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EU Membership: Economy

Volume 608: debated on Wednesday 13 April 2016

The European Union makes a massive contribution to the Welsh economy: it is our largest trading partner; it supports thousands of jobs; and it provides significant investments for projects all around Wales. The economic benefits of a reformed EU are far too great to risk leaving.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He is absolutely right; the Welsh economy depends on EU funding to a large extent. Does he agree that remaining in the EU is vital for training and employment opportunities in Wales and across the UK?

I fully endorse the comments the hon. Gentleman has made. The funding from the EU has been significant in re-skilling the Welsh workforce to a very high extent and the support given by the EU to higher education institutions is phenomenal.

Small family farms remain the backbone of the west Wales rural economy, but incomes have declined by £5,000 over the past two years. Does the Minister share the concerns of the Farmers Union of Wales, the National Farmers Union and many in the rural economy that the last thing we need to countenance is withdrawal from the European Union?

I entirely endorse the hon. Gentleman’s comments. Both farming unions in Wales—the FUW and the NFU—are strongly in favour of our remaining in the reformed European Union. The extent of Welsh agricultural produce that is exported to the EU shows how important that market is; 90% of Welsh agricultural produce is exported to the EU and we should not risk losing that.

On this point, the Minister is absolutely right. The best decision for Wales is to stay in the European Union, as our favourite pamphlet says. But can he tell us why, at a time when Sir Terry Matthews, Airbus, NFU Cymru and the FUW support our membership, Andrew R. T. Davies, the person the Conservative party wants to be First Minister of Wales, wants Wales out of the EU? It is a disgrace, is it not? [Interruption.]

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the support of Airbus, Horizon Nuclear Power and the farming unions, but I make this point to her: the Conservative party is a democratic party that believes passionately that the people who can make a decision about this issue are the people of this country. We have offered them a referendum and their votes will result in a decision in 10 weeks’ time.