The upcoming referendum is something that is of great concern to many sections of our society; universities, businesses and Trade Unions have all expressed their worries at the possibility of an "out" vote. Other groups have presented it as an opportunity to cut through what they inaccurately describe as "red tape". Yet, too often in this debate we do not stop to think about what this actually means. This so-called "red tape" is often worker's rights, our right to sick leave, the right to annual leave, a mother's right to have the time to look after her child. But not only this, much of this regulation also directly protects Welsh businesses in many ways.
For instance, the European Union has just taken a great step towards protecting Welsh products.
In a recent vote we, the Members of the European Parliament, voted to extend geographical indicators to products that were not agricultural. This change means that products that advertise themselves as Welsh or being from a particular area can be granted protected status. Under existing legislation traditional Welsh pork is protected, so that only pork raised in a traditional way in Wales can be labelled as such. This change will affect products such as Welsh slate that rely on their Welshness as part of what makes their unique selling point. This means that products like Welsh slate will be able to apply to the European Commission for protected status so that only slate that is made in Wales can be marketed as such. This not only ensures that people buying products advertised as Welsh know they´re getting what they´re paying for, it also protects companies and small businesses from those who would seek to hijack this historic recognition and sell poorer products to people.
Out of Wales, Northern Ireland and England, Wales already has the highest number of food products being considered for similar protection. Conwy Mussels and Welsh cider are among looking towards being given properly protected status by the European Union, a status which is already enjoyed by Anglesey Sea Salt. This measure does not only preserve products, it preserves communities and ensures that those, across North Wales, who make these quality goods for people to enjoy, are not undermined by those that would distort their way of operating for short-term personal gain.
This is a clear and practical way that the E.U. is backing Wales, Welsh businesses and Welsh people. This kind of regulation does not hamper us, it enables us to be secure and improve our own lives. This is the sort of the protection we can only gain from being within the single market.
So, when reflecting on our choice in the upcoming referendum, it is important to think of the smaller practical consequences such as these. This is the nitty gritty of the E.U., that benefits people and businesses. It would be counterproductive to walk away when we can instead retain protective regulation such as this and work together towards a better European Union.