[Relevant documents: First Report from the Treasury Committee, The economic and financial costs and benefits of the UK's EU membership, HC 122.]
An amendment was tabled, but I should advise the House that I have not selected it.
I beg to move,
That this House believes that the UK needs to stay in the EU because it offers the best framework for trade, manufacturing, employment rights and cooperation to meet the challenges the UK faces in the world in the twenty-first century; and notes that tens of billions of pounds worth of investment and millions of jobs are linked to the UK’s membership of the EU, the biggest market in the world.
This is the last opportunity that the House will have to debate the issue of our membership of the European Union before our people vote in the referendum next week. It has been described as the most important decision for a generation, and it may well turn out to be so. We therefore have a responsibility to ensure that it is made on the basis of the fullest possible debate, which will be considered and, hopefully, calm.
We need to acknowledge, however, what many of our constituents have been telling us about the debate so far. It has not, as yet, risen to the occasion. On the doorstep, people repeat that they simply want the facts and our honest assessment of the consequences for them and our country of whether or not we remain in the European Union.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman when I have finished this paragraph. I will be taking interventions, Mr Speaker, but I know that many Members wish to speak, so I shall try to limit the number of times that I give way.
On the doorstep people have simply asked for the facts, and I have to say many of them say they have been turned off by the exaggerated claims on both sides of the argument—put off by references to world war three on one side, and to comparisons of the European Union with the Third Reich on the other. “Project Fear” from both sides simply is not working. People will not be scared into the ballot box.
I am most grateful to the shadow Chancellor for his courtesy in giving way, but does he understand that many of us believe that the real threat to our economy is not whether we stay in the EU or leave it; the real threat would be the implementation of the disastrous tax-and-spend policies that all his life he has advocated?
I always find the hon. Gentleman’s interventions entertaining to say the least, but may I return to the subject of today’s debate?
Many people have seen this debate going on within the Westminster bubble among the Establishment. They do not feel involved, and many suspect that what they are witnessing is an unseemly battle for the succession in the Conservative party rather than a considered debate about the future interests of our country.
Much of the media coverage of the internal Tory strife has drowned out other parties. Polling suggests that many of our own Labour supporters are unclear about Labour’s position. So let people be absolutely clear: as the motion before us today unambiguously states, Labour is for remain. Today’s motion spells it out. It is about jobs, investment, trade with our largest market and the protection of the employment rights of workers so they can secure the benefits of participation in that market, but for many of us it is also about creating another Europe—a Europe that is more democratic, that promotes social justice as well as prosperity, that is more equal and sustainable economically and environmentally. We must do nothing now that jeopardises our European future.
Does the shadow Chancellor share my concern about all those many cases where a UK manufacturing plant shut down and job losses have been very great, only to see new investment made in another EU country benefiting from specific and general grants and soft loans from the EU?
My fear is that if we vote for Brexit we will cut ourselves off from the opportunity of that financial support as well, and that many other companies will move out. It is only courteous to also congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his 65th birthday today.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the bubble in Westminster. Does he not think that over these next few days every Member of this House has got to tell people in our constituencies what leaving the EU would mean for them? In Huddersfield it would mean catastrophic loss of income into our university and catastrophic impact on manufacturing industry.
I fully agree. It is clear that a large percentage of people have not made up their minds yet, and that there are others who can be influenced, and it is essential that they make this decision on concrete facts rather than exaggerated claims like those we have seen so far.
Let us be absolutely clear: this is about jobs. There are 3.5 million jobs directly dependent on Britain’s membership of the EU. These will be put at risk as a result of a Tory Brexit. The traditionally Eurosceptic Treasury estimates that unemployment would rise following Britain’s leaving the EU by between 520,000 and anything up to 820,000. EU member countries accounted for nearly half of the UK’s stock of inward investment at £496 billion. This is far more than the US or any other single country.
Can the hon. Gentleman answer a question that those on the Government Benches have been unable to answer so far? Why should we spend over £10 billion a year net to the EU in order to have a £68 billion trade deficit with the EU, when anybody with even a modicum of common sense knows that we can have a £68 billion a year trade deficit with a declining part of the world’s economy for nothing?
The single market provides us with the largest market we have, and enables us to create long-term secure jobs. The benefits of our contribution come in the growing economy we have had over the years.
Several hon. Members rose—
If I may press on—
May I intervene on this very point?
Order. Before the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) intervenes, let me say that Members must not harangue the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). He is generously giving way, but people should not insist on intervening until it has been agreed. I call Mr Geraint Davies.
I apologise for my Welsh mannerisms.
May I simply put it to the shadow Chancellor that only two countries—Holland and Germany—have a trade surplus with the UK, while the other 26 have a deficit, and does he therefore agree that in the event of Brexit those countries would vote for tariffs to protect their own jobs and we would be turning our back on 44% of our trade?
The concern, obviously, is that tariffs would be introduced, but also the negotiating period to establish a new trade deal will take, optimistically, as the Prime Minister has said, seven years, if not longer.
I want to pay tribute to the thoughtful way that the hon. Gentleman is saying this should not be “Project Fear”. May I ask him, therefore, to join those of us who agree that this panic punishment Budget that has been suggested is not the way we should treat people who choose to vote leave? Can he say that his side would not implement those punitive measures, including slashing the NHS budget?
We have yet to see the details of this Budget proposed this morning, but let us make it absolutely clear: the Labour party is an anti-austerity party and we have voted consistently against austerity measures.
Is the shadow Chancellor aware that not only have we had the Chancellor’s proposed emergency Budget, but we have a six-point plan from the Brexiteers including a Finance Bill, which sounds less like a campaign than a coup to take over the Government? Does the shadow Chancellor detect any enthusiasm in the country for replacing this extreme right-wing Government with an even more extreme right-wing Government?
I will come on to that subsequently.
With regard to trade, the EU is Britain’s largest export market by a long way. Some 44% of UK exports go to the EU, worth £223 billion. That is more than double the value of exports to the US, and more than 10 times the value of exports to China. That just gives an idea of the scale of the impact of the EU on our economy. It is argued that withdrawal from the EU will have no implications for jobs, investment and trade, almost as though things will just carry on as before. That flies in the face of experience of all other trade relationships. Access to the single market would have to be renegotiated. That would take at least two years, and more likely the seven to 10 years predicted by others. The climate of uncertainty created would undermine the critical factors investors and decision makers require when they invest for the long term: certainty, security and stability.
We have seen only this morning in Rolls-Royce the latest example of a company expressing its doubts about its long-term investment plans if Brexit goes ahead. We have also seen competitors across Europe welcoming with open arms those companies considering relocation if the decision goes to Brexit.
In my constituency people on the doorsteps are talking to me about two things: the economy and immigration. Does my hon. Friend agree that leaving Europe would affect only one of those things—our economy, which will be negatively affected? Leaving will do nothing around immigration.
I will come on to that later in my speech, but the evidence is clear: the impact on our economy overall will set us back a number of years. Brexit will undermine our economy and undermine the futures of our families and communities, while at the same time doing nothing with regard to migration overall.
In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) referring to the trade deficit, will the shadow Chancellor comment on the fact that our trade deficit in export of goods and services with the other 27 member states is now £67.8 billion and has gone up by £10 billion this year alone, but our trade surplus with the rest of the world is £31 billion, up by £7 billion in the same year? Germany, however, has a trade surplus with the rest of the EU of £81.8 billion. What kind of single market is that for us?
I join the hon. Gentleman in his critique of Conservative economic policy over the past seven years, which has undermined our ability to export, but is he really proposing to impose tariffs against the rest of Europe, which would undermine free trade generally? If that is the case, he would be undergoing a damascene conversion to a planned economy, which would amaze me.
The Labour party places critical importance on employment rights because those rights enable ordinary workers to secure the benefits of the jobs, investment and trade that membership of the single market brings. To be frank, over the past 40 years, as trade unionists we have been promiscuous in where we have gone to secure those rights. In the decades when trade union rights were under attack in this country, we have gone to the EU to secure those protections. And we have succeeded. We have secured statutory holiday pay, maternity rights and the right to parental leave, TUPE protection and a maximum working week. This has served not only to protect British workers but to prevent a race to the bottom across Europe, so that our own and all other workers are protected, wherever they work. There is a well founded concern that withdrawal would put jobs, investment, trade and employment at risk.
I recently spoke in the debate on the Queen’s Speech and called for an industrial strategy, not least because the manufacturing sector needs long-term assurance if it is to succeed. Irrespective of whether the shadow Chancellor agrees on the need for an industrial strategy, does he agree that a vote to leave would create unwelcome uncertainty at a time when our vital manufacturing sector needs stability?
There is a desperate need for long-term, patient investment in our manufacturing base in order to develop an industrial strategy. The threat of Brexit is undermining those who make the decisions about that long-term, patient investment, and Brexit would be a disaster for recreating our manufacturing base in this country.
There is no better time than this for the labour movement to be considering employment rights in the manner that my hon. Friend is now doing. There is a pit site at Shirebrook that is now owned by Mike Ashley where he employs only 200 full-time employees and 3,000 people, mainly east Europeans, on zero-hours contracts, and where a lady went to the toilets to give birth to a child on new year’s day. That is horrific. At that pit site, after the war, east Europeans got the same money as me for working down the coal mine and they were members of the NUM. We have to get rid of this idea that people can be brought here on zero-hours contracts. If we state it loud and clear here today that we are going to get rid of this Mike Ashley and thousands of others around Britain, we will set fire to this campaign.
I wholeheartedly concur not only with the criticisms that my hon. Friend has levelled but with his solution, which is based on the development of employment rights that have been consistently undermined in recent decades in this country.
As I was saying, there is a well founded concern that withdrawal will put jobs, investment, trade and employment at risk. The unpredictability of the outcome of this leap in the dark has united virtually every economist and economic institution of any standing, from the International Monetary Fund and the OECD to the Bank of England and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, in expressing their concerns about the risk to the economy. In the past 72 hours, we have witnessed the reaction of the world markets to shifts in the polls pointing to a possible Brexit, with £100 billion knocked off the value of shares, and the value of the pound dropping. The Brexit campaign has done more damage to capitalism in four days than the Socialist Workers party did in 40 years. This comes at a time when our economy is extremely fragile. Six years of unnecessary austerity, the chaotic failure of the various fiscal rules adopted by this Government, and our record current account deficit have made our economy extremely vulnerable to even a minor shock. And as the markets have just demonstrated, leaving the EU would certainly not be interpreted as just a minor shock.
Let me turn to the issue of migration. I believe that the economic arguments for remaining are overpowering—
I want to make an appeal to the hon. Gentleman and the Labour Party: please don’t go near immigration. You have no credibility on that issue. You’re all over the place. You’ve been bullied by the Tories, and raising immigration will only help the leave case.
Order. I have never been bullied by anybody, and I am not all “over the place” on this matter. The Speaker is keeping out of it. I am simply seeking to facilitate fair play, and I remind the hon. Gentleman of the correct parliamentary language.
With the greatest respect, I ask the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) to listen to my speech before he comes to a judgment on this matter.
I believe that the economic arguments for remaining are overpowering, but the polls and the feedback from the doorstep confirm that immigration is a key motivating factor for some people in different parts of the country. Let me deal with some of the economic arguments around migration. I admit that I do not come to the debate on immigration completely objectively. I am the grandson of an Irish migrant. My grandfather’s generation of Irish migrants and subsequent Irish migrants built many of this country’s roads, railways and homes. They staffed the factories while many Irish women were the nurses who formed the backbone of the NHS and the teachers who taught in our schools. They all contributed to making this country’s economy the fifth largest in the world. That is what migrants overwhelmingly do. Over the last decade, migrants from new EU member countries contributed £20 billion more in taxes than they used in public services and benefit payments. More than 52,000 EU migrants work in our NHS. With labour shortages reported in key sectors such as construction, it is migrant labour that helps to fill the gap. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ recent surveys show that a lack of skilled workers is already hurting the delivery of infrastructure projects.
Let us admit, however, that genuine concerns have been expressed about the impact of migration on wages and employment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) suggested. Those concerns should not be dismissed. Research presented by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory has demonstrated that migration has not had the impact of reducing wages except in a small proportion of the workforce: those at the lowest end of the pay scale. This has to be addressed, and that is why Labour is calling for greater protection for this group of workers. Yes, reforms are needed with regard to the free movement of labour, to introduce greater protection of wages and employment rights and to halt the undercutting of wages and employment conditions. In government, we will renegotiate to give effect to those changes.
Other concerns have been expressed at the pressure placed on our public services by migration. The reality is that our public services struggle to cope with existing demand because of the austerity measures, the cuts and the chronic underfunding forced through by this Government over the last six years. But there is an argument that where pressures on public services increase in a particular area, funding must be made available to respond to that increased demand. That is why Labour has consistently argued for a special migration fund to assist those communities where demand increases. We condemned the abolition of the fund that was set up by Gordon Brown, but we welcome the Prime Minister’s statement today that he is exploring the establishment of a fund of that sort. We also want to seek further European funding to support this initiative, and that will be on our agenda.
Does the shadow Chancellor agree that being an EU citizen in the United Kingdom might be an uncomfortable experience at the moment, particularly in the light of the language and tone being used by one of the leaders of the Brexit campaign, Nigel Farage? Does he also agree that if we were to remove those EU citizens and put in place the 50,000 cap proposed by Nigel Farage, we would see an exodus of people who work in our care homes, our hospitals and our schools? That would have a real impact on our ability to deliver public services. Is it not the case that we are an open and tolerant United Kingdom?
I find some of the statements that have been made reprehensible and irresponsible, because they do not weigh up the impact of the policies being advocated on our public services and our economy.
I am listening to the debate and the contributions from across the Floor, and I am staggered, again, that people who come here to make a new life for themselves, uprooting their family to make a contribution to this country, are the scapegoats for the austerity measures of Government Members.
Nothing more than that eloquent statement needs to be said.
Migration cuts both ways: British people have been among the main beneficiaries of the free movement of labour and people across Europe, with 1.2 million UK citizens living permanently in other EU countries and a further 1 million living in another EU country for at least part of the year. I remember the “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” generation, when British workers secured jobs across Europe when our own economy was in recession. The eurozone is slowly coming out of recession and will, once again, provide opportunities that our own people will want to take advantage of. Young people, especially, are now studying, working and settling in large numbers across Europe. The number of UK students studying in Europe through the Erasmus scheme has risen by 115% in less than a decade.
As honorary president of Labour International, may I remind my hon. Friend that any overseas voters who have lived abroad for up to 15 years and wish to get a proxy vote in this referendum need to apply by 5 o’clock today?
I suggest that all those engaged with social media apply as quickly as possible.
I, too, echo the point about the number of EU migrants who work in the NHS, which I have come from. They include my husband, who has worked here and paid taxes here for 30 years and yet is excluded from the vote. We should also remember that the people we export to Europe are predominantly those who have retired there. We import young working people and we export retired people, and we should remember that balance.
That is an interesting point, and in this debate people have talked about our ageing population and just how much we need youth coming into this country to enable us to balance the population growth.
We need to point out that one in five of the adult social care workforce in this country—230,000 people—was not born here. Greater London, in particular, is reliant on migrant care workers, with 60% of the adult social care workforce born abroad. Much of that sector would collapse without them, so those who talk about interfering with and restricting this have to remember that our care sector relies on these people.
It is true to say that our care sector would collapse without the migrant labour we currently have, and that is a danger.
Much of the EU debate so far has dwelled on the past and immediate present, but as a country we need to look to the future. Many of the issues we face are transnational: climate change, tax evasion, tax avoidance and the refugee crisis. They cross country boundaries. The EU provides us with the vehicle to work in co-operation with our European neighbours to tackle these issues, but we have to recognise that people do care about what they see as a loss of sovereignty. A strong reform agenda is needed to ensure that where sovereignty has been pooled in decision making, there is democratic accountability. That means making decisions in the EU completely open and transparent, and ensuring that the Commission is effectively democratically accountable. It starts within the UK, by ensuring that we have more open and effective mechanisms for holding to account those Ministers and others who represent us in the EU decision-making process.
