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

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. As always, he makes a very valid point. I congratulate him on the excellent work he is doing on the Select Committee. I was privileged to serve on that Committee with him in the last Parliament, and his contributions are always extremely valuable.

Much of the debate following the referendum has surrounded the economic impact of Brexit. There is little doubt in my mind that the best way to protect the Welsh economy is to stay inside the single market and the customs union, and that has been my position from day one. The issue of European Union citizenship rights of UK subjects, however, has not had the level of consideration it deserves.

At this point, I should pay tribute to Jill Evans, the Plaid Cymru MEP representing the whole of Wales who commissioned a report on that issue in the immediate aftermath of the referendum. Her work has gathered considerable support in the European Parliament—including, critically, from Guy Verhofstadt, the lead Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament. Indeed, I understand that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr Walker, has had discussions with Mr Verhofstadt on that issue. I would be grateful to learn from the Minister in his response whether that issue was discussed yesterday with Mr Verhofstadt during his visit to London. The idea has also gained the support of the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs.

I sense, perhaps wrongly, that the British Government have an open mind to what we are proposing today. I am being kind, because it has been a very good-natured debate so far. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, in response to Jeremy Lefroy—who I am delighted to see in his place and thank for his contribution, which hit the nail on the head—said:

“The aim of this exercise is to be good for Europe and good for Britain, which means good for the citizens of Europe and Britain. That is what we intend to do.”—[Official Report, 2 November 2017;
Vol. 630, c. 947.]

In her speech last Friday at Mansion House, the Prime Minister failed to provide any great clarity on some of the main issues that have concerned Members in relation to the British Government’s Brexit policy. However, a part of her speech did catch my attention, when she conceded that, despite her hard Brexit policy, she would seek to negotiate UK associate membership status with several EU agencies.