The EU isn’t perfect, but it isn’t the enemy – and Wales has a role in shaping its future

A statue at the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Jill Evans MEP

I have been an MEP since 1999. I am more aware than most of the disinformation that has long been promoted in Wales and the UK about the EU.

Even following the referendum, the smear campaign continues.

With exactly a year to go until withdrawal day, the Westminster Government and the right-wing press still use inflammatory language and words like ‘war cabinet’, ‘punishment’, ‘provocation’, ‘weaponising’, blackmail’ and ‘annexation’. They still paint the EU as the enemy.

That is why twenty MEPs, myself among them, sent a letter to the Foreign Secretary at the beginning of the month calling for an end to the use of hostile language.

It is not conducive to achieving any agreement, in this, the most important and sensitive negotiations we have ever been involved in.

With the eyes of the world on us, we should be promoting a spirit of respect and co-operation.

This is not the case.

In last week’s parliamentary session in Strasbourg, we voted on the European Parliament’s guidelines for the future agreement between the UK and EU.

The difference between the parliament’s priorities and those of the Westminster Government are stark.

The Westminster Government’s decision not to convert the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into domestic law means British citizens will be stripped of protections such as the ability to bring a case to court founded on EU general principles, including the right to equality.

The parliament, on the other hand, has stressed the overriding obligation on the EU and UK to protect the rights of all citizens, and the responsibility of the British government to ensure there will be no diminution of the rights of citizens as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

The resolution called on the EU to examine ways of mitigating the loss of rights UK citizens enjoy now through their European citizenship.

This is something that I have campaigned on since publishing research last year that showed that no-one had the right to strip us of citizenship against our will.

Change

Parliament made clear that if UK wants a trade deal with the EU, it must adhere to the EU’s standards on taxation, including anti-money laundering legislation, exchange of information, anti-tax avoidance measures and that it must also address the situation of its tax havens in the Channel Islands and the Caribbean.

The European Parliament has just set up its own special committee to investigate Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance, so has a particular interest in this area of policy.

These are all fair, clear and decisive foundations on which negotiations can be based. The same cannot be said of the Westminster Government’s position.

They have chosen to obfuscate and pursue impossible ‘cake-and-eat-it’ strategies, rather than engaging with the issues set before them. This will not be an option any longer.

The European Parliament has agreed its position, the Commission also. We are now – as we have been for some time – waiting for Westminster.

On the 23rd of June, people voted following a referendum campaign filled with wildly inaccurate descriptions of what the future would be like outside the EU. As Theresa May admitted in her speech earlier this month, “life is going to be different”.

The evidence shows that people will be poorer. People and businesses will inevitably suffer higher prices and fewer opportunities – especially if we are dragged out of the Single Market and Customs Union.

As the first phase of negotiations draw to a close, I remain optimistic that Wales should, and can, be at the heart of the European decision-making process, working to build a more peaceful and tolerant future.

The European Union must and will change. Small countries will a powerful voice in shaping its future. Wales has a great deal to contribute in a positive way to that process.

Jill Evans is a Plaid Cymru MEP.

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