Britain takes the EU presidency shortly, which will enable us to lead the drive for reform. For the first time in a generation, there are parties and movements across Europe mobilising on an agenda of reform that we can share. There is the real and growing prospect now of a new European progressive coalition emerging that is willing to seize the agenda of the EU to end austerity, secure employment growth, tackle tax evasion and avoidance, confront climate change and of course co-operate to deal with the tragic humanitarian crisis of the refugees.
To conclude, in the overall debate on the EU I think I am where a great many British people are when it comes to making the decision next week. I did not vote to go into the Common Market, and I have been generally a Eurosceptic, critical of the frustrating bureaucracy of the EU. I am not a Europhile or a Europhobe. People like me are carefully balancing the prospects for my family, my community and my country. I think that, like me, many will take a pragmatic view that the leap in the dark of leaving Europe is a risk too far. For Labour supporters there is the added concern that needs to be taken into account: this would be a Tory Brexit. On 24 June, if Brexit goes through it will be a Tory Government who will be implementing withdrawal.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
If the right hon. Lady will let me, I will conclude.
It is likely, given the political fall-out from the campaign, that we would be talking about a Tory Government much further to the right than this one, with the UK Independence party yapping at their heels. I ask Labour supporters to ask themselves: do they really trust the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), and the right hon. Members for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) and for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) with our jobs, public services and employment rights? It is a risk too far and it closes the door on a European future that we have the opportunity of decisively shaping in the next few years. I urge hon. Members to support the motion and our people to vote next week to remain. But I also want to assure our people that whatever the result the decision will be respected and that the Labour Party will listen to the people and respond to their concerns. We will seek to bind our country together and not let the extremes divide us.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this crucial debate, Mr Speaker, and I consider that the subject matter falls perfectly well within my remit of foreign affairs.
As we approach the final stage of this campaign, it sometimes feels that we have lost sight of the key question that people are supposed to be answering in the polling booths a week tomorrow. That question is not, “Do we like the EU?”, or “Do we agree with everything it does?” It is not, “What message do you want to send the EU?” or even, “What message do you want to send the Government?” It is certainly not, “Is the EU perfect?” I would be the first to say loudly that it is not. This is a straightforward question that requires a clear-eyed, hard-headed analysis and response: “Are we safer, stronger and better off inside a reformed EU or outside it?” As Foreign Secretary, I know as well as anyone the frustrations of decision making by committee of 28 and the compromises that entails, but I also know that we are winning the arguments in Europe and are increasingly influential in shaping its future. I know, too, that we have greater global influence as a result of being a leading member of the world’s largest trading bloc.
The right hon. Gentleman asked the question that we hear all too often: is the EU perfect or imperfect? The reality is that people complain that their council is imperfect. Unbelievably, some people in Scotland even complain that their Government are imperfect. A lot of people definitely complain that Westminster is imperfect. I find that a lot fewer people complain about the EU being imperfect, so can we stop saying that the EU is uniquely imperfect? There are imperfections at all levels of government, and to brand the EU in that way is a problem. The EU is a club for independent countries, which Westminster most certainly is not; it is a family of nations, which this is not.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He certainly did not hear me claiming that the EU was uniquely imperfect. It is just another imperfect institution among very many, including our own Government, I am certain.
I know that we are safer because we work with other EU member states to tackle the threats of terrorism and organised crime, and I know that we are better off for being part of a market of more than 500 million consumers, with the combined economic weight of a quarter of the world’s GDP, when negotiating trade deals with the rest of the world. I want to dwell on that point, because it is fundamental. We said back in 2010 that our economic security and our national security are two sides of the same coin, and it remains true today. Without economic security, there is no national security. How could we be safer if we could not afford to invest in our nation’s security and defence? How could we be stronger and more influential if our economy was shrinking?
How can the Foreign Secretary say that we are more secure and better off? If we take the fishing industry, for example, the number of fishermen has halved since we joined the EU and the industry has been under a common fisheries policy that has driven us into import dependence on other countries.
I say that because I take a holistic view. I am looking at the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole, taking into account all the pluses and minuses of our EU membership—yes, there are negatives as well as positives—balancing those arguments and reaching a conclusion about the net benefit to this country of being a member of the European Union.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that there can be no economic security without national security. Will he tell the House how many of our NATO allies want the United Kingdom to leave the European Union? Many in the Brexit camp invoke Commonwealth leaders. Perhaps he can enlighten the House about how many Commonwealth leaders want the UK to leave the European Union.
My hon. Friend knows very well that the answer to both those questions is zero, but it goes further than that: I have not found any foreign leaders at all urging Britain to leave the European Union and saying that Britain would be a more influential and valuable partner if it left the EU.
I will give way in just a moment, but I need to make some progress, because many Members wish to speak.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) set out some of the economic benefits of our continued membership of the EU. By the way, I welcome his candid assessment of the achievements of the SWP over the past four decades—I never thought that I would hear that coming from his mouth. I agree with him that workers’ rights such as paid holidays and maternity and paternity leave are important. However, it is perhaps worth reminding him that it was a Tory-led Government who abolished Labour’s jobs tax and took 3 million of the lowest paid out of income tax altogether, and that it is this Conservative Government who are introducing the statutory national living wage, which addresses his point about the wages of the lowest paid.
It is also worth reminding the hon. Gentleman—the Labour party periodically appears to forget this—that the most fundamental right for any worker is the right to have a job and a pay packet at the end of the month. That is a right that 2.5 million more people enjoy today under a Conservative Government than in 2010 under a Labour Government, which is the result of Conservative fiscal management and Conservative economic reforms. A Tory-led Britain that is a member of the European Union has delivered record levels of employment.
The Foreign Secretary has just referred to the net benefit to the United Kingdom from being in the single market. Will he tell me how a net benefit is actually a UK trade deficit? According to the House of Commons Library and the Office for National Statistics, in our trade in goods and services with the other 27 member states, we had a deficit of no less than £67.8 billion in 2015, which was up £10 billion on the previous year and is escalating. How is that a net benefit?
I shall come to that in a minute, but my hon. Friend dwells like an old-fashioned mercantilist on the trade statistics alone. I suggest to him that there are wider issues at stake about the overall impact on our economy and the benefits of the growth, investment and dynamism that being part of a 500 million-strong market of very wealthy consumers delivers to us.
I have been very happy to campaign in a cross-party way to remain, but as the Foreign Secretary has criticised my party’s record in government, may I ask him whether his Government’s cuts, loaded on to the poorest parts of our country, have made too many people question whether they have anything to lose in the referendum? Their wages have been falling since the crash, which has damaged their confidence in our economy to deliver for them. Does he believe that, when we vote to remain, we need to see real action to help people in the poorest parts of this country?
Yes, but we will do that only by delivering a robust economy that is soundly based and can go forward in the future. The most effective way of doing that is by being part of the European Union.
Our membership of the EU gives us both the freedom to trade in the world’s largest single market—a market of more than 500 million consumers—without tariffs and the bureaucracy of customs barriers, and access to more than 50 other markets besides, through EU free trade agreements. The benefits of being in that single market are clear for us to see: 44% of Britain’s exports go to the EU. How much of that trade would be lost if we put up the shutters and renounced our EU membership? How many businesses and employees who depend on that trade would go to the wall? How long would it take to negotiate a new trade agreement with our European neighbours? What would the terms be? I am prepared to bet that they would be nothing like as favourable as the terms that we have on the inside.
What assessment has the Foreign Secretary’s Department made of the length of time that it would take for the British Government to negotiate not only a trade deal with the European Union, but, as he mentioned, all the free trade deals that currently exist between the EU and other parts of the world, so that we can trade with the rest of the world?
The hon. Gentleman raises a good point, and he will have heard the Prime Minister talking about that very issue only a few moments ago. We can expect that it would take us at least two years to negotiate our exit from the European Union if that was what the British people decided on 23 June. Thereafter, we would have to negotiate a trade deal with the European Union, and then trade deals with the 53 other countries around the world with which the EU has free trade agreements.
There is a small technical hitch, to which I have drawn the House’s attention before: we do not have any trade negotiators, because for the past 40 years the European Union has conducted our trade negotiations for us. It is about not just time but the price that we would have to pay to negotiate that access to the single market from outside. From the evidence of others who have done that, the answer is clear. That price would involve our freedom of movement, acceptance of the entire body of EU regulation, and a whopping sub to boot—all the things that the leave campaign tell us we will escape from—with no say at all in how the rules are made. It would be the worst of all worlds.
On the question of the trade deficit with the EU, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) mentioned a moment ago, does the Foreign Secretary agree that were we to exit the single market, the component of EU free trade that would be placed most at risk would be free trade in services, on which we enjoy a £20 billion trade surplus with the EU?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I want to address that important point later in my speech.
Any deal that we achieve with the European Union will almost certainly exclude free access to the market for services, which is something of a problem when services account for almost 80% of our economy.
Let me just make this point, then I will give way again.
By contrast, if we remain inside the EU, we can look forward to a huge dividend from an opening of the market in services over the coming years. The truth is that we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the EU single market. The single market in goods is well developed, but in the sectors in which the UK is truly market-leading—financial, business, technical and professional services, the digital economy, the creative industries and energy—the potential remains huge, and the EU’s high-value market is the place to realise it.
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the warnings from Airbus about the threats to future investment in this country? I am talking about more than 6,000 jobs in Alyn and Deeside and 5,000 jobs in Bristol. Does he agree that the Brexit camp think that those are jobs that we can afford to lose?
That question has never been effectively answered—how many jobs are those advocating Britain’s exit from the European Union prepared to sacrifice on the altar of their notion of sovereignty? We have never had a straight answer to that question. What we do have is a range of independent estimates of what that number would be if we voted to leave next Thursday. I shall come to that in a moment.
It is because of the potential for the UK to open up the services market in the European Union that the deal the Prime Minister negotiated in February is so important. We now have a clear political commitment from all 27 other EU member states, plus the Commission, to accelerate the development of that market. These are the sectors in which the UK leads in Europe, and in which an expansion of the single market will disproportionately benefit the United Kingdom over the years ahead.
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that that commitment to a proper completion of the single market in services, added to the completion of a capital markets union, places the United Kingdom in a unique position to develop its world-leading sector, and that it would be mad to walk away from that opportunity?
My hon. Friend is right. That is what I hear from many of my European colleagues: we are about to move from one phase of European Union development into a new phase that is hugely beneficial to the United Kingdom, yet we are talking about walking away from it. Our financial services industry alone currently contributes more than 7% of UK GDP and employs more than 1 million people, two thirds of them outside London, but there is not yet a single market for financial services across the EU. The potential is huge.
A fully functioning digital single marketplace could be worth as much as £330 billion a year to the EU economy, with the UK again set to benefit more than any other country, as the leading digital economy in Europe. By the way, it would be a huge boon for Britain’s digital-savvy consumers, who would be able to shop freely across the digital single marketplace. Individuals are already feeling the benefits of last year’s EU agreement, led by the UK, to end mobile roaming charges, which it is estimated will save UK consumers around £350 million a year, and for years we have all been enjoying the budget airline boom created by EU regulations.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the reason why the markets had such a shock yesterday was the prospect of us leaving, based on a couple of polls? That £30 billion shock to our financial system hit not just capitalists but the pension funds of hard-working people, which deteriorated. If the prospect of Brexit caused that shock, what on earth would actual Brexit look like?
My hon. Friend is right. We can regard what has been happening in the markets this week as a fore-tremor—a taste of what could be to come if the people of Britain vote to take a leap into the dark on 23 June.
A fully fledged energy union in gas and electricity markets could save £50 billion a year across the EU by 2030, with huge benefits for consumers through their energy bills, as well as making Europe safer from threats of energy blackmail. But it is not just intra-EU trade benefits that our membership delivers. As a member of the world’s largest economic bloc, we benefit directly from being party to EU trade agreements with more than 50 other countries, with terms far more favourable than any that we could have negotiated alone, because of the combined negotiating muscle of an economic bloc with a quarter of the world’s GDP.
Trade is one of the areas where size does matter. Will the Foreign Secretary comment on the attempts to strike a deal between Switzerland and China? We hear much about what the world might be like if we leave the EU. My understanding is that as part of the deal the Chinese are negotiating for full access to the Swiss market, but have told the Swiss that they will have to wait 15 years to get into the Chinese market.
The right hon. Lady is right. The deal on the table between Switzerland and China is deeply asymmetric and deeply unfavourable to the Swiss, but reflects the mismatch in scale between those two marketplaces. Being part of the world’s largest economic bloc allows us to stare squarely into the eyes of Chinese and American interlocutors when negotiating trade deals.
It is a well rehearsed and well understood fact that 44% of the UK’s exports go to the EU, but it is an underestimate because it addresses only exports to the EU. If we take into account the countries with which the EU has a free trade agreement—destinations for another £56 billion of British exports—the figure goes up to 56%, which does not take into account any of the countries with which the EU is negotiating free trade agreements. If we included them, we would be talking about more than 80% of UK exports going either to the EU or to countries with which the EU had trade agreements. At the very least, more than half of Britain’s exports would therefore be at risk if we left the European Union, and it could take a decade or more to put in place new deals with the EU 27 and the 53 other countries with which we have free trade agreements. It is not about choosing between growing our trade with the EU or with the rest of the globe—as the figures show, our EU membership is key to both.
Is not the central absurdity of talking about the EU deficit and the surplus with the rest of the world that our trade with the latter is largely conducted through foreign companies—Japanese car makers and American banks, for example—that base themselves here precisely because we are in the single market? They trade with the whole world—they do not see it as two different places. We as a country should have that attitude.
My hon. Friend is right. The world’s supply chain has globalised itself. If I am honest, when I listen to the arguments of some of our opponents in this debate, although framed in terms of hostility to the European Union, I sometimes wonder whether what I am hearing is hostility to the globalisation of our economy.
What is true for trade is also true for investment—the other side of the coin. The reality is that Britain benefits hugely as a platform for investment from both EU and non-EU countries, many of which see us as a gateway to the rest of the European Union. They come here because of our language, our skills, our flexible labour market and our domestic regulatory environment, but if I talk to foreign companies based in this country—I have lots of them in my constituency, and other Members will be in a similar position—and to others around the world thinking of making that investment decision, it is clear that the single most important factor in the decision making of most of them is our membership of the European Union. Our membership makes Britain a launch pad for doing business with the rest of Europe. Almost three in every four foreign investors cite our access to the European market as a principal reason for investment in the UK. If we lost that access, we would lose the investment. It is as simple as that.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of Ernst and Young’s recent report showing that the UK continues to be the No. 1 destination for foreign direct investment in Europe, with the north-west seeing the biggest increase? Does he agree that a vote to remain would encourage yet further investment in the northern powerhouse and in other regions?
My hon. Friend is right. Treasury analysis shows that the UK is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the EU, ahead of Germany and ahead of France. We get almost a fifth of total inward FDI into EU countries—20% of the investment, with less than 12% of the population. I remind the House that every pound of that investment creates jobs in the UK. It is why Australia is a disproportionately large investor here, it is why so many Indian firms use this country as a base, and it is why world leaders, such as President Obama, Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Modi, believe we would lose out if we voted to leave the EU.
Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that that is particularly true of Japan and Japanese investment, on which this country relies for new nuclear power generation?
Not just for our new generation of nuclear power, but for a large part of our thriving car industry, which is built and based on our ability to export to the European Union. Japanese investment has transformed the economics of and labour relations in our car industry—it has done wonders for this country. It astonishes me that we would even contemplate undermining the basis on which that investment is made.
