The Rt Hon Mark Drakeford, First Minister, abandoned his pre-planned speech at Thursday’s gofod3 (WCVA’s flagship event) to tell the third sector – charities, social enterprises, voluntary organisations and others – they need to put aside normal activities, and instead plan for a No Deal Brexit.
The First Minister was speaking ahead of the panel discussion by Wales Civil Society Forum on Brexit (a partnership between WCVA and the Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University). He said:
“In the short run, the chaos on our roads, in our airports, in supplies of food, in the way that we keep water safe, all of these things which we never imagined we would see in our lifetimes, all of those are real and substantial risks.
“There is a week still to go. We have worn the patience of our partners in the European Union, as thin as you can imagine. But we may still be having to rely on their willingness to help us find a way out of the hole that has been dug for us here at home.
“In those circumstances, we will have to mobilise every resource that we have in Wales, to help those who are the most vulnerable in our society, not to be overwhelmed by the difficulties that they may face. And that means Government, of course, it means our public services, of course, but it means all of the organisations that are represented in this room as well.
“Because it will be the resilience of our civil society, of those organisations that work on the ground and who know where vulnerable people live, and are able to turn up on doorsteps and check they are okay and do things that they are unable immediately to manage for themselves. Those will be the resources that we will rely on, in those days that follow from a Brexit of the sort that I have described.
“And this is a very good opportunity today, to have everybody together, to test again the strength of the movement that we know we are lucky enough to have, here in Wales. And to say in all seriousness that, over the next week, we all have to be thinking and planning and putting to one side the things we normally would be doing in order to make sure, if that contribution is needed, the voluntary and the third sector here in Wales will do what it has done so many times in the past, and step up to the challenge we will have to face together.
“Even if we find a different way through […] provided the Prime Minister is willing, even at this final hour, to pivot towards it, to talk to other parties in a genuine way of seeking a different solution. Even if we manage that, the stresses and strains that Brexit has created in our society will not easily evaporate.
“If we have a transition period, if we have a different destination, the healing process will need to begin as soon as we are able to make it. And in that healing process, as I say, we have to find respectful language for people who have taken a different view. And to find a way of having a conversation with them that brings them and others back around that single table.
“And make sure that they have a voice, alongside others, in shaping the sort of Wales we want to see. A Wales that is open. A Wales that is tolerant. A Wales that welcomes people from other parts of the globe. A Wales that is determined that we continue to be a European country. In the European mainstream.
“Working even harder than we have in recent years to get that message across to those many friends we have in other parts of Europe. And the third sector has played such an important part in this: informing those networks, in creating those friendships. But those people know that, for Wales at least, we will go on making the effort to sustain those relationships beyond Brexit and into the future.
“I’m sorry to have struck such a bleak note this afternoon. But the days really are seeping through our fingers and the reality of what could happen is staring us in the face. We all have to find ways, in the next few days, of mobilising together, so we are as best prepared as we possibly can, to face what we might have to deal with next week.”
In its third year, gofod3 has been shining a spotlight on the value of the third sector across Wales – and its ability to counter what is proving to be an increasingly difficult and divisive period.
gofod3, the flagship event of WCVA, is the biggest third sector event of its kind in Wales, providing a platform for over 900 charity workers and volunteers to discuss the latest issues facing charities in Wales, including Brexit: www.gofod3.cymru