Three years on from the Referendum, our divided nation has finally left the European Union
As someone who has spent practically her whole career committed to developing the relationship between Wales and the EU, I have to admit how much I was dreading this...
Our relationship is about to change forever.
This for me is a tragedy, because the EU for me is not just an institution, a collection of states working together; the EU is a part of who I am, of who I have become – a fundamental part of my identity – I am Welsh, I am British and I am proudly European.
My first ever job was in the EU – working as an intern in the European Parliament and later I became the youngest member of the European Parliament, serving there for 15 years.
I remember in the first year that I was elected, I was asked to speak at a huge conference in Spain. I was invited as the youngest MEP to represent and express what young people hoped the future of Europe might hold. I was preceded in that conference by a left wing Catalan who had fought in the Spanish civil war and who represented how Europe of the past was divided and was soaked in blood. I never foresaw in my speech that the time would come when the United Kingdom would feel that our future would not be as a central part of the greatest peace project the world has ever seen.
Because the EU for me, is not an institution which, as some would have you believe, is committed to churning out laws, directives and regulations to make our life more difficult. For me, the EU is about a set of values; it’s about working towards a united continent, it’s about building on the fact that we have gone from being citizens of one of the bloodiest continent on the world, to being citizens of one of the most stable continents in the world.
It’s about understanding that we are more likely to develop if we work together, if we cooperate, if we share and if we learn from each other.
But the people of Wales and the United Kingdom did not agree. Many of us kept holding on to a wish, a desire, a hope that this time would never come. But now we accept that we will leave at the end of the month and we will need to forge a new relationship with our nearest neighbours.
The EU and its member states will remain our most important partners.
This is not just because 60% of our trade in goods is with the EU, – because the economic health of Wales relies on our relationship – it is because we share a common history, a common culture a common identity.
I, along with the rest of the Labour Party now accept that we will leave, but we will still fight for the best possible deal for Wales. We have a responsibility to ensure that we set out to establish the best possible deal for our nation . We don’t believe that the deal on offer and the political declaration that sits alongside it sets out the framework for establishing the best deal possible for Wales.
Our relationship with the EU has brought so many benefits to Wales, from billions of pounds of structural funds, building our infrastructure and training hundreds of thousands of our people, the advice we have had on accessing programmes, from Erasmus to Science Framework Programmes. We’ve cleaned up our beaches and our air quality to conform with EU laws, we’ve given additional powers to consumers and cut the price of EU roaming charges, and we even hosted the European Summit in Cardiff.
We may have left the EU, but we will always be Europeans. We will however do our very best to fight for Wales and make our voice heard in our new relationship with the EU.