Will the Secretary of State give way?
I will just make a little progress if my hon. Friend will allow me.
If we left the EU, the practical consequences of lower trade and lower investment would be felt directly by the British people: fewer jobs and higher unemployment. An estimated 3.3 million jobs in the UK—more than one in every 10—are linked to exports to other EU countries, with 250,000 jobs in Scotland, a quarter of a million in the south-west, half a million in the midlands, and 700,000 in the north. How secure will they be if we vote for Brexit next Thursday? How will the spectre of rising unemployment undermine consumer spending and sap business confidence—to blight, once again, those areas of the country that have been in this cycle all too often?
Given the risks to the nations and regions of the United Kingdom that the Foreign Secretary is outlining, and given that the most recent poll shows support for leave in Scotland at only 32%, is he beginning to regret rejecting the SNP’s call for a four-nation lock on the referendum’s outcome?
No, I am not. This is a very important debate, but we have to use the power of persuasion to win it, not tricks. We have a week to make the case—openly and fairly. We need to let the British people decide, and then, as the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington said, whatever their decision and however much we may not like it, we have to accept it, abide by it and implement it, and that is exactly what we will do.
Over 100,000 British businesses export to the EU. The future of every one of them—and of every person who works for them—will be put on hold if next Thursday there is a vote to leave. Will they be able to maintain access to their markets? Will they face tariffs? Will their customers hedge their bets and take their business elsewhere, just in case? It is difficult to see how even the most upbeat Brexiteer could not see that we are likely to face months, years and perhaps a decade of confidence-sapping, investment-eroding, job-destroying uncertainty that will take this country back to the dark days of 2008, and I for one never want to go there again.
Rolls-Royce has a manufacturing facility in my constituency and has made the threat to jobs very clear. Unemployment has fallen 60% since 2010, but that improvement will be put at risk, as highlighted by a CBI report stating that the shock to our economy could cost 950,000 jobs. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that that risk is simply not worth taking?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. It is a risk we do not need to take, and it is a risk that it would be absurd to take. I just cannot believe that after all the grief and pain we have been through in this country to rebuild our economy following the disaster of 2008-09 we are seriously thinking about going back there. That astonishes me.
Economic experts have judged overwhelmingly from the evidence that Britain’s economy will be stronger and more resilient if we remain in the EU. The G7 Finance Ministers, nine out of 10 economists, and independent organisations such as the IMF, the World Bank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the World Trade Organisation have expressed the view that the UK will be better off inside the EU.
And not just economists but more than 200 entrepreneurs —founders of household names such as Skype, lastminute.com and innocent drinks—agree. Rarely, if ever, can an issue have united the opinions of everyone from global institutions, through trade unions, to British businesses, large and small. The overwhelming weight of economic and business opinion is clear: Britain is better off in.
Will my right hon. Friend nail from the Dispatch Box the canard that some on the exit side are peddling—that this is just a vehicle for another round of never-ending renegotiations? This is a serious, one-off decision. We will abide by the decision, and it has to be right for the future of our country.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I am happy to repeat what he says, as the Prime Minister did earlier. The British people will have their say; they will make their decision, and we will implement it. I do not believe that our 27 partners in the EU would say, “Oh, fine, let’s go through all this again,” even if we wanted to. This has to be the deciding point. It is make your mind up time. People have to look at the options bus: a future they know and can predict, with Britain in the European Union—a Britain that has created 2.5 million jobs over the last six years, and a Britain with a growth rate that has outstripped that of every other country in the European Union—or a leap in the dark.
Several hon. Members rose—
I am going to make some progress now. I want to finish so that others can contribute.
What would be the consequences of a vote to leave? They would be: less trade, of course; lower investment; slower growth; and fewer jobs—less trade, because we would lose our access to the EU single market and to the free trade agreements the EU has; lower investment, because foreign businesses using the UK as a launchpad into the EU would go elsewhere, and UK businesses would be seeking to rebuild their markets, rather than investing for expansion; slower growth, because the economy would effectively be on hold for at least two years, and almost certainly very much longer, while we negotiated the terms of our exit from the EU; and fewer jobs, because, in a climate of such economic uncertainty, few companies would be hiring or expanding their workforce. Indeed, to answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach), the director general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, estimates that, if we left the EU, there would be almost a million fewer jobs in the UK by 2020 and that those under 34 would be hit the hardest.
Let us be clear: an exit negotiation with the EU will be far from the straightforward affair the leave camp is suggesting. We have general elections next year in France and Germany, and I can promise that every single vested interest in both those countries will be seeking to benefit from the British exit. We should expect no favours from those whom we have just snubbed. The Brexit campaign wants us to believe that we could negotiate a better deal for Britain from the outside than the one we actually secured from the inside at a time when the entire European Union was seeking to persuade us to stay. This is simple fantasy. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] It will not happen.
My right hon. Friend spoke about how companies that export to Europe would be badly affected by leaving the European Union. If we have a Brexit recession, not only will businesses that export to the EU be hit, but almost all businesses will be affected by the loss of investment in the UK and the loss of consumer income. Will not all businesses be affected?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am afraid that I can predict, on the basis of experience, what will happen. If we get a Brexit vote, markets will go into freefall, business confidence will collapse, business investment will freeze, and consumers will panic and stop spending, and that will have a massive effect across the width and breadth of our economy.
The United Kingdom is, and should remain, an outward-looking trading nation. If we want to remain prosperous, we must move up the value curve, not down it. Britain’s future has to be about higher skills, higher wages and higher investment, not the opposite.
The EU has many failings, and no one is pretending that the reforms negotiated by the Prime Minister should be the last word. If we remain on the inside, we can and should continue to influence the speed and direction of reform. If we step outside, we will continue to be affected by EU rules, but we will have no way of influencing them and no way of reforming the institutions.
The consequences of the decision the British people make on 23 June will reverberate down the generations. This is not a decision to be taken lightly; all our futures depend on it. Now is not the time for reckless risk-taking; it is time for cool, calculated consideration of the facts, the evidence and the expert opinion, and all point to the same conclusion: we are stronger, safer and better off inside a reformed European Union.
Once again, we find ourselves involved in a crucial referendum and a crucial debate that is fundamentally about more powers for this place, and, critically, more powers for Government Front Benchers. They may have denied 16 and 17-year-olds the vote, but let us not forget that this is about younger people, about the future, and about the kind of country that we want to see. Those Front Benchers may even have been reluctant to extend the deadline so that more young people could vote, yet fundamentally next week’s decision will impact on young people, and on our future, for far longer than it will impact on most people in this Chamber.
I hate to say it, but the Tory Brexiters have fought an endlessly negative campaign founded on a cynical misrepresentation of the facts. I found that out for myself a few months ago when I appealed for us to avoid “Project Fear”, have a positive campaign, and give the benefit of the doubt to our opponents, only to find myself on a Vote Leave leaflet advocating for the side for which I was not advocating. That was cynical misrepresentation by those on that side, who fundamentally, instead of working in co-operation with other member states, want to launch a power grab for a Government who are the most right wing of recent times and could be about to become even more so.
In contrast to the Tory Brexit plans, the positive reason for staying in the European Union is one of co-operation between independent and sovereign member states. That co-operation makes us wealthier, with access to a single market of 500 million wealthy consumers. The EU is Scotland’s top export destination—42% of our exports go there, and more whisky is drunk in France in a month than cognac in a year. But that is not going to stop us exporting to the rest of the world. Scotland benefits from a huge diaspora in markets in the United States, Australia and elsewhere, and that will still be there—it is not going away. The European Union benefits us in that people can step from Scotland into a large EU market; we are very well placed for that. Critically, this is not just about big business: small businesses benefit almost more than any others. Many businesses in my constituency cannot afford lawyers in 28 capital cities around the European Union for all the different rules and regulations, so the EU fundamentally helps them, and makes us wealthier.
Brexiters who say that Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world and that we are big enough to fend for ourselves forget that we are not the United States where California is nearly as big as us, we cannot be China or India, we would not want to be Japan, and France and Germany are part of the EU and locked into the biggest economy in the world. Does he agree that theirs is a ridiculous claim?
The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised that I do agree. Just as Scotland is a medium-sized European state, so the UK is a medium-sized global state.
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why the trade of a number of countries that are neither a member of the EU nor have any special arrangements with it has grown considerably faster than our trade with the EU from inside it?
The right hon. Gentleman oddly suggests that our trade will grow more once we leave this enormous trading bloc, with all the benefits that come with it. Like all his colleagues in the leave campaign, he is failing to face up to facts.
The EU makes us healthier. We gain from healthcare across the European Union whereby citizens from the EU can benefit from our healthcare just as we benefit from theirs. There is research that makes us healthier. Scotland is currently taking the lead role on dementia research, involving 15 organisations in 11 member states. I am proud of the role that we play in that, just as other member states are contributing to our health through their research.
I give way to my hon. Friend, who will have something useful to say on that point.
I will do my best. We have had many health gains. Part of the reason we are in this debate is that for 40 years we have never talked about anything that we have gained—the cleaner air, the cleaner water, the cleaner beaches, and the fact that medicines are regulated across the EU through its regulation system. The European Medicines Agency is sitting right here in London. This morning I chaired a—
Order. We have 50 speakers who want to get in. I want to get them all in, but I cannot do that with very long interventions; they have to be short and sweet and get to the point.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point about the health aspects that we all benefit from in a large range of ways.
My hon. Friend also mentioned that the European Union makes us greener. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will join me in congratulating the Scottish Government, who have met their world-leading climate change targets four years ahead of schedule, with very little help from this place but plenty from co-operation with our European partners. We have worked together on the environment. She mentioned air quality. A number of years ago, complaints about acid rain affecting Germany’s forests led to air quality directives that are benefiting each and every one of us.
I will make some progress.
Scotland’s renewables industry is thriving, with no thanks to this Government, but a huge amount of thanks to our co-operation with our European partners, which has created a huge amount of benefit.
I will happily take an intervention from a Conservative Member—they are all helpfully badged.
Can I help a little? I say to people who are going to speak very shortly and want to remain on the list: if you intervene, I am going to drop you down the list. Make your minds up—you cannot have it both ways at the expense of everybody else.
I will not intervene, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Okay, thank you.
Working with our partners has made us greener, and wealthier in terms of the industries in the sector.
Collaboration with our partners has made us smarter through our universities, not least the University of St Andrews, where I see the benefits daily. Since 2014, Scotland has received over £200 million from the EU science fund, and is set to gain £1.2 billion by 2020. The opportunities for collaboration and from the students that come here benefit us all and enrich our campuses.
Across the UK, nearly 11,500 EU students are contributing income to our universities, benefiting them greatly. Does my hon. Friend agree that collaborations such as the work on gravitational waves at Glasgow University could not have happened had we not been part of the EU family?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point about collaboration in our universities. I saw that for myself at the University of St Andrews when a French student showed me the creation of a black hole—although it is not true that that is what Vote Leave’s arguments all disappeared down.
I am someone who has benefited from freedom of movement within the EU. Through Erasmus, I was able to pick up skills and opportunities that I would not otherwise have had. I do not want to vote next week to take away from young people the opportunities that I, and other Members from across this House, have had. Freedom of movement often benefits local companies as well as enriching our society. The net contribution that has been made by EU migrants is significant. If we removed EU migrants from the UK, the Chancellor would have an even bigger black hole than the one he is talking about, with the imposition of even more austerity than at present.
The students in our universities not only gain from what the European Union gives to them, but lever in some €80 billion of additional research spending, so they can help to educate more people.
The hon. Lady makes a very good point. The £350 million figure that was splashed across Vote Leave’s bus did not last very long when subjected to scrutiny. It also did not take into account the huge range of benefits that we gain from membership of the European Union that go beyond that membership fee, as Vote Leave put it.
Freedom of movement—this is often lost—is a two-way process. There are 1.5 million UK citizens who benefit hugely from freedom of movement across the European Union. I often pose this question, but it is yet to be answered: what is the difference between an EU migrant and a UK ex-pat living in the European Union? They are exactly the same. I and others have been appalled by the language used by the Vote Leave campaign, not least about migration and refugees, because we benefit from working with our European partners on foreign policy.
President Obama has said that his worst foreign policy mistake was not dealing with the aftermath of Libya. The campaign in Libya had nothing to do with the EU; it had everything to do with this Government not dealing with it appropriately. And where is the biggest influx of refugees coming from? They are coming from the failed state of Libya. It was a UK foreign policy failure of the worst kind and it had nothing to do with the European Union.
On the issue of UK foreign policy disasters, Labour Members will be well aware that Chilcot will be published in a few weeks’ time. The European Union had nothing to do with the disaster in Iraq; it was another UK foreign policy disaster.
I will make some progress.
Compare that with the EU as a soft power. It has made progress in stabilising south-east Europe and it could play a future role in the middle east and north Africa region and in dealing with the former Soviet Union. Europe can be a soft superpower and we need to be at the heart of that. As our partners in the EU have said, our membership of NATO and of the EU complement each other and have given us the longest period of peace, stability and prosperity in European history. We should not forget that.
The EU has also made us fairer. It protects us in so many ways, including through provisions for paid holidays and by giving parents—mums and dads—the right to parental leave. Just think of the draconian trade union laws that this lot here want to bring in: do we really want to be left to the mercy of a right-wing Conservative Government when it comes to social protections? Those social protections have been advanced through our membership of the European Union.
Last night, the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), who is not here—which does not surprise me, given the going over he got from my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond)—was reminded that he had previously said that
“we could easily scrap the social chapter”.
He is right—they could easily scrap the social chapter and all the benefits that go with it, because, when it comes down to it, this is a right-wing Tory power grab. The right-wing Tory foxes would be put in charge of the chicken coup of progressive politics in the United Kingdom.
The hon. Gentleman is confronting directly the supposedly leftist leave argument that ignores the fact that we would be plunged into Brexession and that pretends that there would not be more austerity or EUsterity in Europe. There would be a carnival of reaction, not just on the Conservative Benches, but across Europe, where right wing and neo-fascist parties would destroy rights in their countries, too.
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. Frankly, we cannot trust the Tories with social protection or the environment, and we certainly cannot trust them with workers’ rights. This is a Tory excuse for more austerity, and that is what is coming if people vote to leave.
We often hear Vote Leave and Brexiteers talk about democracy and the EU, but it has a Council of 28 democratically elected Governments, as well as 28 commissioners who are appointed by those Governments and a Parliament that can sack them. They talk of a Tory Government here who were voted for by just one in four voters, and who experienced their worst election result in Scotland since 1865. They talk of democracy and a Tory victory in Scotland with a fifth of the vote, and an SNP defeat with just under half of the vote. They also talk up democracy as they eye up a seat in the affront to democracy that sits at the end of the corridor, the House of Lords. Do not be fooled by their appeals to democracy; they could learn a thing or two from Europe about democracy.
On independence, the EU is made up of 28 independent member states. Nobody questions the independence of Germany, France, Denmark or Finland. Mary Robinson has said that she believes that Ireland truly became independent only after it joined that European Union. My hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) made a valuable point earlier when he said that the European Union is a club for independent countries but the Union of the UK is not. Not being independent here means areas having the poll tax, nuclear missiles on their soil, their fisheries being described as expendable and a Tory Government against the wishes of their people. That is not democratic.
I joined the SNP because I want to see Scotland in the world. The real isolation came from the Union and doing things through the prism of London. I started by saying that this is about our future, but let me reflect on the past. Scotland may be at the fringes of Europe geographically, but we sit at its heart politically. I am wearing the tie that commemorated the visit of Pope Benedict to Scotland, which was once called a filia specialis—a special daughter—of the Church. In 1218, the Pope tried to set out an archbishopric in St Andrews in my constituency, so even back then our European partners were protecting us from the worst excesses of this place. Even William Wallace’s first act was the letter of Lübeck and a letter to rejoin the Hanseatic League, the European Union of its day.
