A time to reflect: The return to snow and icy conditions from Boxing Day onwards extended the Christmas atmosphere for many of us but it is now time to reflect upon the old year and look ahead to the new, with everyone wondering what 2018 will mean for us, our families and communities and those we hold dear. It is inevitably also a time when we think of those who are no longer with us - and recall their part in our lives.
Difficulties, challenges and unpredictable events:
2017 certainly brought its share of difficulties, challenges and unpredictable events. Our world feels like a less stable place due to terror attacks at home and abroad, with the occupants of both the White House and the Kremlin pursuing nationalist agendas, showing scant regard for wider world opinion.
While Alabama reminded Trump of his vulnerability just a few weeks ago, the exclusion of charismatic Alexei Navalny from standing in the Russian elections in March shows that Putin is not prepared to take the risk.
Another aspect of this precious time of year is how we re-evaluate friendships and relationships, those that have flourished and those that have waned, either through neglect or because they have run their course.
In this context, we in Wales and the wider UK have cause to reflect in 2018 on what could be the last year of our membership of the European Union. During the past 45 years, our economies have grown stronger, relationships between member states have grown deeper and war and bloodshed between the nations of Europe, as between the communities of Ireland have become a distant memory.
Costly lesson of 2016:
As with many relationships, maybe we don’t properly cherish them until they come under threat.
One lesson that many of us have learnt to our cost since the historic referendum of June 2016 is precisely the danger of allowing a relationship to sour through lack of commitment, aided admittedly by complacency and a mendacious effort to turn the EU into the repository of everyone’s discontent.
Navigating the waters of Brexit:
We now face the reality of what the total rupture in relations a ‘Hard Brexit’ would mean – for our rural heartlands, our post industrial communities, our food security and our public services, notably the NHS.
In doing so, we should respect the views not only of the 52 per cent, but also the 48 per cent, and the many denied the chance to have a say.
The greater the stability we can retain in our relations with European friends and neighbours in the time to come and the lower the hurdles erected in trade and labour flows will surely be in our shared interest, as our governments strive to navigate the choppy waters of Brexit.
Our historic challenge
My own party, the Liberal Democrats, have been committed to our European destiny since the days of Jo Grimond, and I am proud that we remain on that terrain. But this issue, which matters more than any other in my adult life, must transcend all partisan or tribal interests.
The cross party movement to reassess the impact of Brexit, of leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union, on living standards and the prospects of ordinary people in every community, must grow apace and find its voice in 2018.
Generations to come will judge us harshly, if we fail to rise to this historic challenge.
Happy New Year
Member, Welsh Government EU Advisory Group