[5th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 8:07 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education) 8:07 pm, 9th January 2019

That is exactly what many of the emails say—they voted no in 2014 because of their concern about European Union membership, and now their worst concerns are coming to pass.

I was in Romania last year as part of a parliamentary delegation. Everywhere we went, there was a celebration of Europe and its membership of the European Union. People showed great pride in the country having been a member since 2007. It was notable that one issue raised fairly regularly with the delegation was the brain drain that Romania was experiencing. It was seeing its most talented and very best young people moving to other parts of Europe. We gain benefit from that, and we should continue to.

Let us compare that with the UK. We joined a trade organisation very reluctantly in the early 1970s because we were being economically disadvantaged by not being a member of it. Almost immediately afterwards, there was a referendum to see whether that had been the right decision. Had we really done what we should have done? Throughout that time, we heard about European bureaucracy and about how things were being done to us. There was lots of comedy about it. I remember episodes of “Yes, Minister” in which people talked about sausages and bendy bananas. It is rather ironic that we are talking about the bureaucracy of the European Union and European Parliament when, just along the corridor, we have a whole pile of unelected bureaucrats sitting in this building.

The nature of the arguments in the referendum campaign also caused me deep concern. There were stories about millions going to the EU that could be spent on the NHS instead. There was scaremongering about swarms of migrants. A lot of this was stoked up by the right-wing media, and it was received by a public who were looking for leadership. EU nationals were blamed for the strain on schools, the health service and social housing, but let us be clear that the majority of EU nationals in the UK are of working age and are contributing. Three to 18 is the age of education, but the majority of EU nationals here are not in that age group. The biggest strain on our health service comes from those who are over 70, and that does not generally include EU nationals.

When I first came to London to sit in this place, I had a flat in a building where more than half the flats were empty, because they had been bought up and banked by foreign money launderers who used them as a place to keep their investments. Those flats were empty when homeless people were sleeping out on the streets. That was not the fault of EU nationals. If we want to deal with the housing crisis, we need to build houses for social use—for people who need houses. We need to stop building houses that are going to sit empty in the centre of London.