row erupts as Boris savaged over plan to ‘invade’ Wales with Union Jack – FM hits out

Mark Drakeford delivers speech at Leaders’ Debate

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The First Minister of Wales and Welsh Labour leader made the claims as he spoke about his priorities for Wales and the United Kingdom as tens of thousands of Welsh voters are set to go to the polls. In a series of interviews with the Daily Express ahead of the Senedd Cymru or Welsh Parliament elections next week, Mr Drakeford expressed the importance of Welsh identity and Wales having a proud place in the Union.

Labour has ruled Wales since the Senedd was established in 1999 through a mixture of coalitions with the Lib Dems and Welsh Nationalist party Plaid Cymru led by Alun Michael, Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones.

The latest opinion polling ahead of the Senedd election suggests Labour support is hardening as the vote on May 6 approaches. 

Savanta ComRes quizzed 1,002 people and found Labour support growing with the party on 36 percent of the total vote. 

Mr Drakeford, who succeeded Carwyn Jones in December 2018, said the Welsh election was one of “trust and ambition in Wales.”

Talking about the future of the Union, the Welsh First Minister highlighted the announcement by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden regarding UK flags flying outside UK Government buildings in Wales had “the opposite effect of what it promotes”.

The Welsh First Minister told this publication: “They [the Welsh people] don’t want to see the Union Jack as a colonial approach by the UK Government as if they were an invading Government [in Wales].”

“The UK Government has to make a positive case for the UK.”

Mr Drakeford also made the pledge to this publication that the party would not support holding a referendum on Welsh independence unless Plaid Cymru won a majority in the Senedd.

Turning to the party’s election manifesto, Mr Drakeford said the party’s focus would be dominated on recovery after COVID-19.

The strategy would focus on schools and the NHS with a guarantee that every young person under the age of 25 will be offered a job or a place in education or training.

Care workers will be also paid the real living wage under plans by Mr Drakeford and they will also invest £800million in new trains by 2023.

As part of their pledge, a Welsh Labour government would also pay for 100 extra police community support officers and would build 20,000 new low-carbon social homes for rent.

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Turning to the environment, single-use plastics will be abolished and a National Forest for Wales will be created.

The Welsh First Minister also highlighted the importance of the Coronavirus pandemic stressing it has boosted the importance of the role of the Welsh Parliament.

He made clear more Welsh voters were now aware of the role of “independence decision making” from Westminster, and added: “It has raised the profile of devolution.”

But he raised concerns about the UK Internal Market Bill, a solution by the UK Government to creating a secure platform for UK trade after Britain fully cut ties with the EU.

 

It will also see measures that were previously managed by the EU return to the UK.

Around 160 policy areas including animal welfare, public procurement rules and environmental regulations will go to one or more of the devolved administrations.

But concerns were raised that the new legislation would constrain the devolved parliament’s powers.

He added: “The UK Internal Market bill has allowed ministers to take powers away from legislatures and on responsibilities for which they do not hold.”

The Welsh First Minister stressed the importance of protecting devolution adding that he would work with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster’s successor to ensure the concept is protected.

Mr Drakeford continued: “I will work with others wherever they are.”

Mark Drakeford grilled on 'lack of urgency' for Wales' future

But he said of Ms Sturgeon: “I have worked closely with Nicola Sturgeon during the coronavirus pandemic but I do have fundamental differences with her.”

The Welsh Labour leader who represents Cardiff West in the Senedd also called on Boris Johnson to lower the voting age for English local and House of Commons elections to 16.

Mr Drakeford said young people should not be neglected stressing they needed to be “prepared for the responsibility” to vote.

He added: “They deserve a chance and I absolutely do believe that.

“They will plant our democratic seed for the future.”

Mr Drakeford will fight to hold his position on May 6th.

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