Plaid Cymru's leader accuses government of 'fanning flames' of xenophobia

Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood has accused the government of “fanning the flames” of xenophobia and fuelling a rise in hate crimes.

Speaking at her party’s conference, Ms Wood condemned the “toxic” and “thuggish” debate on immigration.

She accused politicians, including the Prime Minister Theresa May, of failing to “provide a lasting solution” to the issue of immigration “or to calm people fears.”

She demanded a “soft Brexit” which could mean continued free movement of people and asked for Wales to be given a seat at the negotiating table as well as extra powers for the devolved parliament.

Some 39% of Welsh exports go to the EU, including 90% for the food and drink sector, with almost 200,000 jobs depending on trade with Europe.

Ms Wood said: “For now, we are still enjoying the benefits of being in that single market.

“And we can continue to benefit from free trade with the EU as a member of the European Economic Area, or the European Free Trade Association, EFTA.

“This would amount to a soft Brexit, the option that would cause the least harm to our businesses and industries.

“It is the best outcome we can hope for in the hard bargaining over Brexit that is to come.”

The majority of people in Wales backed Brexit in the June referendum and Ms Wood insisted she was not refusing to accept the result of the vote.

But she added: “Whilst a majority of people may have voted to leave, the ‘hard brexit’ position favoured by the Prime Minister was not on the ballot paper.

“Hard Brexit is not the best option for Wales.”

In a further attack on the Tory leader, Ms Wood added that she considers herself to be “a Welsh European but…also a global citizen”.

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