Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration - Motion to Take Note (1st Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:14 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Liberal Democrat 8:14 pm, 5th December 2018

My Lords, this is not just about confidence in our nation; it is about our obligation to future generations. Leave means my seven grandchildren and how they will be affected in future years. Brexit means my seven grandchildren, all your Lordships’ grandchildren and all the children in our country. Will it be better for them to have fewer benefits than we have had, or should we think first of them when we vote on this deal?

Just after the Second World War, the community of Llangollen in north Wales established the international musical festival, which has brought people from many countries together. It still goes on; I spoke only this morning to its press office. This past year it brought applications from 3,919 competitors from 64 locations; it brought together people who had been at enmity with one another. As people who have been fighting each other, we suddenly find ourselves in a situation where we either stretch out to one another in friendship or say we want to carry on building a wall.

When the first eisteddfod was held, one choir hitchhiked from Hungary to reach Llangollen—I find it difficult to think of a choir hitchhiking. The following time, a German choir from Lübeck came over to Llangollen. Members of the choir were not sure what sort of reception they would get because we had been at war. They were going to sing to those who had been their enemies and they were very uncertain. But the compère at the eisteddfod on that day was Hywel Roberts, who greeted them by saying, “We are now going to hear from our German friends”. It has taken a long time to build this: to build relationships and get over the enmity of the past. But it has been done, in many different ways. Will we continue with these feelings of friendship? Will we continue building bridges and not walls?

A decade after the Llangollen eisteddfod started, we had the embryonic European movement. This also brought together countries which had been at enmity. When I was in Berlin at a conference some time ago, I said, “The last time one of my family was here he was in a bomber plane over the city, but now we are talking together”. One of the major competitions in Llangollen is the Pavarotti choral competition. So why are we taking a step back? What reason have we for becoming more distant from those who once were distant from us but with whom we are now comrades?

Union takes a long time; of course it does. In Wales we united in a way with England in 1534. We still have our problems; it is an evolving thing. We have our Assembly and certain powers. Our union will always evolve. It is not ready-made or a finished product, and neither is the European Union, or our place in the European Union, because we are in an evolving situation. Without Llangollen and without the European Union, the world would be far more threatening and far more unstable. Every move towards co-operation and understanding is in the right direction. The weakening of our ties with Europe is a backward move. We halt the free movement of people; we withdraw the status of our own people as citizens of Europe. What are we doing? Do we know what we are doing? Are we to be known as those who built walls and not bridges—the Canutes of history? Or are we people who will build this relationship and this understanding? Our children will benefit from what we do in this debate or they will look back on us and say, “Ah, things were different in my grandfather’s time”.

I appeal to all Members of the House—the details, of course, will be worked out over many years—to let us build a world fit for children to live in. We can either do it or be a barrier to it. It is our decision.