The European Union referendum on 23 June is the most important decision to face the United Kingdom in a generation. The decision cannot be changed after five years as if it were for a parliamentary term. It is a decision of a generation because it will be final and will determine the kind of Britain we have, not just for this generation, but for future generations.
A vote to remain in the EU is important for jobs, prosperity and security. Three million jobs depend on trade with the EU in some way. Britain is part of the world’s largest free market with over 500 million consumers. For example, in the north-east where my constituency is situated the region’s home market does not lie between the Tweed and the Tees but extends to the other 27 member states of the European Union. That is why companies such as Nissan and Hitachi are based in the region.
A vote to remain also means that Britain is prepared to engage with the rest of the world and take part in international institutions. This is something we have done for centuries and should continue to do. And when the negotiations are happening, I want Britain to be at the table helping to make the decisions.
A vote to leave would plunge Britain into uncertainty and isolationism. What I find to be the most peculiar aspect of the campaign to leave the EU is the campaign’s inability to describe what Britain would look like if we left the EU. Leave campaigners seem to know what they are against, but not what they are for. So in the place of facts, they pedal myths to bolster their position. I think it is now time to explode those myths.
Vote Leave falsely claims that the EU has taken control of our borders and public services. In fact, Britain retains full control over its borders thanks to our opt-out from the EU’s borderless Schengen area. Any person entering Britain is subject to immigration controls and passport checks and can be refused entry by the Home Office’s Border Force. Furthermore, the EU has absolutely no say over how Britain decides to manage its public services. Our NHS, the police, our education system and other public services are entirely run by our elected national government and not controlled by the EU.
Vote Leave also scaremonger about EU enlargement, while ignoring the UK’s veto over new countries, such as Turkey, joining. The UK government and parliament would have to ratify any future accession treaty, which means that the UK retains a veto over any country seeking to join the EU. It is also untrue of Vote Leave to state that new member states have the same rights as existing members. Any country that joins the EU will be subject to transitional controls, enabling Britain to restrict immigration from those countries. In the past, transitional arrangements have included requiring work permits, limiting labour migration to only those sectors which are in need, and limiting quotas for low-skilled immigration.
Vote Leave peddles a myth about the EU not engaging in trade deals with emerging economies. But the EU is in the process of negotiating comprehensive free trade agreements with countries such as Brazil, China and India.
Vote Leave is also incorrect about the cost of our EU membership. It claims that the EU costs Britain £350m a week, but in fact the EU costs us only £263 per household annually, or 30p per person per day. On average, Britain’s contribution has been £7.1bn and in 2014, our net contribution to the EU was £5.bn.
Vote Leave is seeking to jeopardise our economy by ending our membership of the single market. In order to enjoy full access to the single market, you must be a member of the EU or European Economic Area. The UK currently enjoys full access to the single market, which benefits trade, investment and jobs in the UK. It is only with full access to the single market that the UK firms enjoy tariff-free trade, full access to the EU market and influence over the rules of trade. It is a fact that if Britain leaves the EU single market, we will lose these benefits.
It is clear that Vote Leave does not understand our relationship with the EU and scaremongers about Britain not being a sovereign nation. Contrary to the myths peddled by Vote Leave, the UK is an independent and sovereign nation state that is also a member of the EU. Our parliament in Westminster is a sovereign parliament that decides on the rules and law that govern this country.
The decision we will take on 23 June is monumental. We need to be confident about our role in the world and in Europe. In a dangerous and uncertain world, we need to work with others because we are stronger together than we ever would be alone.
Phil Wilson MP is member of parliament for Sedgefield. He tweets @PhilWilsonMP
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.