FRIDAY marks an important date in the history of our nation: Britain will finally leave the European Union.

As a proud Welsh woman and European there will be little to celebrate. In an increasingly uncertain world, close ties with countries who share our values, our ambitions and our view of humanity have never been more important.

My experience of serving Wales at a European level has given me a different view of how well the EU brought countries together. It was a privilege to use my influence to contribute to policies that have transformed the lives of people here at home and across the continent. I see evidence of this every day in Welsh Government, where the UK Government has so little regard for our nation and how we seek to determine our future.

From protecting our environment to investing in world leading research, the value placed on our human rights and the continued investment in apprenticeships and skills, our agriculture and communities – the EU has brought much needed progress.

But, to me, the EU is not just an institution that churns out directives and rules. It is a bastion of freedom, an economic titan, a political powerhouse built upon pillars of hope, cohesion, stability and solidarity. It has brought a set of nations together, whose history has been troubled and divided.

For over half a century, the most successful peace project in history has fostered unity across a continent that has been so heavily scarred by war.

In the week that we recall the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we must never forget this important legacy and the impact that is has had on our country and its people. Peace must never be taken for granted.

As we look to the future, we accept Brexit will now happen and we will make sure we push for the best possible deal for Wales. I want Wales to be much stronger on the international stage. In the years ahead, it won’t just be our relationship with Europe that will be different, the future of the UK as a whole is going to be different too. Wales must step up to meet those challenges and to stake a claim in how we build a more prosperous future for ourselves.

In my role as Minister for International Relations, I have put forward a brand new International Strategy for Wales. I am determined to send a clear message to our closest neighbours and far-flung nations that our little country on the western edge of Europe stands ready and confident in our abilities to be seek a new space on the global stage, one that delivers hope and prosperity to all who seek it.

Our strategy is the foundation for our future, built on the traditions of our EU membership that will sadly be part of our past.

For me, and thousands like me across Wales, Europe, our shared culture, values and ambitions are part of who I am. Being European neither makes me less Welsh nor less British.

So, as the clock approaches 11pm on Friday night, I’ll raise a glass and shed a tear to the great achievements being part of a strong, united European Union have delivered.

I hope that, for my children and theirs, the future remains safe, peaceful and as prosperous as the one you and I have lived in and grown used to for so many years.