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EU Membership

Volume 611: debated on Wednesday 25 May 2016

At the February European Council, the Government negotiated a new settlement, giving the United Kingdom a special status in a reformed European Union. As I said in my speech in Swansea last week, I believe that Wales and the UK will be stronger, safer and better off remaining in a reformed European Union.

Eighty per cent. of Welsh farmers depend on common agricultural policy payments from the European Union, and the vast majority export their goods to the European Union. Given that Wales receives £245 million more from the European Union than it puts in, what assurances can the Secretary of State give us that the loss to those farmers will be plugged by the UK Government in the event of Brexit?

The Welsh economy is showing some spectacular employment figures at the moment, with more people in work than ever before, the claimant count falling and an unemployment rate well below the UK average. This economic success is based on a stable economic policy, and all the independent forecasts from the OECD, the IMF, the Governor of the Bank of England and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor show that there would be a negative impact should we leave the single European market.

EU programmes such as Erasmus bring enormous benefits to young people in Wales, broadening their experience and strengthening their employability. Does the Secretary of State agree that ensuring Welsh students can continue to benefit from such programmes is just one of the many good reasons to vote remain?

I would like to advise the House and the hon. Gentleman that the Erasmus programme was developed by a Port Talbot man some years ago. It has provided fantastic opportunities for students across Europe to share best practice and broaden the base of their knowledge. Of course, the European Investment Bank has also invested hugely in higher education and the new campus at Swansea University, worth more than £450 million, has benefited from such diversification.

The Secretary of State will surely have seen yesterday’s Cardiff University report showing that Britain pays nearly £10 billion a year net to be part of the European Union. Does he agree that, under the Barnett formula, that money could leave Wales £500 million better off if we vote leave on 23 June?

My hon. Friend is of course failing to recognise that independent forecasters—whether the IMF, the OECD or the Governor of the Bank of England—have talked about the negative impact Brexit would have on the Welsh economy. A £2 billion reduction in the scale of the economy, costing 24,000 jobs, is a step we cannot afford to take.

Is it the case that Wales Office special advisers recently had a meeting with representatives of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, and if so, what did they discuss?

We of course discuss a range of issues that affect the Welsh economy. A Brexit vote would of course affect the Welsh economy in a negative way, with a £2 billion cost to the Welsh economy, costing 24,000 jobs. As we speak, we are seeing some spectacular employment data, but they are based on strong economic foundations and access to 500 million customers across Europe.

11. Given that Wales is already underfunded by the Barnett formula and the UK Government, what detailed guarantees can the Secretary of State give that the £245 million actually reaches Wales? (905023)

I do not necessarily recognise the basis of the question. The hon. Lady forgets the historic funding floor, which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor introduced at 115%. That demonstrates the strength of the commitment that this Government are showing to Wales.

Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the fact that Toyota has made it clear it will continue to manufacture in the United Kingdom, including at its engine plant in Wales, regardless of whether the British people vote to leave the EU on 23 June?

I certainly recognise the comments made by Toyota. It has specifically said that

“British membership of the EU is best for our operations and their long term competitiveness.”

Of course, it is not only Toyota; 150 component industries in the automotive sector depend on companies such as Toyota and Ford which all want us to remain part of the single European market.

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is a bit ahead of himself. There is a process to be followed. He can wait his turn.