Carwyn Jones: Why Wales Should Vote to Remain in the EU

Today, during a keynote speech at the LabourIN rally at Swansea University, First Minister Carwyn Jones has set out why he believes the people of Wales should vote to remain in the European Union. 

Speech by Carwyn Jones, Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister of Wales

Why Wales Should Vote to Remain in the EU

Can I begin by putting on record my appreciation to Swansea University for hosting today’s event.

 

In particular I want to start by thanking everyone who has put in so much time, dedication and effort over the last few months to supporting ‘Labour In’.

 

As a veteran of past referendum campaigns I know all too well that it is not an easy commission, particularly coming so soon after the Assembly election.

 

I want to acknowledge the great campaigning work that has gone on so far right across Wales.

 

Other campaigns are of course available… But it is the Labour case for a Remain vote that I want to talk to you about tonight.

 

And I want to make the Welsh Labour case in particular.

 

It is no overstatement to say that this is an historic moment for our nation.

 

In just two weeks time – on 23rd June – Wales will make a crucial decision about its future membership of the European Union.

 

A choice that will, for a generation and more, have a profound impact on the economy, the communities and the people of Wales.

 

Wales has been faced with big choices before.

 

We made the decision – as a nation – in 1997 to set out on a new course when we chose to vote for a National Assembly for Wales.

 

A decision that has allowed our Welsh Labour Government to deliver tangible improvements for the people of Wales.

 

Just in the last few years we have seen:

 

  • Record Inward Investment

 

  • Lower unemployment than the rest of the UK

 

  • More than 15,000 young people supported into work through Jobs Growth Wales. A programme made possible with support of EU funding by the way.

 

But I believe that the decision we now face about whether to remain in the European Union or not is even bigger than the one we faced in 1997.

 

For me, Welsh devolution was never a matter of if, but a matter of when.

 

Thankfully, by that wafer thin margin in 1997, devolution is now well established.

 

But the choice we face on June 23rd is a much more fundamental moment.

 

It is - quite simply - a forever choice.

 

If we choose to Leave that will say that something quite profound about Britain.

 

About our politics, our economic outlook and our culture.

 

It will say we are closed for business.

 

This is, therefore, an enormous choice.

 

For many the difference will be felt in an everyday way.

 

Like the rights we have access to at work.

 

Welsh workers benefit from 28 days of paid leave at work thanks to the EU.

 

Our membership puts fair limits on how many hours people can be asked to work.

 

Part-time workers have equal rights with full-time colleagues.

 

Temporary workers have the same rights as permanent workers.

 

Thousands of Welsh women each year have guaranteed rights to take maternity leave.

 

Men have recently extended paternity rights.

 

It would be tragic if that were all to be lost.

 

This is a choice about the sort of economy we want to build here in Wales.

 

Do we leave and put at risk the 6,000 people employed in North Wales at the Airbus factory in Broughton by making it harder for that worldwide company to trade from, and invest in, Wales?

 

Do we jeopardise the fragile progress we have made toward securing a new owner for the Tata Steel plants at Port Talbot, Shotton, Llanwern and Trostre and endanger the 18,000 jobs dependent on steel in Wales by plunging our economy into years of uncertainty.

 

Do we pull the rug from under the feet of firms like Aston Martin and TVR that are investing in new jobs in Wales and make it harder to attract other high quality investment in the future?

 

I know where I will stand on 23rd June.

 

I will stand with my constituents, our trade unions and the 2,000 people who work at the Ford plant in Bridgend making engines that go across the world to ensure that Wales continues to be a stable place to do business.

 

I will stand alongside the more than 600 firms across Wales that export goods worth over £5billion to the EU to ensure that we keep Wales as a good place to do business.

 

I will stand up for the 100,000 Welsh jobs that are linked to the EU and its trade.

 

And there’s another choice too.

 

One that goes to the heart of the Welsh Labour case for EU membership.

 

In this current funding period 2014-2020 Wales will receive £1.9bn of structural funds.

 

£150m of that is helping fund a new metro in South Wales.

