Wales’ remain-supporting parties outstripped their Brexit-backing counterparts in Sunday’s (26 May) election results, prompting the leader of the principality’s nationalist party to declare it a “Remain nation”. In 2016, Wales voted alongside England to leave the EU.
Although Nigel Farage’s newborn Brexit Party won 32.5% of the vote in Wales, advocates for a second referendum on EU membership (Liberal Democrats, Greens, Change UK and Plaid Cymru) mustered 42.4%.
That led Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price to say that “Wales, which voted Leave three years ago, is now a Remain nation again, if you tally up the votes for the avowedly pro-Remain parties versus the pro-Brexit parties”.
Price’s pro-Welsh-independence party took 19.6% of the vote, beating Labour’s 15.3% for the first time in a Wales-wide election. The result means Brexit Party candidates will fill two of the four Welsh European Parliament seats, with Plaid and Labour taking one each.
The Conservatives lost their seat and dropped down into fifth place, managing only 6.5%.
But Brexit Party MEP Nathan Gill, who was elected in 2014 for the UK Independence Party, disagreed with Price’s assessment, insisting the result is “a very strong message from Wales: we want our Brexit and we want it now”.
Wales voted 52.5% in favour of leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum, although areas like Cardiff bucked the trend. That did not stop the Brexit Party narrowly topping the capital city’s EU polls with 21%. The Lib Dems and Plaid both trailed within just a percentage point.
However, Labour MP for Cardiff Central Jo Stevens said that the overall result in the city meant “pro-EU candidates have together secured 70%+ of the vote. Shows our city is becoming more and more strongly remain.”
Former First Minister Carwyn Jones predicted before the vote that pro-Remain parties would outscore the Brexit Party overall but that it would still triumph on an individual basis.
“This is why I said we should have put forward a united slate, just like the Brexit Party,” Jones said, adding later that “I concede that it was easier said than done given the short notice”.
Turnout in Wales was in line with the EU-wide increase, rising from 2014’s 32% to just over 37%. Plaid’s Adam Price also said that the result showed “support for the Westminster establishment parties is crumbling” and that it stood his party in good stead ahead of Welsh elections in 2021.
Currently run by Labour, the Welsh National Assembly will hold its sixth general election since 1999 and Plaid will hope to build on the 12 out of 60 seats it holds at the moment.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]