With our environmental commitment to a clean, green future, the excellence of our universities and our commitment to social progress, Scotland remains at the heart of Europe. I hope that the isolationist tendencies of Vote Leave and many in this place will not win out and that we vote to remain next week.
Prosperity, not austerity, is what we want, and that will be so much easier to achieve when we cast off the shackles of the European Union. It is an institution renowned for its gross austerity and the damage it has done throughout great swathes of our continent, driving young people into unemployment, preventing school leavers from getting any job at all, and starving public services of cash. Those policies have done terrible damage in Greece and in parts of Italy, Spain and Portugal. It is good that we have some freedom to distance ourselves from those policies, and we will have even more freedom when we take back control of our money, taxes and budgets.
It was bizarre to wake up this morning to press comments that there would need to be a post-Brexit-vote Budget. I am going to wait to see what the British public really want in a vote that is still to be decided, but the Government seem to have conceded defeat by saying that they would launch an austerity Budget if the British people dare to vote for their freedom and democracy. There is absolutely no need to do that, and I reassure the British people that there would be absolutely no chance of them getting such a Budget through the House of Commons. There is no enthusiasm for it from the SNP or the Labour party, and after Brexit many Conservative MPs will vote for lower taxes and more public spending, because that is what we will be able to afford as a result of the Brexit bonus, or dividend, when we get back the £10 billion a year that we send to the EU and currently do not get back.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
No, I cannot. I have to be tight on time, because others wish to speak.
Those who want to remain so hate the idea that there is going to be a dividend, because they know that that money is taken away from us and is not used for the priorities of their electors and their local health and education services. Within the European Union, we are not legally allowed to get rid of VAT on fuel—a much hated imposition that hits those on lower incomes far more than others—but we would be free to do so as soon as the British people vote to leave, if that is their wish.
The issue of our membership of the EU needs to be looked at over the longer term. All of the gloomy and bogus forecasts by those who wish to remain are based on the assumption that the single market is a precious and virtuous body to which we can belong, which has fuelled our prosperity and manufacturing growth so far, and which would no longer be available to us if we left. Of course, they are wrong on both counts. Our membership of the single market has not helped our manufacturing. When we leave, we will still have access to the single market, just as 165 other countries around the world have access to it daily without being members, without having to accept the freedom-of-movement provisions and without having to accept the taxes and the laws that are imposed on us on a wide range of issues that have nothing to do with trade whatsoever.
The single market, when it was introduced, did not accelerate our growth rate or our exports in manufacturing in any way. The Government did a very good long-term survey, which covered the period 1951 to 2007. They started in the stable year ’51—it was necessary to leave out the bit immediately after the war, when there was a big demobilisation effect—and went up to 2007. The figures for manufacturing today are identical to those from 2007, because unfortunately we had a deep manufacturing recession in ’08-’09 and we are just about getting back to the ’07 levels. The survey showed that between 1951 and 1972, before we joined the European Union, we had manufacturing output growth of 4.4% per annum; and that since 1972, during the long period of time for which we have been in the thing, there has been absolutely no manufacturing growth at all.
If we look at individual sectors, we can see that prior to joining the European Union, our metals sector grew at 3% per annum, but it has declined at 6% per annum since we have been in the European Union. Our food and drink industry grew at 5.6% per annum before we joined, and it has fallen at 1% per annum ever since. Our textiles sector grew at 2.6% per annum when we were out of the EU, and it has fallen by 6% per annum since we joined. We used to have a 45 million tonne a year steel industry, thanks to massive national investment and the Labour Government of the ’60s, but it now produces only 11 million tonnes. We had a 400,000 tonne aluminium industry when we joined the EU, but we have only a 43,000 tonne industry left. We had a 20 million tonne cement industry when we joined the EU, but we have a 12 million tonne industry left. We had a 1 million tonne a year fishing industry when we joined the EU, and we have only a 600,000 tonne industry now.
Some of those industries, particularly the fishing industry, as my hon. Friend the Minister well knows, have been gravely damaged by our EU membership. EU rules in the common fisheries policy, and the quota allocations to other countries against the interests of our own fisherpeople, have caused the number of fishermen in our country to halve during our membership of the European Union. Our experience of manufacturing as a member of the European Union has been far from benign. High energy prices, rigged subsidies, arrangements that help other countries more than ours and a policy, quite often, of providing subsidy, grant and cheap loans to manufacturers literally to transfer plants from Britain to other continental countries have been part of the background to the dreadful erosion of our manufacturing.
It is fair to look at manufacturing because, as I think remain campaigners always say, there is no full single market in services. The single market was completed in goods by 1992. We have experienced that single market since 1992, and it has not made any beneficial difference whatsoever to our manufacturing. The deep-set decline that has characterised our period of membership of the European Union was not turned around by the introduction of those single market measures. Fortunately, our services have not yet been damaged by the growing regulation within the EU, but the evidence from what happened to manufacturing is not encouraging when we look at what might happen to our services. There have already been many cases in which the City of London, defending its interests as a financial services provider, has found itself at variance with incoming European rules. The matter is settled by qualified majority vote, so being around the table is of no use to us because we get outvoted. If we dare to take it further, we get European Court judgments against us for our alleged infringement of the rules.
Several hon. Members rose—
Mr Deputy Speaker, I know that you are very keen that I keep these remarks very short. This is an important case that does not get heard in the House, so for once I will not be able to take interventions.
The position is quite simple. Outside the European Union we will continue to trade fully with it, as we do today. We who want to leave the European Union are not proposing a wholesale removal of rules and regulations. One of the genuine benefits of the single market, as has been pointed out, is that there are common rules and regulations for trading with all countries. The great news is that we will get the benefit of that whether we are in or out. The Americans, who have grown their trade with the EU more quickly than we have done from within, get the benefit of that part of the single market because they have to supply only to one specification, just as we do from within. Many of the common rules and standards are informed by global ones, but we have been kicked off the global bodies by the European Union. Outside the European Union we would have the advantage of getting back our seat, vote and voice on the global bodies, so we would have more influence at the top table in return for no longer being part of the EU.
For prosperity not austerity, for control of our own taxes, for spending our own money, for providing growth by spending that extra money, and for trading freely with Europe without all the restrictions, controls and arguments, vote leave.
I am grateful to be following the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) because he is widely considered to be one of the more erudite spokesmen for the Brexit campaign. I waited with bated breath for a cogent, coherent and practical economic analysis of why Britain’s economy would thrive out of the single market. Instead we got this curious mix of fantasy and naivety, which I never thought I would hear expressed in such a way.
I would like to make three points. First, the right hon. Gentleman’s diagnosis of the British economy and its relationship to its European economic hinterland is based on a backward-looking view that belongs to an era of gunboat diplomacy, tariff wars and 19th-century economic rivalry. As Margaret Thatcher and Lord Cockfield, the inventor of the single market, recognised, modern trade is not about taxes, levies and tariffs; it is about the rules, the standards, the norms, the qualifications and the regulations that assist or impede trade. What possible control would we gain by being outside the room in which those rules are made but none the less, as the right hon. Gentleman has just admitted, abiding by them? That would be a catastrophic loss of sovereignty and control.
As usual, the right hon. Gentleman is off beam. He is completely incapable of getting anything on the European Union right. Decisions are taken in the Council of Ministers, as he well knows, largely behind closed doors by COREPER. Those decisions are not made in the manner he suggests.
Being called “off beam” by the hon. Gentleman is quite something. He and I share a passion for Sheffield, however, so I shall put that aside for a minute. In the economy of this country, 78% of GDP is generated by services. Services are barely affected by taxes, tariffs and levies, but British lawyers, British engineers, British architects and British creative industries trying to sell their wares, as they successfully do—we are a services economy superpower in Europe—are affected by precisely the rules that are thrashed out in Brussels, in discussions that we would be excluded from if we left the European Union.
As the right hon. Member for Wokingham acknowledged, the completion of the single market in services is, indeed, a work in progress. We are the chief author and architect of the success in that area. Why on earth would anyone walk away from the construction of a building of which they were the chief architect and the chief beneficiary? A 7% increase in our GDP is the calculated improvement in the economic performance of this country if we complete the single market in services, but the Brexit camp want to walk away from that.
Why was there no improvement in manufacturing activity with the single market?
Dare I say it, but even by the fairly specious standard of the statistics bandied about by both sides in this campaign, the way the right hon. Gentleman used statistics was spectacularly misleading. From listening to the Brexit campaign, people would think that the club we have been a member of for 43 years has been the fount of all misery. How come we are still an independent, free and broadly speaking prosperous nation if we have been a member of it for over four decades? I simply think that that applies to his example.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I will, if I may, make a little progress.
The second point, which is completely omitted by the analysis of Brexit campaigners, is our current account deficit. To be fair, the Government are very silent on that as well, for the very good reason that it is shockingly large. We now have a current account deficit which, at 7% of GDP, is historically and internationally very high and, in my view, unsustainable by historical standards in the long run. As the Governor of the Bank of England has said, if a country runs such a huge, unprecedented current deficit, it has to rely, as he put it, on the “kindness of strangers”.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
If I may finish this point, I will then give way.
The only way in which that current account deficit is sustainable is if strangers from elsewhere in the world invest in assets in this country—in property, infrastructure, the financial services sector, factories and companies. It is on those investors, and on the kindness of those strangers, as Mark Carney has said, that the sustainability of the ballooning current account deficit relies. What will those strangers think after next Thursday, when they do not even know whether our country will survive at all? The United Kingdom may not persist because Scotland may trigger a second referendum, and see the United Kingdom fall.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
May I just finish this point?
What will those strangers say as they see year after year of grinding political, constitutional and economic uncertainty? Why would they continue to invest in UK plc? And if they suddenly pull out their money, I tell you what will happen: the pound will plummet; inflation and prices for ordinary people will go up; and we will be caught in an economic whirlwind that, irresponsibly, these people want to inflict on millions of our citizens. It is a scandalous position to take.
The right hon. Gentleman is making some very powerful points. May I remind the House that we are still living with the consequences of the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008? We have the answer to the question he is asking: the stock market has fallen by £80 billion in the past few days as investors recognise the risk to this country if we have a Brexit vote next week. That is the start of the tsunami that he is talking about. Why would we risk the prosperity of the United Kingdom and, indeed, of Europe by taking such a rash action?
Order. Interventions must be short to give everybody a chance to speak.
I played a role, somewhat thanklessly as it turned out, for five years in the coalition Government—as did my party, although it is not abundantly represented today on the Bench next to me—to try and provide the political stability that the country needed to recover from the cardiac arrest that occurred in 2008. I think it was the right thing to do. A country cannot recover from that kind of trauma if there is constant constitutional and political instability, yet that is what the Brexit camp want wilfully to inflict on this place and on this country. It is astonishing that they want to drag us back into the furnace of that economic disaster from which we are still escaping right now.
My third and final point is that, unlike, I think, every other Member of the House, I actually worked in a relatively lowly manner—in a previous incarnation, before I went into politics—as an international trade negotiator. I was part of the EU trade negotiation team that sought to settle the terms of China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. I spent months haggling with hard-nosed Russian trade negotiators about the overflight rights paid by British Airways and European airlines for flying over Siberia. I have spent a lot of time with a lot of international trade negotiators, and I know that they are very unsentimental folk. It is almost laughable simply to state it, but the idea is that we could pull out of the world’s largest economic bloc and then say to these unsentimental folk, who have driven such a hard bargain with that bloc of 500 million people, that we want not just the same but better deals and a better set of conditions on behalf of an economy of only 60 million people. Who do the Brexit camp think these negotiators are? They are not stupid or naive: they will just snigger.
I have looked in vain—I scoured the internet this morning—for the apparently many freedom-loving nations that will cut such favourable deals with us as we depart into this world of milk and honey in which, effortlessly, people will give us concessions that they did not give to a bloc of 500 million people. Can we find anyone? Have the Indians said, “Yes, sure, we’ll give you what you want”? Have the Americans, Canadians or Australians said that? Has anyone said it? Not a single country anywhere in the world has said that it will give better terms of trade to the United Kingdom on its own than to the European Union.
So please, if we do one thing between now and next Thursday, by all means let us thrash it out between those who want us to remain in the European Union, flawed though it is and reformed though it must be, and those who want us to go out, but let us not do so on the basis of these falsehoods, this misleading nonsense, this naivety and fantasy, which would do this great country of ours such a terrible disservice.
It is a great pleasure—a nostalgic pleasure—to follow the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg). He reiterated the fears he first enunciated in relation to our leaving the exchange rate mechanism, and those fears proved to be wrong. He next enunciated those fears in relation to our not joining the euro, and they proved the reverse of the truth. It is nostalgic to hear him recycling his damaged goods again today.
It is even more of a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). He and I worked together at the Department of Trade and Industry. I think I am the only serving Member of Parliament, apart possibly from the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam, who has experience of successfully negotiating an international trade deal and of introducing, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham, the single market programme into this country.
We have that experience, and I want to apply it to some of the arguments because on this issue, as on most issues, I find that when we in politics do not have that experience, we simply adopt the most plausible argument that supports our case. By and large, that is what happens on matters of trade and economics in this House, because there is so little experience of them. In a way, I am a member of an endangered species as one of the few Members who has such experience.
Let me first take the very idea that trade agreements are necessary and essential for trade. I hate to say this, because I have a vested interest in claiming to have experience of these things, but trade agreements are less important than people imagine. That is particularly the case for agreements between developed countries, largely because of the success of the Uruguay round, which brought down tariffs between developed countries to negligible levels. The average WTO tariff that would apply to British exports to the EU, in the almost inconceivable circumstance of our having no free trade agreement with it, would be 2.4%. It is better not to have it and I would rather not have it, but compared with the movements in the exchange rate, it is negligible or much less important than it is made out to be. The only important trade deals are those with fast-growing markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe that still have high tariff levels, and we ought to be looking to negotiate trade deals with those markets.
I entirely agree with everything my right hon. Friend has said. We have not so far discussed the fact that people want our market just as much as much as we want their market. It takes two to tango in any trade deal, and trade deals will go on regardless.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Trade deals take place because they are in the mutual interests of both parties; they are not military conflicts. They take place between two parties, like trade itself.
A very plausible but incorrect argument is that trade agreements always take a long time. When the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was asked whether Ministers had done any study of trade agreements, he sidestepped the question. A freedom of information request has actually revealed that neither the Treasury nor the Government have done any study of the trade agreements about which they talk so knowledgeably. However, such studies have been done. I refer to the study by Professor Moser of the Centre of European Union Studies in Salzburg of every single trade agreement in the past 20 years. There are 88 of them. They took an average of 28 months, but the time for each varied greatly. The deals that took a long time were those that involved lots of countries, which certainly concurs with my experience. Of course, by definition any EU treaty involves 28 countries and takes a long time, because all 28 have vetoes. A lot of EU treaties are being held up now, but bilateral treaties take less than that average of 28 months. We should not start deluding people into thinking that it will take a long time to negotiate bilateral deals with countries that already have bilateral deals with Switzerland, for example.
The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam asked rhetorically whether anyone was queueing up for trade deals with us. Well, look not for what they say but what they do. Switzerland has trade deals with countries whose total GDP is four times that of the countries with which the EU has trade deals. Chile has trade deals with countries whose collective GDP is even bigger. Switzerland has a trade deal with China. We are told that it is a bad deal for Switzerland, but clearly the Swiss did not think so. The Swiss published the details of the deal online; Members can look at it themselves. By the time the EU even gets around to negotiating a trade deal with China—which by the way will never succeed because the EU will always insist on human rights terms the Chinese will not accept—the Swiss will have zero tariffs on the vast majority of their exports to China.
