The Prime Minister has announced that a referendum on our membership of the EU is to be held on Thursday 23rd June. I’ve supported a referendum on EU membership for some time and I am a strong supporter of our continued membership. For too long politicians of all parties have blamed the EU for issues and failed to highlight the important benefits membership has for the UK. The referendum marks an important decision for our whole country. For a stronger, safer and more secure Britain, we must vote to remain in the EU.
Britain’s membership of the EU is vital for delivering strong, well-paid jobs in Bermondsey and Old Southwark and across the UK. Future EU trade could create 790,000 more jobs by 2030 by opening up markets in digital services, energy and tourism, whilst our membership continues to deliver rights to protect British consumers, workers and the environment. More than seven million tourists visit Bermondsey and OId Southwark annually – due to our fantastic local destinations including the Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge and Tate Modern. Many come from the EU. Changes to our EU membership may mean a return of visas, higher costs and lower tourist numbers, hitting jobs locally as well as damaging other local businesses – including shops and restaurants around these tourist hot spots.
The EU also gives Britain a place to voice British interests and keep our country at the front and centre of the world stage. Only as part of the EU can Britain continue to hold such significant influence and leverage in international affairs. As an EU member, we’re part of a market with 500 million consumers which other countries want to do business with – and helps tackle global issues like climate change and air pollution right on our doorsteps. It was the EU that secured better mobile phone deals, not domestic UK Government and the EU has been a powerful force for consumer rights more generally. Those rights extend across all EU member states and the two million Brits working in other countries, including people from Southwark.
There is a very real threat that, were we to leave the EU, Scotland could seek to leave the UK in order to re-enter the EU as a separate country. I do not believe Cameron and the Tories should be gambling with the future of the UK. The whole issue has been badly handled by an outgoing Prime Minister and a competition between George Osborne and Boris Johnson for his job. Johnson is now being labelled ‘politically greedy, immoral, despicable, lazy, cynical and opportunistic’ by other Tories due to his position on EU membership. He seems more focused on his perceived self-interest than in the national interest. The Tories are hopelessly divided on the issue – with half their MPs expected to vote to quit the Union that has helped deliver peace, jobs and stability for decades.
Europe is far from perfect and there are reforms to be made. And not the half-hearted measures Cameron focused on. Non-UK benefit claims represent about 2% of DWP expenditure and are simply not the main priority. I would like to see freedom of movement across member states be matched with greater resources to ensure public services and housing in particular are able to cope better with the demands higher populations create. Sadly, the Government has ignored the housing crisis and left some people blaming immigration for the increased pressure on homes.
I have a daughter due in April. I want her to grow up with the best opportunities in the world. I want every child growing up in Southwark to be offered the best chances. I believe that is only possible through our continued membership of the UK. This vote is about our country’s whole future – and the future opportunities for generations not yet born. On Thursday 23rd June we will let our collective future down if we do not vote to remain in the EU.