I remember the morning of the 23rd June 2016 so vividly - sat on the sofa with my girlfriend before work watching telly to see David Cameron walking away from the mess he made and very bravely leaving it for somebody else to clean up by declaring his immediate resignation.

In contrast to the sense of foreboding in my house that morning, tens of thousands of Welsh people following the men’s football team at the Euros probably couldn't have felt more connected to Europe that morning, waking up to the warm sunshine in French campsites and hotels somewhere between Toulouse and Paris.

Three days after the vote, the Welsh football team kicked Northern Ireland out of the Euros.

Six years later the political machinations of Westminster are trying to drag the province itself out of regulatory alignment with its southern neighbours and reneging on previously shaky legislation that “broke international law in a very specific and limited way”.


Northern Ireland voted by a clear majority to remain in the European Union, then subsequently people were forced to accept the NI Protocol as the “least bad” option on the table being presented to them by people not interested in their circumstances.

To scrap that Protocol against the wishes of most people in Northern Ireland is purely ideological.

Since Boris Johnson and his government were voted in on a mandate of delivering Brexit, they’ve more or less “solved” that issue in the popular consciousness. What do they stand for now that they’ve completed their grand vision? This leaves them aimless and without any goals, leaving the worst instincts of their worst politicians to fill the policy vacuum. 

In the wake of Partygate and plummeting popularity, a cynic might say that re-drawing the battle lines caused by Brexit is a way of reminding people of why they voted in Johnson’s government in the first place.

Brexit is the death throes of an Empire in a global world. It’s a desperate expression of the agency of a nation state in the face of growing co-operation between countries throughout the world as we become connected with more people beyond our borders whether we like it or not.

The National Wales: In May Plaid Cymru's leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts (centre), met with Sinn Féin leaders Mary Lou McDonald (L) and Michelle O'Neill (R). (Picture: Plaid Cymru)In May Plaid Cymru's leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts (centre), met with Sinn Féin leaders Mary Lou McDonald (L) and Michelle O'Neill (R). (Picture: Plaid Cymru)

Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts (centre) with Sinn Féin leaders Mary Lou McDonald (left) and Michelle O'Neill. (Picture: Plaid Cymru)

The original purpose of the British Empire was to conquer, control and exploit resources. As the world has changed and become more connected over the last century through shorter travel times and increased communication, the Empire has receded although it hasn’t adapted to the world around it or changed what it stands for.

In the eighteenth century the way for Britain to compete with the successful mercantile economies of Europe was to expand its territories and to own resources that were unavailable on this island. 

Wales took part in this expansionism and Welsh people were complicit in the crimes that were committed because we saw our place in that expansion as being higher in the pecking order and closer to the centre of power than the further flung territories. We weren’t ruled by a Governor, our law and order was overseen by the mother parliament of Westminster. Therefore, despite colonial origins to our ties with the Union, we were “authentic” British people.

One of the most British things possible is the docile acceptance of how bad things are and the refusal to imagine that things could be better.

When we answer a person asking us how we are, we rarely answer positively, only that on the sliding scale there is more space to go on the negative side before you reach the limit.

“Mustn’t grumble… Could be worse… Not bad”

The class system is inherent in all things in the UK, and it’s at work here. We accept that our fate is to suffer so long as there are others who suffer more than we do, and to remain silent until something makes us feel like the ones at the very bottom of the ladder. It’s why Partygate remains such a potent force over people’s feelings towards the UK government.

The Brexit vote opened the door to the fact that totally radical changes to the UK’s constitutional settlement were possible overnight. The fact that this was followed by an independent footballing nation excelling on an international stage meant that national pride was coinciding with people questioning the country’s constitution - a huge increase in support for Welsh independence inevitably followed.

While the Conservatives in Westminster try to restart the Brexit battles with the people of Northern Ireland as collateral damage - it’s not unreasonable to think that discussions about the fate of the Six Counties and possible Irish reunification will continue for a long time, surely prompting people in Wales to question what happens to us if that were to happen.

The National Wales: Wales and Northern Ireland fans pictured enjoying the atmosphere in Paris during Euro 2016. Picture: Huw Evans AgencyWales and Northern Ireland fans pictured enjoying the atmosphere in Paris during Euro 2016. Picture: Huw Evans Agency

If Northern Ireland reunites with the Republic, where does that leave Wales in the UK’s constitutional pecking order? We’ve always been treated poorly by Westminster, but for as long as there were colonies abroad, and after they gained independence for as long as Northern Ireland was part of the UK, Wales has said that things could be worse, so we mustn’t grumble.

These existential questions about Wales’ future will continue alongside the intoxicating sight of a Welsh football team flying Y Ddraig Goch on an international stage at the Qatar World Cup, making the boost of support that Welsh independence got in the summer of 2016 look utterly insignificant.

Wales’ sense of Britishness, to not be the worst off, will release it from the UK.

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