My right hon. Friend is a distinguished former Trade Secretary so knows what he is on about. We come from different sides of the debate on this issue, but does he—with all his experience and wisdom, and all his contacts both in the Commonwealth and the European Union—accept this point? Brexiteers invoke the Commonwealth leaders as wanting to do business with Britain whether we are in or out of Europe. Is it not the case that Commonwealth leaders want a trade deal with the whole of Europe, not just with the United Kingdom?
They probably want trade deals with whoever they can negotiate sensible ones with, if they are sensible. They will not say that it is either/or; they will want a trade deal with us, because we are the fifth biggest economy in the world, and they will probably also want a trade deal with the EU. They will find, however, that that deal takes a very long time because all 28 countries will have to agree to it first.
It is often suggested that the EU will get better deals because it is bigger. Actually, not only is it more complicated to do those deals with lots of countries, and so takes longer, but the result is worse and less comprehensive, because there are 28 times as many exceptions and exclusions. They are even less likely to be in the UK’s interests, as we can see from what has happened so far. A third of the trade deals that the EU has negotiated with other countries do not include services. As has been repeatedly stated, services are very important to this country, but they are less important to the rest of the EU, so it does not bother to include them in the deals. Switzerland also attaches great importance to exporting services, so more than 90% of its trade deals include them—as of course would ours if we were independent and making our own deals.
My right hon. Friend has mentioned Switzerland quite often. Switzerland is part of the European economic area, but still locates its banking services in London so as to access the rest of the European Union through passporting agreements. Does he have a solution to that difficulty?
Switzerland moved its banking centres to London post big bang and before the single market. I negotiated the second banking directive, which introduced passporting for banks. I was very proud of it, and subsequently wanted to make a speech saying what a wonderful thing it was, and how wonderful the single market programme was, so I asked my officials to find examples of banks and other businesses that were doing things that were made possible by the single market programme and that sort of passporting. They could not find a single one. Nearly all banks trade through subsidiaries, so do not take advantage of passporting, which allows operation through a branch rather than a subsidiary, regulated by the British financial authorities rather than those in the country in which they operate. I will perhaps come on to other aspects of the passporting issue if time permits.
I always listen very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. He has made a very strong point about the difficulties in negotiating with a large trading bloc of 27 nations, including the time it would take. Why then does he feel that it would be possible, in short measure, for the UK to re-establish its trading relations with an EU of which we were no longer a part? He has made a very compelling case for why it would not be.
That is a very good point that I was going to come on to. It takes quite a long time for the EU to negotiate a trade deal with Canada, for example, because each country has tariffs against the other, and different product specifications and so on. Each has to trade off, say, a cut in tariffs on steel against one in tariffs on leather goods. We can see how that could take a long time, particularly if there is not much enthusiasm for it. We would start negotiating with the rest of the EU with zero tariffs on both sides and with common product standards. Zero to zero can be negotiated in a fairly short space of time, I would have thought, compared with the time needed when 10,000 different tariff lines are involved, as in other tariff agreements. It should not take long to negotiate a continuing free trade deal, with good will on both sides.
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman has burned his boats.
Another myth, which I am afraid has been proffered by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, is that we will need to renegotiate trade agreements with all the countries with which the EU currently has trade agreements. That is not the case. There is an accepted principle in international law called the principle of continuity: if a political unit splits into parts—as the Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia did, for example—the component parts continue with the same agreement unless one party objects to it. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the countries with which we are currently party to free trade agreements will want to end those agreements when we leave. For example, when the Soviet Union broke up it was not a member of the WTO, so had traded under separate trade agreements with other countries. Those trade agreements migrated by agreement, so that within weeks even America had migrated its agreement to Russia and other successor states. There is absolutely no reason—
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I am sorry, but I am under pressure to finish.
I will say one final word, on the single market. It is often talked about as some arcane inner sanctum. It is simply the European market. It is like the American single market. We have no agreement with the American single market, and are not members of it; none the less, America is our biggest trading partner nationally in the world. The introduction of the single market consisted simply of standardising the product specification, so that instead of having to have 28 different ranges of refrigerator, lawn mower or whatever, we have one.
That is very sensible. It is also just as much of an advantage to an exporter from outside the EU exporting refrigerators or lawn mowers to it as it is to member states within it. In fact, others outside the EU have taken more advantage of it than we have, and their exports have gone up more than ours, perhaps because they have to bear the burden of EU regulations only on those aspects of their activities carried out within the EU, not on 100% of their firms. That is another aspect of the benefits we would get from leaving, along with our ability to negotiate free trade agreements with the fast growing but protected markets of the world on which our children’s futures will depend.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. After the next speech there will be a five-minute limit.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), and he has added to my “Heinz 57 Varieties” for what the future of our trading arrangements might be if we leave the European Union. Like the Foreign Secretary, he was right when he said that few people say they love the EU, but many, like me, passionately love our country, and believe that Britain is a strong country, one of the world’s great nations, and a force for good. Our status as the fifth largest economic power is not undermined by 40 years of EU membership; rather, it has been sustained and enhanced by it.
The leave campaign has no credible answers to the question of what we gain economically by leaving the EU, and those voters who have not yet decided how to vote, often raise their concerns about the uncertain place that Britain may occupy after 23 June if we leave. I do not believe that that uncertainty is a price worth paying. Unless the Governor of the Bank of England and almost every independent economic forecaster are wrong, the UK will lose business, trade, jobs and investment if we leave, landing the Government with lower tax revenues. That means less money for our hospitals and schools. Even Brexit campaigners acknowledge that there will be an economic shock, while they plan to spend fantasy money 10 times over.
I appreciate how difficult it is for my constituents, and many others, to see the wood for the trees. Some of the claims and counter-claims from both sides have not helped, but my first concern is not for the wealthy, because they will survive whatever the outcome. The leave campaign likes to suggest that remaining in the EU is only in the interests of big corporate companies, the wealthy and the establishment. I suppose that as MPs we are all part of the “establishment”, but if I were not an MP, I would not be—none of my family are. It is thanks to that background, wanting the best for my constituents and living in Doncaster for nearly 20 years, that I am so concerned that ordinary families might pay the price should we leave the EU.
When I was a child, only the well-off could fly abroad. Today, we have cheap air travel and we can stay in touch with home without a £300 phone bill. We have guaranteed paid holidays that we are able to enjoy, and if we fall ill our European health insurance card guarantees access to health treatment anywhere in the EU. People are helped to afford those holidays because their shopping and other bills are cheaper, and more jobs are available because of our EU membership. I do not want people to exist just to work—through the opportunity to work I want them to enjoy life too. In Yorkshire, 250,000 jobs are directly linked to the EU. Siemens is investing £160 million in offshore wind manufacturing, creating 1,000 jobs on our east coast. Siemens and BAE Systems, along with many small and medium-sized businesses in Yorkshire, believe that it is in the interests of our region and country to stay in the EU. We must protect those jobs, rights and benefits, and the enjoyment that we get from them.
The previous Labour Government signed up to the social chapter, ensuring that every worker won the right to four weeks’ paid holiday. We added bank holidays on top—a good example of how we can improve workers’ rights through the EU as a sovereign nation. We forget this because it is so long ago, but 7 million more people gained paid holidays or enhanced their holidays as a result of that change. Voting to leave the EU could put at risk hard-won rights, because we know that some of the biggest cheerleaders for Brexit see protections for ordinary British workers as red tape to be binned.
Some people will use immigration as a reason to leave the EU, but they do not want to tackle the exploitation of foreign workers that affects British workers too. Immigration has become the issue on which those who want to leave the EU place the blame, but the failure is not the European Union’s—it is ours. I have spoken out about people’s insecurities about jobs, housing and public services in the future, especially in parts of Britain such as Don Valley where we do not live in metropolitan cities. For some Labour voters and others, the benefits of globalisation seem to have passed their town by, and for many, work has become way too insecure. Those people are not racist; they want fairness, and they want the benefits of immigration to employers and to the tax take of the Treasury to be matched by a greater amount of that tax supporting communities that have additional pressures on housing, schools and health services. We need openly to discuss the benefits of migration, including the many businesses and jobs that European migrants have created in Britain, but we must not ignore it when it causes problems. Is it perception or reality that Brits are not getting the jobs filled by European migrants? Are Brits being turned down or are they not applying? Is that happening in some sectors, and why?
As I said earlier, a large number—230,000—of those who work in the adult social care workforce were not born in the UK, and that sector has a 5% vacancy rate because people are not applying because of the poor terms and conditions. That partly answers my right hon. Friend’s question, but is she as concerned as I am that the care sector, which is already in crisis, could collapse if there are further restrictions on those who come to work here?
My hon. Friend is right, and in Yorkshire alone more than 2,000 EU migrants work in health and social care. Sometimes we must consider the nature of the work going on, and ask why those insecure, poorly paid sectors are using migrant workers. Those workers are being exploited, and that does not do much for the users of those services either.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that the Labour Government introduced tier 3 in 2008, which was for unskilled migration from outside the EU? That has been closed ever since, with the official reason that we get those unskilled workers from the EU. Will she speculate on where we will get unskilled workers from in future, when the Poles, Lithuanians and so on no longer come here to do the jobs that we struggle to fill with UK workers?
I will not speculate, but we need a future where work in social care is not poorly paid, because we are doing a disservice to social care workers, and to the elderly people and other independent adults who rely on them. That is the challenge, and we as a country must take ownership of that and not blame the EU for all the problems on our doorstep.
There is fraud and people who are paid off the books, but that happens with British people who work illegally too, sometimes with bad employers or organised criminal networks behind them calling the shots. Many more people come here because of the work available and because English is the international language. Change is not as easy for some as for others, and leaving the EU will not solve that. The coalition Government were wrong to abolish the migration impacts fund, and it is right that freedom of movement should mean freedom to work, with people putting in before they take out. It is good news that the much maligned European Court of Justice has ruled that it is right for EU member states to be able to withhold benefits.
Let us be honest. Young Brits today do not queue up to pick crops or work in social care. The greatest deceit by the leave campaign is that the UK can keep all the access to the EU single market, but not allow EU workers to work here. If we restrict EU workers who are allowed to work here, why would the 1.6 million Brits who work or live in Europe not face similar restrictions?
I will not give way because I have already done so twice.
Non-members of the EU do not get better deals. Why would the EU offer Britain a deal that is better than that of any of the other 27 members? That would be a recipe for every country to leave. Most of all, we must not let members of the leave campaign claim that they are more patriotic than those who want to remain in the EU. I love Britain, and we will continue to be a strong, proud nation, but we are stronger and better-off as members of the European Union.
Order. I now have to announce the result of the deferred Division on the Question relating to local government. The Ayes were 278 and the Noes were 4. Of Members representing constituencies in England, the Ayes were 260 and the Noes were 3, so the Question was agreed to.
[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]
I now introduce a five-minute time limit on speeches.
I have one simple message as we approach the last week of the referendum campaign: people fought and died for the right to govern themselves; people fought and died for our democracy, and it is on democracy that everything else depends.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
In a minute, but not now.
People fought and died for the right to govern themselves, and everything else depends on that, including the economic arguments. I urge the British people to consider the consequences for future generations if we get this wrong and vote to stay in the European Union. As a result of successive leaderships since 1972, we have given away more and more of our powers to govern ourselves.
If I may say so, I predicted the consequences of that in a book in 1990, at the time of the Maastricht treaty. I said there would be protests and riots throughout Europe, and massive unemployment. I said there would be recession and waves of immigration. I said there would be breaches of the rule of law and the rise of the far right. I was concerned about those things then and I remain concerned about them now. The direction in which the European Union is being taken is putting the United Kingdom—our voters, our people—in the second tier of a two-tier Europe dominated increasingly, through the eurozone, by the excessive economic nationalism of the German system of economic government.
Members must bear in mind that the consequences of the single market are demonstrated by what I said earlier in an intervention: we run a trade deficit, or loss, with the other 27 member states of £67.8 billion a year. That has gone up by £10 billion in the past year alone. Our trade surplus with the rest of the world has gone up by about £10 billion in this year alone to £31 billion. European growth is going down—that is the trajectory of our capacity to have growth and jobs for the young people of this country. In Europe as a whole, youth unemployment in certain countries is as much as 60%. That is a complete disgrace.
In contrast, the German trade surplus with the same 27 member states is running at £81.8 billion and has gone up by as much as £18 billion in the past year alone. That trajectory is what the third-rate so-called economists are ignoring. They are the ones who got it wrong over and over and over again: they got it wrong over Maastricht, they got it wrong over the euro and they got it wrong over the exchange rate mechanism. I listened to the absolutely absurd nostalgic nonsense of the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg). It is evident that those who got it wrong are trying yet again to mislead people.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, not least because we might have the opportunity to get answers to some important questions. He will be aware that when the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) was asked about the impact on the economy in GDP of Brexit, his answer was, “We don’t know.” He will also be aware that when Diane James, a UKIP MEP, was asked whether visas would be required, the answer was, “We don’t know.” Given that the answer to every question posed to the leave campaign is, “We don’t know”, perhaps the hon. Gentleman could answer these questions now.
Order. We need to have short interventions, not speeches. That was longer than five minutes!
I can say that I do know. I know because I look at the facts as they are now. The facts I have just given demonstrate that inside the single market we run a monumental trade deficit, while we have an enormous and growing trade surplus with the rest of the world. That surplus is the future. That is the vision. That is the means by which we will get jobs and ensure the future of our children and our grandchildren.
To conclude, it is very simple: this is about who governs us. If we get this wrong, we will not be able to organise and establish a democracy in this country, which is what people fought and died for in not just one world war but two.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will give way one last time.
I appreciate the loss that my hon. Friend’s family suffered in the second world war. My family suffered too, and I have had the privilege to wear the Queen’s uniform and fight for the peace we enjoy today. When I see the division and the spreading of hatred and virulent anti-foreign messages by some people in our country, I wonder whether they are really talking about peace or just stirring the pot.
I simply say to my hon. Friend that there is one person who has never, ever done that: me.
I am glad my hon. Friend acknowledges that. I do believe in peace. I do believe in good relations. What really troubles me, however, is that the majority voting system and the decisions taken behind closed doors are so manifestly undemocratic that they are completely impossible to justify. It has become a kind of dictatorship behind closed doors. We in this House make our decisions based on speeches and votes that are made in public and reported. We are held accountable. That is not the case in the European Union. If we give that up on 23 June, I say to my hon. Friend and to all hon. Members that they will live to regret it. This is about democracy above all else.
I want to bring the debate to the local level and address some of the concerns that ordinary people are grappling with in making a decision on what to do on the EU. Many people in my constituency over the past few weeks have said to me that they feel angry. They feel that their city has suffered most because of the global recession and the downturn after the banking crisis. We have seen a lot of cuts to our public services. We have had the botched NHS reorganisation and people are having to wait longer in A&E. People have concerns about immigration, and the slogans the Government use about the northern powerhouse are not followed through with any action.
What worries me is the idea being put about that leaving the EU is some kind of panacea, and that somehow, magically, all those issues will suddenly disappear on 23 June if people vote to leave the EU. There are four very clear, self-interested reasons why my city of Hull, a proud trading city, should vote to remain in the EU. They are based on the economic benefits of being in the EU.
First, Siemens recently invested £310 million in building a wind turbine manufacturing factory in Hull. One thousand jobs will serve the work that DONG is doing in the largest offshore wind turbine farm off the east coast, creating another 2,000 jobs. Siemens states:
“Siemens believes that being part of the EU is good for UK jobs and prosperity and we have concerns about the possible effects of a vote to leave. We see the main benefits of EU membership as: tariff-free access to the UK’s biggest export market; a common set of rules between 28 countries that reduce business costs; and access for British businesses and universities to EU-wide innovation and research initiatives, which are helping to shape the industries of the future. These advantages help to make Britain a better place to do business, not just for Siemens, but for companies across our supply chain and beyond.”
