European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:51 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Food and Rural Affairs) 3:51 pm, 4th September 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is a pleasure to be speaking in this particular debate.

May I start by paying tribute to my predecessor, Mr Chris Davies? He worked hard for our local communities, raising awareness of the very difficult issue of mental health and suicide in farmers. I thank him for his service. Chris followed hard on the heels of the highly respected Liberal Democrat MP, Roger Williams. Roger’s are large boots to fill and, if I can even partly match his passion, service and commitment, I shall be very pleased.

It is a huge privilege to represent Brecon and Radnorshire, one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country. It is also the largest constituency in England and Wales— something that I am sure some Members here will have discovered during the recent by-election when searching for another elusive farmhouse up yet another long and scenic track. Brecon and Radnorshire is home to strong and resilient communities, some of which are Welsh-speaking. Sadly, many of our libraries, banks and post offices in these communities have closed in recent years. Despite this, there is a real joy for life in the old counties of Radnorshire and Brecknockshire, as well as a healthy rivalry between them, that makes sure that the mid-Wales spirit—yr ysbryd—is alive and well.

Many Members here will have had the luxury of making their maiden speeches in the weeks and months following a general election, looking forward to the many years of a full parliamentary term. My maiden speech could not be made in more different circumstances. [Laughter.]

On the night of the by-election, I promised the people of Brecon and Radnorshire that I would tell the Prime Minister exactly why a no-deal Brexit would be damaging for my constituents. Well, I am delighted that last night my very first vote as the Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire was to help Parliament take back control of the agenda and to do everything possible to prevent us leaving the EU without a deal, including speaking in this debate today. When it comes to a no-deal Brexit, we need to stop talking in terms of the hypothetical and the theoretical and start talking with candour about the real and damaging consequences it would bring.

A no-deal Brexit would be damaging for everyone in my constituency, but particularly for the people who are the lifeblood of Brecon and Radnorshire—the farmers. Welsh farmers, as we heard this morning, export 40% of their lamb, and over 90% of that goes to the EU. Currently, if farmers in Brecon and Radnorshire export to the EU, export tariffs are—let me have a think—zero. A no-deal Brexit would mean 40% tariffs on Welsh lamb exports. That would risk putting farmers in my constituency and right across Wales out of business.

I will be using my votes today to ensure that a no-deal Brexit is avoided, as it would be catastrophic for the people of Brecon and Radnorshire. Whether people voted remain or leave, they did not vote for a no-deal Brexit that would make them poorer. They did not vote for long waits for life-saving medicines and they did not vote for a decline in our country’s environmental standards.

I am extremely privileged to be able to serve the wonderful people of Brecon and Radnorshire and I shall do my utmost to be an MP they are proud of. Diolch yn fawr iawn—thank you very much.