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Plaid Cymru leader says her party will back EU referendum if strict conditions are met

Leanne Wood speaking at the University of South Wales Photo: ITV News, Adrian Masters

Plaid Cymru's leader says her party's MPs will vote for a law leading to a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union, as long as three strict conditions are met.

In her first major speech since the UK Election, Leanne Wood says the price of Plaid's support for referendum legislation would be:

  • the referendum should not clash with the 2016 Welsh Election (it's widely reported that the vote will be held earlier than originally promised)

  • results should make clear how each nation of the UK voted

  • there should be no withdrawal from the EU unless all four nations vote for it

That last point was dismissed by UKIP's leader in Wales, Nathan Gill, who took to Twitter to explain why.

This was an important speech for several reasons.

Firstly, Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru hope it will be seen as the start of the 2016 Welsh Election campaign and setting the terms of debate for that campaign.

Secondly, as a Plaid source told me, not only was it about trying to seize the initiative but also a significant attempt to reposition the party ahead of next year's vote.

So, while she called for further powers to be transferred to Wales, she also called for all parties to move beyond arguments over devolution and from blaming Westminster for 'all our ills.' She said the 2016 election should be a 'competition of ideas' and pledged her party to a programme of policies which would be deliverable whatever powers the Assembly has.

I want to be clear with people in Wales today that Plaid Cymru’s programme for government will be fully deliverable, regardless of the constitutional framework within which we have to work.

Our unwavering priorities will be centred on securing and improving the NHS, raising standards and prospects in schools and creating the economic conditions for thriving businesses and well-paid job opportunities.

I ask people to trust Plaid Cymru, to give us the chance to show what we can do in government.

– Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru Leader

She also made a calculated attempt to seize and redefine a term that's being argued about by Labour leadership contenders, although amongst them 'aspiration' is often code for a return to the kind of politics seen under Tony Blair. Leanne Wood said she defines it differently:

Aspiration is a term that party usually uses as a way of masking its move to regressive politics – aspiration for the already privileged few.

But Plaid Cymru talks about aspiration in terms of its potential for everyone – our collective ambition.

Every individual, every business, every community and every country has potential.

Government can and should create the conditions for all to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

– Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru Leader

Another political opponent seems unimpressed. A Welsh Labour spokesperson said:

Plaid Cymru failed to put forward a positive vision for Wales at the last two elections and they continue to suffer because of it. From today's speech it seems Plaid have learned no lessons, the message was incoherent and largely policy-free.

– Welsh Labour spokesperson

As for Leanne Wood's future, she says she has no plan to stand down from the party's leadership despite disappointment at not seeing a breakthrough in this year's UK Election. She said 'I am and I will be Plaid Cymru's candidate for First minister at next year's Welsh General Election.'

With eleven months to go, she's made clear how she intends to contest the 2016 election. It's no understatement to say that it'll be make or break for her leadership of Plaid Cymru.

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