Secondly, caravans are manufactured in east Yorkshire. The Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200 found that exports to Holland and Germany had increased by 21% in the past year, because their market is open and available to us.
Thirdly, on pharmaceuticals, Hull is the home of Smith & Nephew and Reckitt Benckiser. Deloitte has said that if we leave the EU there is a real risk to the UK pharmaceutical industry. At the moment, we have access to £8.5 billion of research, which would not be open to us if we left. We also have access to the innovative medicines initiative, which again will not be open to us if we leave the EU.
Fourthly, I want to say something about the university. Hull University employs 2,500 staff, with 1,000 in academic and research posts. It has received £12 million of direct EU funding in recent years, which is part of the £200 million of EU-funded research available to British universities. The vice-chancellor of Hull University states:
“There is a huge value in being at the EU table. If you are in the club, you get the chance to shape the research programme. If we weren’t in the club, we wouldn’t have that opportunity.”
In the end, in this referendum, the power is with the people, not Members of Parliament, but the last thing my constituents need is a home-grown, self-inflicted recession and years of uncertainty and instability, and we know that the effect of recession will be felt much more strongly in places such as Hull than in Surrey Heath or Uxbridge. The UK will struggle to renegotiate a trading relationship with the EU, and I am sure we will find we still have to contribute to the EU budget and accept the free movement of labour—an issue about which many people have genuine concerns—while having no say in shaping the EU’s future direction on that and many other issues. Whatever happens on 23 June, I will keep fighting for Hull, exactly as I have done up to now. I ask that Hull electors bear in mind the fact that if they choose to leave the EU, it will make the task of standing up for the city even harder.
I want to make a short contribution about the effect of the EU on the economic viability of our fishing industry and to congratulate the fishermen who have taken part in the flotilla on the Thames today to make sure we hear where they stand.
Our fishing industry is a ghost of its former self. Before we joined the EU, we had a successful, viable fishing industry all around the coast. I remember seeing fishing boats in south-east Cornwall moored three or four deep along the quayside. I do not see that today. Although fishing is no longer the largest employer in Looe—tourism is—people come to traditional fishing towns and expect to see fish being landed. A highlight they often mention is tasting fish and chips from one of the award-winning restaurants or buying fresh catch from fishmongers such as Pengelly’s in Looe. Where would tourism be without our fishing?
In 1971, just before we joined the EU, we had a thriving fishing industry bringing home millions of tonnes of fish and directly employing over 21,000 people. Last year, it caught about 600,000 tonnes and employed under 12,000 fishermen. According to a report co-ordinated by the New Economics Foundation, there was a 12% fall in the number of fishermen between 2003 and 2013. My late husband, Neil, was one such fisherman. He was forced to fish alone on his boat as a result of economic pressures arising from reducing quotas while still trying to meet the costs of increasing insurance, harbour dues and landing charges, not to mention repair costs and gear replacement.
The report attributes the decreasing employment to a decline in the number of vessels owing to the forced scrapping imposed by successive Governments to meet the artificial targets from the European Commission and to vessels investing in new technology—the latter might be true for larger vessels, operating with several deckhands, but is certainly not the case for small fishermen like Neil. It was a simple economic decision taken because he often could not land and sell the fish that swam into his net. The report also says that the trend of declining numbers of fishing vessels and fishermen is likely to continue.
The report does not mention the declining fish quotas that the EU sets each year. Haddock is just one example. The UK gets 10% of the total allowable catch, while France gets 70%, and the same applies to many other species in many other areas. Would hon. Members go into a bank alongside a French person, each of them with a bundle of notes to the value of £70, and throw £60 into the wastepaper bin, while the French person invests it all? That is effectively what fishermen in Looe are being forced to do today because of the quota share-out agreed by the EU in 1983 known as “relative stability”.
Everyone in the House knows the sad story of my hon. Friend’s husband. How much increased capacity would the fishermen of Looe get were we to leave the EU?
My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I will come to it in a moment.
I will not get into arguments with those who want to remain, further sacrifice this great industry and abandon the economic wellbeing of our coastal fishing towns, which would be disproportionately affected. I cannot say that Neil died as a result of the common fisheries policy, but I can say that it contributed to the economic pressure he felt when deciding to fish alone. We talked about it and decided that it was better that he work alone in less rough water than work in storms to provide for two families.
I say we throw our fishermen a lifeline. Our Fisheries Minister has been to Brussels and seen for himself how little he can deliver through horse trading in the Council of Ministers over proposals put forward by the unelected European Commission. I say, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), that if we vote to leave, the Minister could make the decisions that apply to fishermen in the UK’s 200-mile median line limit.
As someone who has lived and breathed the UK fishing industry for 30 years, I say there are no economic benefits to UK fishermen from EU membership. About 92% of UK fishermen are calling for the UK to leave. I say we throw them a lifeline, vote to leave and take back control of our 200-mile line—80% of the total EU pond. We would not necessarily have to say to member states, “You can’t come and fish in our waters”, but it would be on our terms, not those arising from horse trading among 28 states sitting around the EU table debating proposals from the unelected, appointed, bureaucratic European Commission in Brussels.
Back in 1979, I was among the first elected Members of the European Parliament, and I supported withdrawal from the Common Market. Those were the days of wine lakes and butter mountains and an out-of-control common agricultural policy subsidising overproduction and dumping on world markets. It was some years before the development of the social chapter introduced legislation on workers’ rights and equality, and there was no European environment policy.
After several years working with colleagues from all the other countries in the European Parliament, I came to a different conclusion. On 19 February 1982, I wrote an article in the New Statesman headed, “Why I changed my mind on the Common Market”. This year, I have written another article, again in the New Statesman, explaining why I still support remaining in the EU. The arguments I made then are still true. Then, as now, our socialist and social democratic colleagues in the European Parliament urge us to remain and work with them for a better future for jobs, security and workers’ rights.
One of the concerns I had then was about European action to save the steel industry. Today we are still battling to save the steel industry, particularly in Wales, but it is important for workers in multinational companies to have information about management plans for closures or mergers, and European legislation has helped to improve these rights to information. While none of us would claim that the EU is perfect—and it is not unique in that—peace, jobs, workers’ and consumers’ rights, the European social model and the environment are safer if we stand together as constructive members of the EU.
My party has always been a party of internationalists, but Brexiteers would swiftly make a bonfire of hard-won rights if we left. They consider four weeks’ holiday, maternity and paternity leave, equality and health and safety legislation, temporary workers’ rights and much more to be so much red tape to be dispensed with. Standing up to globalisation alone is a pipe dream; it requires nations to co-operate. Likewise, the pressures of immigration will not fade if we go it alone. We live in difficult times when many people are feeling discontented. To help combat that, the way forward for Britain is to continue to work with the EU for more reforms.
We see reforming and modernising the EU in solidarity with continental socialists and social democrats as an ongoing process. Do those who advocate developing hundreds of individual trade deals with countries large and small really expect to achieve more than can be achieved as part of the world’s largest trading bloc? Would the Brexiteers achieve better terms in the TTIP negotiations than the EU can with strong pressure from directly elected MPs in the European Parliament and strong member states to ensure protection from rampant multinationals? I doubt it. We in Britain benefit enormously from European co-operation funding for research, regional development, cultural projects and, yes, agricultural support, as well as from peace and free trade. The EU has always been at the forefront of working to protect human rights in the world.
In Wales, EU countries buy 41% of our exports, which is worth £5 billion a year to us. Companies invest here precisely because we are in the EU, giving them direct access to the largest single market in the world. If we leave, we would soon see our big firms switching their investment to continental Europe, with the loss of thousands of jobs here.
In 2016, I still believe that we are better together. Those who will be celebrating if we leave the EU include such unsavoury characters as Putin, Trump, Farage and a bunch of climate change deniers, who have no intention of working towards a better future for the most vulnerable in our society. For prosperity and collective security, and if we want an economy and society that work for all, not just for the few, I stand by my belief that we are better off remaining in the EU.
The fact of the matter is that this referendum would not be useful exercise if we were not a sovereign nation, because we would be unable to implement the outcome. That proves that we are sovereign—the questions are what we do with our sovereignty; what we do to influence our neighbours; and what we do to advance our national interest. Because we are a vibrant, ambitious and decent society, we have to do that within the European Union, as I will explain. It is about the future; it is not some blast to the past. It means this country thinking about what we do for our people beyond today.
Let us take trade; we have heard a lot about it today. We export twice as much to the Netherlands as we do to China. That is a fact. Why does it matter and what does the European Union provide for us? It provides a huge pool of wealth. It is the world’s largest single market, not just in its activity but in its value. It is nearly twice the size of China, yet some are thinking of leaving it. That would be madness, because the people we trade with most are the people who are most like us and who will benefit most from us as well. That is the trade argument.
Then we come to investment. In my constituency—and I bet in most other Members’ constituencies—there are examples of powerful intervention from the European Union through investors. That matters, and 48% of our foreign direct investment comes from the European Union. What does that equal? It equals jobs and it equals rising wages and opportunities for our young people.
That brings me on to the issue of our universities and young people’s opportunities to develop careers after they have been to university, not to mention the importance of opportunities for young people who do not want to go to university. The fact remains that the opportunities open to them by moving around Europe are immense, and it is vibrant for them and great for our economy. Do we want our young people to be stuck here when others are thriving somewhere else?
That brings me on to migration. It is a two-way street. We must remember that. There are just as many people coming here to help us with our skills as there are people going from here to there to make money for this economy. There are nearly 2 million Britons working or living in the European Union, benefiting from the opportunities with which being in the single market provides them.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the majority of EU citizens coming to this country come here to work hard, pay their taxes and better their and their families’ lives—and that the majority are not here to scrounge?
Absolutely. Some factories in my constituency could not do as much as they do without the sort of skills that they can get from the European Union. My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that.
The hon. Gentleman is making a fantastic speech. Does he agree that in some quarters, this referendum has been allowed to descend into a pseudo-referendum about immigration and that for the remain side to win, we need to show leadership over the next week and bring forward a positive case for remaining in Europe; and that we should shoot the right-wing Brexit fox that is scaremongering about immigration?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I was coming on to leadership, but I will tackle the issue now. The European Union has benefited from Britain’s membership countless times in the past. It was the British Government who drove through the single market. It was the British Government who ensured that a country like Poland could come into Europe and benefit from all its opportunities. We should not forget that when I was born, that country was based within the empire of the Soviet Union—a place where liberal democracy was non-existent and where growth and economic opportunity could not take place. Yet we have managed to get that country into a position of being totally democratic and absolutely robust in its economy. That drives a coach and horses through the argument of anyone who says that being in the European Union is somehow undemocratic or a challenge to democracy. The reality is that, when Britain shows leadership, as we have in the past, it has been good for Europe and, obviously, also good for us.
When we win this referendum campaign—I certainly hope that we do—we need to focus on the positive case. It is not a question of sniping from the sidelines; we need to get involved, set the agenda, work with our allies and ensure that the people we represent can continue to benefit from the good things that the European Union has brought.
On that point, will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I am afraid not. I am running out of time.
All organisations need to be reformed. The other day, I was told to move my car for a reason that I have still not understood. This House needs to reform; all organisations need reform—and the European Union is no exception. The key thing is that we are the ones to drive those reforms. We are the ones who should be constructing the alliances to push through the kind of Europe that we want—one that is competitive, that recognises freedom and that is at the heart of promoting liberal democracy, not just within the EU but beyond it.
The question of international impact must also be borne in mind. Europe is the world’s largest single market, but it is also a place of huge influence in the world. We in Britain want to be part of that. We want to shape and develop that influence. That is why every single US President has told us, in one way or another, that we should be a member of the European Union. That is why every single Commonwealth leader has told us that we should be in the European Union. The only two country leaders that I can think of who are casting some doubt on this matter are those of North Korea and the Russian Federation. If that is the supporter group of the leave campaign, I am staying!
It is essential to make the positive case. We must do so not from an apologetic position or as a result of some tepid hope; we should do so out of ambition for our country and our young people. They need to know what we really believe—that by participating internationally with a clear agenda and a determination to turn away from narrow-mindedness and the concerns of little groups of people, we can instead think big and be big. With that drive behind us, this country has the capacity for an exciting future ahead.
I will begin by echoing what the shadow Chancellor said about the rights that the working people of our country have as a result of our membership of the European Union. I am delighted to see the Labour party leadership making a strong, positive case for Labour people to remain in the European Union for strong Labour reasons—but not just for Labour reasons, because remaining in the EU is in the best interests of everyone in our country.
I want to speak directly to my constituents today. I want to speak to them about what they care about, what I care about, what they have sent me here to do for the last three general elections, and why they have done so. First, I want to acknowledge the confusion, the anxiety and even the anger that my constituents will feel about the European Union. I understand that anger, and I understand that frustration, because for more than 25 years my constituents, like those in the rest of the country, have listened to incredible, outrageous lies—damned lies—about the European Union and our place in it, from talk of straight bananas to any number of invented stupidities.
People like me who believe in the benefits to our country of our membership of the European Union are largely to blame for that. We have never taken it on; we have never called it out. We have rolled our eyes, we have shrugged our shoulders, and we have been shy about taking on the lies. Now we are seemingly paying the price, but it will be constituencies like mine, and communities like the one that I represent, that will overwhelmingly suffer the most if we vote to leave the European Union.
There are specific issues that will be of profound concern to the people of Copeland, west Cumbria and Cumbria as a whole if we vote to leave the EU—our local NHS; our economic future, particularly the nuclear industry; our security; and our environment. I shall deal with them all in turn.
My hon. Friend is speaking with characteristic eloquence about the north-west. Will he explain further why we must pay attention to the parts of our country that are geographically furthest away from metropolitan centres?
In an ever more globalised world and economic marketplace, we absolutely must pay special attention to those peripheral communities, which have contributed so much to the economic strength of our country over many decades, particularly since the end of the second world war, but which have been—deliberately, I have to say, as a result of policy—marginalised and ignored for too long. I have to say, too, that whatever happens in respect of this referendum, the country has changed, fundamentally and permanently, as a result of that policy. The situation in the north-west, the north-east, the south-west and other peripheral economies in the United Kingdom, but particularly in England, must form a pivotal part of the national conversation in future.
Alongside my constituents, I have campaigned for years to protect local health services, including those at West Cumberland hospital, in our local community hospitals, in our general practices and dental practices. We have built a new hospital in Whitehaven and a new health centre in Cleator Moor, and we are improving and expanding the health service in the cottage hospitals in Millom and Keswick, but enormous challenges remain. At the heart of our NHS difficulties are the policies of the Conservative Government, who deprive our community of the necessary resources, investment and recruitment. It is absolutely clear that the economic damage that would be done to our country if we left the EU would be felt throughout the NHS in Cumbria. Make no mistake: an already intolerable situation would become worse. The Conservative Government would have every excuse it could ever want to cut, slash and burn local health services in a way that we have never seen before.
As for our economic future, I have spent more than 10 years on the project to build a new nuclear power station at Moorside, in my community. That has involved writing new nuclear policy with the No. 10 policy unit in 2005, ensuring that my community was chosen as a new nuclear development site—which was never automatic —and attracting NuGen to our area as a power station developer. The project represents the single largest private sector investment that my community has ever seen—more than £20 billion—and thousands of jobs. That is investment that we need, want, deserve and have earned.
I want my constituents to think long and hard about this during the time that remains before the referendum. The United States is pleading with us to stay in the European Union, the Japanese are pleading with us to stay, and France is pleading with us to stay. NuGen, the company that is responsible for the investment in that project, is a consortium of American, Japanese and French companies. I urge my constituents to “do the math”. Brexit would undoubtedly increase the risks to the project, not just because of the financial turmoil that it would create, but because of the damage that it would do to the EU and France in particular. There are potentially profound implications for the Hinkley Point C project as well. So I say to my constituents, “Stick with our plan, stay on course with our project, do not squander more than a decade of work, and do not risk our future.”
