European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:48 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru 12:48 pm, 5th September 2019

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who I also consider a friend. I agreed with most of what he said on the European context, as much as I disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Howard, a few moments ago.

I welcome the comments with which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, opened this debate, referring to the context of our times in which this debate takes place. It was 80 years ago this week that the Second World War started. At that time we did not turn our backs on Europe. The existence of the European Union has grown from the desire of people to avoid ever again fighting civil wars on our continent in the way that happened so disastrously twice in the last century. That is the context of what we are debating now.

I am delighted to support the Second Reading of this Bill. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for the way he introduced it. My party, Plaid Cymru, played a constructive role in the discussions that took place and led to this Bill, particularly through Liz Saville Roberts MP, our leader in the House of Commons. As a party, we campaigned to remain—and so did I. However, we were willing to seek a compromise because we recognised that Wales and Britain had voted no to Europe. In fact, a White Paper was brought forward jointly by the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru with a compromise that would have involved a customs union and single market involvement. It could have found a majority across party boundaries in the House of Commons, but it was ruled out by the red lines that Mrs May introduced. I regret very much indeed that that opportunity was missed.

Of course, things have now moved on. We are faced with a very real danger of crashing out of the European Union on a no-deal basis. This would be utterly disastrous in the Irish context, which no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Hain, will talk about in a few moments’ time. It would also be disastrous at home in Wales. Take agriculture: in the first week of November, where will our sheep farmers take their sheep when there is no market for them? That it true not just in Wales but in the north of England and Scotland. When we have an unknown trading relationship with the continent into which we are so integrated, how will the manufacturing companies in my part of north Wales, such as Airbus and Toyota, be able to continue trading, given the just-in-time basis on which deliveries take place? The same is true for our universities, the tourism sector and NHS staff. It will be a disaster if we crash out. I support the Second Reading of this Bill in order to systematically and definitively avoid no deal.