 

£85m is being invested to upgrade the A55 and the A40.

 

£90m is helping extend Superfast Broadband right across Wales. 

 

But much more than that, it is giving a fresh start for thousands of people having a tough time in their lives.

 

Maybe they didn’t get the grades they needed in school, fell in with the wrong crowd or suffered health problems.

 

European funding has paid for new skills and new hope for those people.

 

Some 220,000 people across Wales have had the chance to improve their skills through new qualifications.

 

You can try and measure that economically – and it is important.

 

I have already touched on our record employment figures.

 

But, it is about much more than numbers – it is about hope, opportunity and fairness.

 

It might be difficult to really quantify what a £100million project with some terrible title means in real nuts and bolts.

 

So think about Kirste from Tredegar who was helped into teaching through the EU-funded Bridges into Work scheme.

 

Think about Zoe from Pontypridd who did her EU backed apprenticeship with British Airways.

 

Think about Dean from Briton Ferry who found a route back into work with help from the EU-funded Workways project.

 

They are the concrete reality of EU funding working in Wales.

 

Not the provision of revenue, but the provision of hope in some of our communities that really need extra support.

 

And be in absolutely no doubt about this – the Leave campaign will say, ‘oh that’s all our money coming back.’

 

‘Wales would still get extra funding.’

 

That argument is an absolute fantasy. It is a dangerous fantasy.

 

The money wouldn’t come from Brussels any more – it would get lost in the post.

 

Last spotted somewhere around Whitehall.

 

I’ve spent nearly 7 years as First Minister of Wales, almost all of them sadly with the Tory Government at the other end of the M4.

 

Getting a single extra penny out of the Treasury in that time has been like trying to get blood out of a stone.

 

Wales has seen its budget cut again and again.

 

And again and again we’ve been denied a fair funding settlement, as much by the UK Government mandarins as by their political masters.

 

Does anyone seriously think that a Leave vote will change that mindset?

 

Not a bit of it.

 

If anything it will harden the London-centric mindset that denies Wales fair shares.

 

Who will be the victors of a Leave Vote – Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

 

And to the victors go the spoils. Who can seriously argue that these men have Wales’ best interests at heart?

 

City boys with friends in all the wrong places – they will pocket Wales’ cash – and not just our funding but the funding of regions in England too.

 

Many of those that I have spoken to don’t buy the Brexiteers arguments. 

 

In part it’s a mistrust of who is doing the selling.

 

Wales had eighteen years of those same Free Market right-wingers pushing the deregulation dream.

 

Dressed up in its latest clothing the people of Wales instinctively understand its dangers.

 

The EU is a safety net for all of us and everyone who values agriculture, apprenticeships, and better jobs should get real about this.

 

We lose that European lifeline, and Wales loses money.

 

No ifs, no buts.

 

I’ve worked for too long at this to be kidded on by the Leave arguments.

 

I’ve worked too hard to see funding diverted from Brussels and lost in London.

 

Of course I do understand that for politicians like me, standing on platforms like this, the debate can at times get too abstract.

 

The force of the argument to remain in the EU has too often been lost in a fog of numbers and statistics.

 

The language used in campaigns like this can too often be dismissive of people’s concerns and worries.

 

Too often we might want to talk about the economy in big picture terms, when actually the arguments that matter to many voters are about their jobs, the businesses they use and rely on.

 

Arguments on both sides are often presented as being too clear cut - a land of milk and honey awaits those that mark their cross in the right place on 23rd June.

 

As I’ve travelled across Wales over the last few months I’ve been listening to those voices.

 

The people I’ve been trying to talk to in recent weeks are those people that are still unsure about our membership of the EU.

 

I’ll admit that hearing often committed and dyed in the wool Labour voters express hesitancy about the choice ahead of them has been a challenge for our campaign.

 

And my message to those people - in particular those Labour voters that I have spoken to over the past few weeks - has been this:

 

I understand those concerns.

 

Whilst I may be an advocate about free trade I understand that the benefits do not always fall equally. 

 

Some communities and some key strategic industries at the sharp end of free trade competition need greater support.

