European Union Citizenship

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:53 pm on 7th March 2018.

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Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:53 pm, 7th March 2018

It is a huge pleasure to speak in this debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Hywel Williams on his speech, which opened the debate. He set out the case in his usual forensic style, providing great clarity and detail about what is being proposed. I also thoroughly enjoyed the speeches from Stephen Gethins, who once again proved why he is one of the superstar performers of this Parliament, my hon. Friend Ben Lake, who again showed why he is one of the rising stars of Welsh politics, and my parliamentary leader, my hon. Friend Liz Saville Roberts, who spoke with her usual great authority, concentrating on the example following the independence of Ireland at the beginning of the last century. She gave us a fantastic history lesson in her contribution.

On the morning after the referendum, on 24 June 2016, I had been given the honour of being the guest speaker at the graduation ceremony of the local further education college in my county, Coleg Sir Gâr. The ceremony was held at the fabulous Ffos Las racecourse in Carwe, in my constituency. Somewhat bleary-eyed and shellshocked after watching the referendum results in the early hours of the morning, I vividly remember standing up at the podium and looking out at the hundreds of young graduates and their families before me. I dropped my speaking notes and went completely off script. Instead of diving into my speech, to talk about how proud they should be of their achievements and how they should look forward to their future, I apologised to those young people.

My apology was based on being part of the political class that had allowed a set of circumstances that would reduce their life chances and opportunities compared with those that had been available to me and the generations before me—primarily the right to travel, live, work, receive healthcare and reside in any other part of the European Union, among other rights. We have had powerful contributions from several Members, and that is the crux of what we are trying to grapple with today.