Then there is the security issue. Brexit would undoubtedly make us less safe and less secure. With the United Kingdom out of the European Union and with the EU shrinking, contracting and weaker as a result, we will cause profound damage to NATO. What message will that send to an increasingly belligerent and expansionist Russia? Brexit could give no greater encouragement to Vladimir Putin. This is not “Project Fear”, but “Project Fact”. When I went to Chicago recently as part of the delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, we were told by the former United States ambassador to NATO that Brexit represented
“the greatest threat to the security of the United States, the European Union and the NATO area.”
Finally, let me deal with the environment. My constituency takes an uncommon pride in its natural environment: we have England’s highest mountain and lake, and some of the best beaches in the country. The European Union has helped to deliver massive improvements in our natural habitats, all of which are visited by thousands of tourists from the EU who contribute to our economy every year. Moreover, the EU paid attention to the Sellafield clean-up before the United Kingdom did.
My constituency is special, my constituents are special and we are creating something special. A vote for Brexit would threaten it all.
A few moments ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) made a passionate and magnificent speech in support of our membership of the European Union. He and I have been on the same side on this matter for many years, and I endorse every word that he said.
Let me begin by referring, like the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr Reed), to matters that particularly affect my constituents. The largest employment sector in Bromley and Chislehurst, in Greater London, is its business and financial services sector. According to the Office for National Statistics business and employment survey, 32.4% of my constituents and their families work in that sector. It is critical to their local economy—and that is leaving aside all the jobs in the supply chain that result from the income that it provides. It is crucial to the London economy, which benefits the whole of the United Kingdom. Leaving the European Union would, without question, damage the interests of the financial services industry, in which Britain is a world leader. This is an issue in which I have taken some interest in my capacity as secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on wholesale financial markets and services.
We have a winner here, and we have an opportunity not just to make it survive, but to make it better and stronger in a reformed European Union. That is why, when I intervened on the Foreign Secretary’s speech, I wanted to stress the importance of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation achievements. There were two key achievements. First, there was the commitment that British financial firms based here in the UK, and therefore outside the eurozone—of which we will never be members: we will never be subject to its internal governance rules or their bail-outs—will none the less have the significant advantage of being able to trade freely within the eurozone and the rest of the single market. That puts us in a unique position which no other free trade agreement replicates.
If we add to that the commitment in that renegotiation to completion of the capital markets union, that gives us a double opportunity to push forward in this area, at which we excel. It would be lunacy to walk away from that opportunity. Of course the Prime Minister is right to say we could survive outside the EU; London and the financial services industry, and my constituents, would survive, but I believe there is a real risk that they would be impoverished and I see nothing patriotic in running the risk of impoverishing my constituents or the people of this country.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech and makes an important point about patriotism. Does he agree that key to Britain’s national security is our economic security, and at a time when as a nation we are still borrowing as a nation more than the entire defence budget we need every single penny of public revenue to ensure our economy is strong, our finances are strong and our country is strong?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The economic interest is a national strategic interest of the United Kingdom. It is a damaging thing to this country for anyone to put that at risk; there is nothing patriotic in that.
So far I can agree with what the hon. Gentleman says, but some of us can remember the 1975 referendum, and the reality is that the options put to us by those who want to opt out were looked at then—trading with EFTA and the Commonwealth countries. The reasons why Harold Wilson thought we should go into Europe are there for all to see.
I would not like to speculate as to the motives of those who, sometimes from genuine belief, but maybe sometimes from cynicism, want this country to leave the EU. The hon. Gentleman is right, however, that the issue was debated then. He and I can remember it—we both voted in that referendum, I suspect. Of course the EU needs reform, as everybody has said, but any businessperson will tell us, “You don’t walk away from a major market that you’re in just because it isn’t perfect; you stay in there, you negotiate your trade and you make the market work better for you.” That is basic common sense, and frankly I am amazed and mystified that some people who really ought to know better cannot get that.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I have been generous in giving way so far and I am conscious that others want to speak. I hope my hon. Friend will forgive me, because I know he will speak later.
Given the position that we have of that double success for the City of London, it would be a tragedy—a criminal thing, virtually—for this country to turn away. The financial services industry, as well as being a key UK asset and part of our national strategic interest, is not just about people in the City of London and those working in banks, insurance and offices. A successful financial services sector affects every family in this country. It affects every pension fund. It affects the pensions of millions of people, whatever their income situation or previous position in life. To put that at risk is not to damage just that industry, but to damage the whole population of this country. It damages the revenue stream, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) just said, that underpins our public services. I am sorry to have to say this to some of my friends who I know genuinely believe otherwise, but it will be a profoundly unpatriotic thing to leave the EU.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
One last time.
My hon. Friend is making a passionate speech about various areas of the economy. Has he considered how leaving the EU might affect manufacturing industries, including a company in my constituency that has today told me that it has written to its employees to implore them to vote to remain?
I am sure my hon. Friend is right. I too have manufacturers in my constituency. Every sector of the British economy will be damaged by Brexit. Uncertainty damages business. Economic uncertainty damages business and so does legal uncertainty, which, as a final point, makes me all the more amazed to see some people who ought to know better suggesting that somehow we could introduce some emergency legislation to circumvent the rules laid down in article 50 of the treaty were this country, regrettably, to decide to leave. That would be a breach of law. It would involve the UK being suspended from the EU, losing the protections the EU gives to our businesses and turning 200 years of British constitutional practice, whereby this country has never unilaterally abrogated a treaty we have entered into, on its head.
It would be a scandal to ask this House to do that, and I say now that I, for one, would never vote for it. But I want to make sure first of all that we never get into that situation. We need to make the positive case for why this country is better economically, socially and, I suggest, morally for being in the European Union—because ultimately we are a broader-minded, a broader-looking, a happier, a more diverse nation as a result of our membership, and I do not want the likes of the vile creature who leads UKIP to drag this country backwards.
I rise to support the motion because, first, coming out of the EU defies all the logic of our emerging global economy. If we look around the world, we see that the emerging global economic superpowers are China—which might well overtake the USA as the major economic power in the world in the next 20 years—India and Brazil. As the former Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, I visited Brazil and China to see how our businesses were faring in those countries. Some were doing very well. JCB had opened a joint venture company in Brazil and GKN had a joint venture company in China. The reason they were opening those companies was that the tariff barriers were too high for them to export from their British manufacturing bases into those markets.
We must be realistic about this. If we were to come out of the EU and try to expand our exports to those countries, we would be expanding into countries that are, quite justifiably and understandably, ruthlessly self-interested in what they need to do to develop their own standard of living. The idea that, on coming out of the EU, we could somehow make up for the deficit in our exports to the EU by expanding our trade into those developing countries is, frankly, a fantasy. The fact is that there is nothing we could do afterwards that we are not doing now, and there would be no compensatory boost in exports to those countries after coming out of the EU.
My constituency in the west midlands offers a supreme example of the benefits of globalisation and the international movement of capital. If we go back 10 or 15 years, the car industry—which for donkey’s years had been the mainstay of local manufacturing—was in a terrible state. Since then, however, there has been investment in the motor industry there, which has been mirrored in other parts of the country.
My hon. Friend mentioned the motorcar industry. Twenty to 25 years ago, Coventry companies such as Massey Ferguson, British Leyland and Standard were household names. That is why it is vital that we remain in Europe, in order to further develop the recovery of manufacturing in the west midlands.
Absolutely. My hon. Friend’s experience echoes my own on the other side of the midlands economy.
The fact is that investment, particularly by Tata in Jaguar Land Rover, has transformed the manufacturing economy in my constituency and the surrounding constituencies. We now have the new i54 development, which is a supreme example of what new investment in modern motor manufacturing can do. As a result of that, the local supply chain has been rejuvenated.
We have problems, however. My constituency has more foundries than any other in the country, and they form a vital part of the supply chain that underpins our ability to produce high quality cars and superb manufacturing exports, but they have skills shortages and an ageing workforce. However, they have been helped by the recruitment of skilled workers from eastern Europe through the EU. The companies involved tell me that without those workers, their ability to meet the demands placed on them by the cutting-edge technology that we are producing to expand our manufacturing exports would be hampered and jeopardised.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the policy of vote leave is that, when we leave the EU, we will stop all unskilled migration into this country? Does he think that that is even remotely credible?
No. Unfortunately, however, I do not have time to address all the issues that would arise from the leave campaign’s immigration policy, or lack of it. I need to focus on the relevance of these arguments to my constituency.
The fact is that without those workers, our ability to sustain this country’s cutting-edge manufacturing capacity would be lost. I would be the first to agree that we should be pioneering better skills, apprenticeships and so on, and I am glad that the industry is looking at that, but it does not have the capacity to recruit those workers at the moment. If those in the leave campaign were to carry out the promises they have made on migration, there would be a real prospect that those companies would be starved of the skills they need, and it could well lead to unemployment among the long-standing indigenous population who have worked in those industries.
As I do have a few moments left, I will address some of the wider issues raised by those in the leave campaign’s migration policy. Andrew Neil got out of Nigel Farage eventually the idea that they would try to reduce net migration figures to 50,000. They then deploy a seductive argument that if they stopped migration from Europe, they could have more from the non-EU countries, which I think is a pitch to our ethnic minority population, without it having an impact on our skills base in this country. The fact is that the sort of figures being quoted by the leave campaign, and by Nigel Farage in particular, would mean there would be no way we could recruit the levels of staff needed both for the manufacturing industries, which we have in my constituency, and the service industries, particularly the care industry, which have been highlighted by one or two Members today. Those in the leave campaign are raising a particular issue to try to inflame local public opinion, but then peddling only a bogus solution. We have one week to expose that and demonstrate to people that their interests are within the EU and in sustaining our current economic and manufacturing base.
It is a great pleasure to see you in your place, Madam Deputy Speaker. Over the next few days, we will make the final arguments on the question that will decide the future of not only our country, but our continent. We will be asking ourselves not only who we are, but what we wish to become. Whatever answer the people of the United Kingdom give us, it will be for us here in this House to apply that decision in the best interests of our whole nation. Like many on these Benches, I have made my views known. I have spoken out for what I believe in and for what I believe to be in the best interests of my community in west Kent and the whole nation. I have fought for this country and despite some of the comments I have heard, I will not be silenced when speaking in its interest.
I recognise that today, no matter what we say, it is no longer Parliament that is sovereign—it is the people, as it rightly should be. Whatever is decided in the ballot next week, that decision will be final—50% plus one vote will carry the day. To argue otherwise would be to threaten the fabric of our political settlement and undermine the legitimacy of this House. I urge all Members to remember that in the days after the referendum and not to question the integrity or intelligence of the British people in having expressed their opinion. What may follow is less certain, but, as we used to say, it will be our job to receive our orders, gain height, turn to the right and carry on.
Of course that does not mean we have to wait to be ready. On the contrary, we should be thinking, even now, about what an in vote or an out vote would mean for Britain.
The EU’s bureaucracy and regulations have reduced the number of fishing boats in Portavogie in my constituency from 130 to 70. Six major processing factories have closed in Portavogie and jobs have been lost—young people are drifting away from the sea. The EU has devastated the fishing sector in my constituency. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if we want to ensure the re-emergence of the fishing sector in the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we have to be out of the EU? For that to happen, we have to vote no and leave Europe.
The hon. Gentleman speaks well for his constituency, but the Member who represents Menai may talk about Menai Oysters and Mussels, which sells most of its catch to Europe and would probably wish to stay in the EU. Even in one industry, there is no single answer, and it is worth listening to the debate of the whole House and to all the people of this United Kingdom, rather than just one pressure group. Of course that does not mean that we have to wait to be ready. As I said earlier, we need to get ready.
The change in the stock market over the past few days has shown that Europe affects not only the fishing industry—for the better in some ways and for the worse in others—but investment in our entire island. Today, people are looking at us and wondering what the future holds.
I wish to make some progress.
People are understandably concerned that the factors that led them to put money into our businesses may not last. The interconnected market, the skills base and the global trading agreements are not as permanent as they once thought; they are not even as permanent as they looked a few days ago. The implications and the consequences for us are very severe. Some have begun to doubt us, but they are wrong. Britain is a powerful and growing economy, and despite the undoubted hiatus that would follow a Brexit, we will recover. Indeed, for the markets, we will once again become a safe haven, but only by comparison with our neighbours. The implication that the Europe Union could disintegrate is worrying.
Let us be under no illusion as to why the option to leave the EU is bad for Britain. It is not, as some have sadly claimed, because Britain is too small. It is not because we cannot survive in a globalised world—it is clear that we are better connected and better integrated with the global economy than many other nations. No, it is because we are the economic leaders of a continent of more than 500 million people who are crying out for that very leadership and the very reforms that we offer.
Will my hon. Friend give way.
I will make a little progress if I may.
It is worth remembering that this House has shaped the leadership of Europe. We have already achieved two very significant reforms. First, Britain, under the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, steered the competing economies of Europe into a single market. She achieved that against pressure from many other member states. She did so to extend what Britain needed then and what it needs now: economic relationships that endure across the continent. The result was a huge boost to the economy. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), who is no longer in his place, for what he did as a member of the Cabinet that took us into the single market. I also recognise the work of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who is also not in his place, as he helped us to achieve the lowest debt levels in a century.
Secondly, we have extended the boundaries of European co-operation to the borders of Russia. This may seem obvious now, but when I was growing up during the cold war, the challenge of uniting a continent seemed extraordinary. Now so obviously one nation and at peace with her neighbours, Germany was not always so, and many opposed the unity that was achieved. The inclusion of Estonia—I had the privilege of serving with Estonian troops in Afghanistan—Lithuania and Latvia shows what inclusion can achieve in the service of peace.
I know that my hon. Friend is a busy man, so I do not know whether he has seen General Smith’s comments in today’s media about the importance of and need for co-operation and partnership. It is a compelling case that underlines the point that my hon. Friend is making.
General Smith is one of the great strategists of our generation. His book “The Utility of Force” is well worth reading.
Britain played an essential role, but it did so not just for ourselves or for others. It did so because shared wealth is good for us all. We prosper when our partners prosper, we are strengthened when our friends are strong, and we achieve peace when our friends are at peace. Therefore, whether we stay or go, we must have a plan.
Our allies around the world—in the middle east, South America, the far east and the United States of America—have invested fortunes through our markets, billions in our industries, and decades in our friendship. They need to know that our promises count and mean something. They need to know that our agreements will endure. They need to know that if we vote out, we are not turning our back on the world, because it will look to them as though we are.
Whatever happens, I urge Her Majesty’s Government to commit to investing heavily in the Foreign Office over the next few years, because the trouble that we have caused our friends and allies in this very debate and the doubt that we have sown across the world are so serious that our markets are struggling, and we need messengers of hope and praise to go to our friends’ capitals to reassure them. Too often we have ignored our allies, and too often we have laughed at our friends. We must move on. I have heard many people talk about patriotism. Today, I say that I am a patriot, but this is my land here and it extends beyond the sea and beyond the cliffs. This is our continent and we must lead it.
History shows what happens when this country turns its back and stops engaging with Europe. That is why most of the world and many experts are asking us to remain where we are. Those who say that we must look to the world as well as to the EU are correct and I agree with them, but we should do that as part of the biggest and richest single market in the world. If the rest of the world is telling us that we can best deal with the rest of the world by being in the EU, we should listen. The USA, China, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the whole Commonwealth have said that we should remain where we are. Not one country has come out and asked us to leave the EU. Only Russia and North Korea might want us to do that.
World economic forums such as the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation all say the same. Unite, the GMB, the CBI and the National Farmers Union say we should remain where we are. NATO says we should remain where we are, as do universities and 90% of scientists. The Royal College of Midwives says the same thing. Even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says, “Stay where you are.” If the coalition telling us to remain where we are stretches from the world’s superpowers to the local birdwatcher, we should listen to what they have to say.