 

Whilst I may see the benefits of migration in the round, I recognise that there are legitimate concerns about security that need to be addressed.

 

Safe and secure borders are a vital part of any collaborative union.

 

Whilst I may be an advocate of working together in the EU, I have no desire either to be part of a remote ‘superstate’ that sees us lose our identity or our sovereignty.

 

But in the same way as I have been questioned – I too have challenged those I have met.

 

I have been clear in my beliefs that as challenging as the future may be - from climate change, to terrorism to globalisation - there is no shutting ourselves off from the world.

 

Burying our heads in the sand.

 

We have to fight for the future we want in concert with those we live alongside.

 

That means a reformed European Union that gives us a stronger platform with which to speak up for Welsh jobs and Welsh industry.

 

It means greater fairness for those individuals and those communities left disadvantaged by ever greater liberalisation.

 

My message to those that have asked is that we have to have faith in our Labour values.

 

Values of co-operation.

 

Of internationalism.

 

At its heart this is a fundamental choice about the place of Wales in the world.

 

And only by working together can we hope to develop the common solutions and the common understanding that will allow us to build the good society we all want to see.  

 

‘Stop the world I want to get off’ is not an answer to the challenges that we face. 

 

Shrinking into ourselves and being content to have concern only for our own little patch is no legacy to leave the next generation.

 

It wasn’t the inheritance our generation was left.

 

Those brave men and women that fought and served Wales in the Second World War built a new political landscape – based on partnership and prosperity.

 

We have been a nation at peace for seventy years.

 

We cannot squander that bequest.

 

The roots of our labour movement and the towering achievements of our NHS and our welfare state speak more eloquently than I ever could to the power of what we can achieve when we work together.

 

 

As nations in an increasingly interdependent world, it is more pressing and more needed than ever for us to work with one another on those issues which by ourselves we cannot resolve alone.

 

But we have to proactively choose that future for ourselves.

 

On 23rd June – we have to go out and make a conscious choice for a better tomorrow.

 

And speaking of tomorrow, it is fitting that I should speak this evening in a hall and in a venue as I do today.

 

The fortunes of our Universities and the work that they do in supporting the next generation is intimately tied up with our membership of the European Union.

 

One of the important reasons for our membership is the innovation it fuels in our economy. 

 

Coming down here to Swansea University’s magnificent new Bay Campus you can see all around the tangible impact European investment in this new site has made.

 

This is now a University on the move with international aspirations to prepare its students to be amongst the best in the world. 

 

£40m of the funding that has supported the new campus here has come from the European Union.

 

A further £60m has been levered in through the European Investment Bank, one of the first projects anywhere in Wales to get support in this pioneering new way.

 

Together with the businesses and universities across Wales that have accessed £30m through the European Commission’s largest research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, you start to get a picture of the huge impact Brexit would have on key sectors like Higher Education.

 

Not to mention the negative multiplier effect it would have on the Welsh economy.

 

The skills and prosperity that Europe helps to provide is significant.

 

70,000 people that have been helped into work through EU investment.

 

High skilled EU funded apprenticeships have created all around Wales at employers such as Airbus, EE, BBC Wales, Admiral, Principality, Sony and GE Aviation.

 

Leaving the EU would put up new barriers to those from Wales wanting to work and study.

 

It will make it more likely that European students and researchers will choose to go elsewhere.

 

It will jeopardies the better tomorrow that we all want to build.

 

 

In the recent election campaign my party laid out very clearly our priorities for how we would go about leading the next Welsh Government.

 

Our priorities are to deliver more and better jobs for the people of Wales.

 

A stronger, fairer economy.

 

Improvement and reform of our public services.

 

By working together for Wales we have said that we want to deliver opportunity for all, and to build a united, connected and sustainable Wales.

 

All of those ambitions. All of them.

 

Would be in jeopardy if we were to leave the European Union.

 

That’s not a future I want for my family. That’s not a future that I want for Wales.

 

And that is why I will be voting to remain a member of the European Union on Thursday 23rd June.

 Thank you.

 


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