Lord Dafydd Wigley
The youth of today want to be a part of the Europe of tomorrow. Yet, it is the government of this generation which is denying them that right. A right to their European identity and Citizenship.
It was this principle which motivated my Plaid Cymru colleagues in the House of Commons to choose European Citizenship as the topic of a debate last week. A debate which they won. Meaning for the first time ever the House of Commons supported a Plaid Cymru motion.
Some may say this victory is hollow, as it does not force the Westminster Government to act. However, it indicates the will of the House is that European Citizenship is retained – if the Government try to say otherwise, they will find parliamentary arithmetic is unlikely to be in their favour.
It also bolsters the case that I will be putting forward when my amendment to the Withdrawal Bill calling for our European Citizenship to be protected in law is debated in the coming days.
Put simply, European Citizenship gives you the right to live, work and travel in over 30 European countries – the EU 27 plus EEA/EFTA nations.
It gives us the opportunity to break down borders – to experience our shared European history, make friends across the continent and do business beyond national boundaries.
My passport states that if I am in distress overseas, where there’s no convenient UK embassy, I can be helped by the embassies of other EU member states. Without my European Citizenship, I shall lose that right.
If I fall sick in another EU member state, I can currently rely on my European Health Card to access free healthcare services. My automatic right to such assistance will disappear without my European Citizenship.
The list of rights and benefits goes on.
Of course, some staunch Brexiteers, may want to trade away these rights and benefits for a shiny, new blue passport. And to them I say, go ahead, but I’ll keep my rights, thank you very much.
The disastrous economic consequences of Brexit become more apparent every day. But, Brexit impacts us on a much deeper level. It affects our identity as Europeans and our rights as individuals.
For my entire life, I have fought for the right to call myself European and the benefits that has afforded. I am not willing to let my European identity and Citizenship be taken away from me, or from the next generation.
And it is this next generation that will suffer most if we are stripped of our citizenship, and don’t they know it. Polling has shown that a staggering 85% of young people want to retain their European Citizenship.
I intend to do my bit in ensuring that they can.
Long into the night, for weeks on end, I have sat in the House of Lords debating the Westminster Government’s flagship Brexit legislation.
Grey haired Lords and Baronesses agonise over a relationship with Europe that means so much more for a generation that does not have a single representative on the red benches of that place.
In the coming days, we will debate my amendment that could guarantee that the wishes of this unrepresented generation are heard. That they can retain their European Citizenship.
My argument will be as simple as this – do you want to be the generation that strips the next of rights and opportunities that were afforded to you?
If not, you must join me in saying I am European and I want to keep my European Citizenship.
Lord Dafydd Wigley is Plaid Cymru’s representative in the House of Lords and a former Leader of the party.