Andrew RT Davies AM is the Welsh Conservative Leader and Assembly Member for South Wales Central.
They say ‘a week is a long time in politics’ but I think even the world’s finest minds would struggle to coin a phrase that would be fitting enough to describe the events of the past year.
Since we last met at Conservative Party conference, we have witnessed the most monumental and staggering year in British political history – the earthquake that was the EU referendum shook the political landscape across all corners of our country.
As the only leader of a traditionally mainstream party in Britain to campaign for Brexit, you will not be surprised to learn that I believe the result provides Wales and the United Kingdom with a beacon of opportunity – opportunity which I have no doubt will be embraced by our superb new Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Undoubtedly, our conference takes place at a pivotal moment for the UK – a moment of great change after people across our country said loud and clear that they wanted to be given more control over the decisions that impact on them on a daily basis. After a turbulent campaign, as a party we have united and we are now focussed on getting on with the job of making Brexit a resounding success; securing a bold, new future, free from the shackles of the European Union and delivering a country that works for everyone.
While the positive and embracing leadership of the Prime Minister has been hugely important during this challenging period, unfortunately it’s something which has sadly so lacking from the First Minister in Wales.
Labour’s Carwyn Jones has struggled to put forward a clear vision for Wales, tripping over fundamental aspects such as the freedom of movement and seeking solace in his nationalist comfort blanket, Plaid Cymru. It’s abundantly clear Nicola Sturgeon is no longer alone in posing a danger to the future of the United Kingdom.
After weeks of confusion and indecision, Welsh Labour have finally settled on a position on the freedom of movement; only to have the legs cut from under them this week by Jeremy Corbyn who seems intent on promoting a Labour position based on unlimited levels of immigration.
In Labour, we have a clear case of a party divided and in complete disarray, determined to bury its head in the sand from the wishes of our people and communities.
While the result to leave the EU might have come as a shock to Labour and Plaid – speaking on the door across Wales you had a strong sense it was entirely possible – the inexplicable refusal of the Welsh establishment to accept the democratic will of the people has been beyond absurd.
The disconnect that exists between Carwyn Jones and Leanne Wood’s post-Brexit vision for Wales – versus the will of the electorate – is amplified by the fact that both of their constituencies voted decisively to leave the EU.
But the time for backslapping and feeling sorry for oneself is over – Brexit provides Wales and the United Kingdom the opportunity to shape policies that fit our priorities – and it is vital we embrace it.
Let’s be clear, while we might be leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe. The opportunities across Europe and the rest of world are vast and we can trust the Conservative Government to strike the right deal for Wales and the UK. In 2010, we got Britain working again after the economic shambles left by Labour. In 2016, it’s time for phase two – getting the country working for everyone.
As Conservatives, our message is clear; we want to build a country where there are opportunities for all and where no one is left behind.
In Wales, the establishment needs to wake up and embrace Brexit and show the leadership required to capitalise on the opportunities it provides to ensure we build a healthier, stronger and more prosperous nation.
For we are all Brexiteers now.