I want to say a few words about the north-east of England and the con that the leave campaign is perpetrating on people not just in the north-east, but across the country. The north-east is a net beneficiary of EU grants and subsidies that help to train our young people for work and fund small businesses, our universities and agriculture, helping our economy to grow. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on Monday that leaving the EU would put the northern powerhouse at risk. Between now and 2020 the north-east is due to receive about £800 million from the European Union.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the north-east of England has benefited tremendously from inward investment, of which the most successful recent example is Hitachi in County Durham? I pay tribute to him for his role in securing 700 well-paid jobs building trains not just for the UK market, but for Europe.
My hon. Friend is right. Hitachi has come to the north-east of England for two reasons: it has an excellent workforce and is the gateway to Europe. We know that its business model for that investment— £82 million in Newton Aycliffe in my constituency—was predicated on the fact that we are part of the EU. Those who support the leave campaign say that we should not worry about losing the £800 million that we would get from the EU because they will find the money themselves.
My constituency, like that of my hon. Friend, benefits tremendously from European social fund money. Does he agree that it is not credible for the leave campaign simply to say one day, “We will replace that money,” without any sense of where it will get it from?
My hon. Friend makes a good point, which I shall expand on during my speech.
The leave campaign says that it will pick up the tab after 23 June if we vote to come out of the EU. I say to the people in the north-east, “Don’t listen to those people. They can’t do it. It’s the biggest con ever.” First of all, they are not the Government. Secondly, they have already committed to spending the money that we contribute to the EU many times over. Thirdly, the people making those comments are Conservative politicians who for years said that there was no money available, but they have now suddenly discovered a magic money tree. Like all things to do with magic, it is an illusion. Don’t fall for it. It is what it is—an illusion.
The leave campaign is spraying spending commitments around as if there were no tomorrow. Perhaps if we leave the EU, there will be no tomorrow. The campaign’s analysis shows the figures involved. It has committed to building more hospitals, providing more school places, and more spending on science, regional airports, improving railways, more housing, more this, more that, and the list goes on and on. The cost is over £100 billion— £100 billion it does not have. So now we know: as of today, we can honestly say that the campaigners who want to leave the EU are perpetrating the biggest con trick ever on the north-east. I say to the people of the north-east, “Don’t be conned by the leave campaign’s fantasy economics.”
I must admit that I fear for the future of our region, where I have lived all my life, if we do leave the EU. Over 50% of the north-east’s trade is with Europe, and that provides more than 100,000 jobs. Those two facts alone should make people think twice about leaving. If they do think twice, and if uncertainty sets in, they should vote to remain. They should not be conned into believing that a land of milk and honey awaits us on 24 June, the day after the referendum, because it does not.
I want to say this to the people of the north-east, “Do you really believe that the people who want to leave, such as the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), who gave us the bedroom tax and food banks, and the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, who said that the NHS needs to be dismantled, have the best interests of the north-east, and especially Labour voters, at heart?” I do not believe they do. They are very well off, and they will remain well off whether we vote to remain or to leave. I say to the people of the north-east: don’t be conned—vote to remain.
I enter the debate with a certain amount of trepidation, especially after the powerful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat).
The reason I will be voting to remain is that, frankly, I do not trust the Germans and the French to run Europe without us there to keep a close eye on them. Over the last 16 years—as the parliamentary candidate for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and, more recently, as its Member of Parliament—I have always sought to take a realistic Euro-view. I am not Euro-suicidal; we should make sure that this thing works for us and that we get as much as we can out of it. However, if there is a downturn in our economy, which appears likely should we come out, any action on the issue I have campaigned on for the last 16 years—the improvement of the railways and roads down to the south-west—will be put off for another 10 or 15 years, which would be a personal disaster.
The debate on our membership of the European Union is very similar to previous debates, such as those on the corn laws and imperial preference. Thank goodness our country eventually found a way through those issues, but it unfortunately had to get involved in a few world wars in the process. I am keen to ensure that that does not happen again, especially as my relatives have fought in every world war and probably every other war—we have been here for a long time.
Our job in Europe is to maintain the balance of power. That is utterly crucial. When we have walked away from Europe, we have had to pay with an enormous amount of blood and an enormous amount of treasure. I received a briefing the other day from one of the more renowned journalists in this country, who told me that America is now looking less at Europe—it sees Russia as a regional, rather than a world, issue—and that it is much more interested in the Pacific. If we come out of Europe, therefore, we will be Billy No Mates, and I do not want that to happen.
Earlier this year, during the recess, I spent a few days in Norway with the Royal Marines, seeing for myself some of the issues they have to deal with. I got involved in trying to build shelter, light a fire and kill a chicken—I did not do that—and it was all rather difficult. However, I also learned how important the Baltic states are for this country, and we must continue engaging in Europe because I am afraid that that issue is going to be very big. I would also add that the Americans are not interested in putting money into NATO; they are seeking to take it out, and the moment we decide to walk away from all of that, we will find ourselves having to spend more money.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that the Republican candidate for the United States presidency has declared NATO obsolete?
Absolutely. I find that utterly stunning. That is why we want to remain.
Babcock, which runs the dockyard in my constituency and employs 5,000 people, has written a letter to The Times very firmly in support of remaining. I have a boat manufacturer that is very worried about what would happen should we come out, because it thinks that the French and the Greeks will seek to protect their own boat-building industries and that it will therefore have to pay a significant surcharge. We would end up seeing the university and students in my constituency very badly damaged. We have a global reputation for marine science engineering research, and I do not wish to jettison that.
The claimant count has come down to below 4% in an extremely deprived constituency. It is rather unique to have a Conservative Member of Parliament representing an inner-city seat that has an 11-year life expectancy difference between the northern and western parts and around Devonport. It is very important that we continue to be able to invest in changing these kinds of things.
The Prime Minister has done exactly the right thing in seeking to make sure that he got the best possible deal out of the Europeans. We have to remember that if by some chance it was decided that we should become much more integrated in the European Union, we would have another referendum. I hope that will horrify all Conservative Members, because we have had enough of all this.
This is about making sure that we have a strong position in Europe and that we deliver on the economy for the west country, but also that we do not get involved in any more world wars, or wars of any sort.
Madam Deputy Speaker,
“by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential.”
Those words, written on Labour’s membership card, are why I joined my party. I believe they are as true for nation states as they are for the people I am now privileged to serve. I say that because the central argument made by those who want us to leave the EU is that Britain will achieve more, and have more power and control, if we vote for Brexit. I could not disagree more. In a world that is more connected than ever before, real control—the power to shape our destiny, tackle challenges, and seize opportunities rather than be left to the mercy of events—comes from working with our neighbours and allies to get the best for the British people.
President Obama says that the nations that wield influence most effectively do it through the collective action that today’s challenges demand. He is right. Being a member of the EU gives Britain more influence and power, not less: the power to sell our goods in a single market of 500 million people, according to rules that we help decide, and to reach better trade agreements as part of a bigger bloc of 28 countries; the power to tackle cross-border terrorism and crime, and to act together when the rule of international law is threatened on our doorstep, as we did with the sanctions regime we imposed following Russian aggression in Ukraine; and the power to address serious, long-term global challenges such as climate change, using our influence to secure a better deal within the EU and using the EU’s influence to get a better deal with the rest of the world. Cutting ourselves off from our neighbours and allies in Europe and attempting to go it alone would diminish Britain’s power, not increase it, and give us less control in shaping our future, not more.
While I care passionately about Britain’s influence and role in the world, in the end this referendum will come down to the central question of our economy and whether we will be better off in or out of the EU. Not a single serious or credible organisation thinks that we would be more prosperous out. The TUC and the CBI are united on this: jobs, investment and wages will be hit, and businesses and workers will suffer. The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that our economy will shrink if we leave the EU. The costs would far outweigh the money that we would get back by no longer being a member, and we would require an additional £20 billion to £40 billion of borrowing or spending cuts on top of what is already planned.
I am campaigning for remain not just because of the risks of a Brexit vote but because of the opportunities for British businesses, workers and young people to build a better future if we remain in the EU. Membership has already benefited this country hugely, attracting crucial investment from companies such as Nissan, Siemens, Hitachi, Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover, which has brought decent jobs and training for young people in the areas that need them most.
Businesses in my constituency, such as the IT company Rock Hall and the energy efficiency company BillSaveUK, tell me that they have real potential to expand and grow their businesses in future, particularly as the single market in digital services is completed and new trade deals open up markets in areas such as clean energy. I desperately need such companies to expand and thrive so that more of my constituents can get decent jobs in the modern manufacturing industries of the future.
Many of the students I meet tell me that they are passionate about us remaining in the EU. Our great University of Leicester has benefited hugely from EU investment in its new Centre for Medicine, which is doing world-leading research on heart disease and training the doctors of the future. Being part of the EU enables my local students to live, learn and study in other countries. They are terrified that, if we leave the EU, their job prospects will be worse.
Like me, those students are astonished that people who back Brexit, such as Aaron Banks, say that even if there is an impact on our economy, it is a “price worth paying”. But who will end up paying the price? Not Mr Banks, the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) or the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson). It will be those who always suffer in an economic downturn—the poor, the vulnerable and the low paid. Jobs will be lost and incomes will be hit, and families will be left struggling to cope with the consequences. Slower growth and lower tax receipts will reduce funding for the public services we all rely on, and for what? The mirage of greater self-control. That is why I am passionate about us voting to remain in the EU—so that we do not put our communities at risk and so that we can seize the opportunities of the future.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall), who rightly made the positive case for staying in the European Union and, most importantly, asked who will pay the price if we leave.
I want my constituency and my country to be prosperous, peaceful and proud of being British. That is why I will vote to remain on 23 June. I could make the security case, or a case about the sort of country that I want us to be, but today’s debate is about the economic benefits of European Union membership, so I will focus on that. Being in the European Union brings investment and jobs to the UK. It is not perfect—no relationship is—but being in the EU is good for our economy, which is good for our country.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently joined me in my constituency on a visit to the UK’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame. It has been expanding successfully since the recession, thanks to our strong and stable economy in the European Union, but that is not something that it, or we, should take for granted. Like many businesses, Shepherd Neame is worried about the risk that we will leave the EU, and I am worried because it is the largest employer in my constituency. If it struggles, jobs will be lost.
There is no doubt—almost everybody agrees about this, including those who are campaigning for us to leave the EU—that there will be a recession if we vote to leave. That will result in the loss of thousands of jobs. I have heard some on the leave side of the argument suggest that the loss of those jobs perhaps does not matter, and that they see it as a sacrifice that might be worth making. But jobs really do matter; they mean livelihoods and the income needed to pay the mortgage, rent and bills and to buy children’s shoes. I could go on. It may sound obvious, but I really am shocked at how dismissive some of those arguing to leave are being.
I think about what the economic squeeze that we will experience—whether it lasts five years, 10 years or longer—will mean for today’s school leavers. A generation of school leavers was hit hard by the last recession, and we cannot have another lost generation as a result of a decision to leave the European Union.
Some Members have argued that a vote to leave could boost trade with non-European countries, but that is highly uncertain and, I would say, unlikely. Our largest export market outside the EU is the US. We exported £84 billion of goods to the US in 2014, but that is dwarfed by the more than £150 billion of goods and services that we exported to EU countries. Some Members have argued that if we leave, exports to India, Australia or Canada should increase, but the value of our exports to each of those countries is less than £10 billion per annum, and that would not change overnight.
Some time ago, before I became an MP, my day job was negotiating deals for AOL Time Warner, which at the time was the largest internet provider in the world. One thing I learned as a deal negotiator was that size matters for bargaining power. To those who say that the UK would somehow get better deals if we left the EU, I make the point that the EU is a much larger market and so has greater bargaining power in negotiations with other countries. I do not think we can be remotely confident, however great we are as a country or however good we are at negotiating, that we would be able to negotiate better trade deals with other countries than we can as part of the EU.
I am conscious of time, so I will move on quickly. The NHS is the reason why I became a Member of Parliament. Since my time doing the deals that I mentioned, I have worked mainly with hospitals and the NHS. I know just how difficult things are for the NHS at the moment. If we are to be able to afford the costs of care for our society as we live longer and demand more from the NHS, we need a strong economy. A vote to leave would damage not only our economy and prosperity but our international reputation. We are respected abroad for our values, our integrity and our collective conscience, and many countries seek to emulate our democratic system. Leaving the EU sends the wrong message. It suggests that when things get tricky, we walk away. That is not the sort of nation that I want us to be. We must be an optimistic country playing an influential role in the world, and that means being in the EU and leading from the front.
As part of Labour’s in campaign, I spoke to a woman on the phone last night. She was not sure how she was going to vote, and she did not know who to believe. She said that she just wanted the facts, so that is where I begin. We must be absolutely clear: globalisation is happening, and it is not going away. With democracy in eastern Europe and the opening up of China and India, capital, goods and people move freely across borders like never before, creating opportunities but also causing disruption. The globally connected economy means that problems in the American mortgage market can trigger a recession that spreads around the globe in hours.
That is the modern world. For us in Britain, each generation must answer this question: although we accept free trade because of the opportunities it offers, what rules are required to make the market fair? The global economy offers the UK huge potential. We have advanced service sectors, and our creative economy has boomed. Nowhere is that more obvious than in our capital, which is perhaps the most globalised city in the world, but go to Manchester or Liverpool and the story is the same.
We must be honest about globalisation. Although it creates opportunity for many, it causes others disruption and dislocation. Jobs are created, but jobs are also lost. Capital movement can grow the economy, but capital hiding—offshore and untaxed—hits our public services. How do we get maximum gains from this changing world, and how do we minimise the disadvantage? That is the real question to be answered by the EU referendum.
Amid all the misinformation in this debate, there is a deep dishonesty about the campaign to leave the European Union—or perhaps I should say the two campaigns, because there are two completely contradictory arguments up and running at the same time. On one hand, we are told that we must leave so that we can stop the disruptive effects of globalisation, close the borders, introduce protectionism and give British workers preferential treatment.
Does the hon. Lady recognise that the Brexit campaign has also led people up to the top of the hill in relation to immigration and could be doing enormous damage to community relations?
I could not have put it better. Those who are feeling the sharp end of globalisation are presented with a particular suggestion about that as a solution, but as the hon. Gentleman says, it is nothing of the sort. It would sabotage the British economy, destroy even more jobs and reduce revenue for public services.
On the other hand, there is the other set of leavers—the people who think the problem with the EU is, as we heard earlier, that it shuts us off from globalisation. They say we should leave Europe and face the world, embrace non-EU immigration and let the market rip. Even if we ignore the difficulty of facing the world when we have no trade deals, that is not an attractive option. It would mean even more churn in the British economy, even more losers from globalisation and an even greater sense of dislocation.
Those are therefore two bad options and a false choice for Britain, but there is one even bigger deceit: the lie that we can have both those things at once. That is not true, because people are either up for free trade and taking part in the world, working with others to make markets work, or they want to shut Britain off from the world. By allowing that confusion, the leave campaign is misleading people. This dishonesty, which is put across as plain speaking, is about telling low-paid workers that there is an easy remedy for their woes when, in reality, the medicine will only make the patient sicker.
I agree with the Brexit lot on one thing: it is time for plain speaking. The truth is that the world economy has globalised, which brings big opportunities but also brings disruption and loss to many people. We will solve that not by running a siege economy or letting the market rip, but by staying in the single market and taking advantage of the opportunities that will come in the next few decades as we properly integrate services and energy into that market, which is where we stand to benefit. Given that the EU is the market for 47% of our exports, we should help eurozone countries make the economic reforms they need so that they can buy more of our goods, not just leave them to fail.
As we know, co-operation is key to how we maximise our success and central to minimising the negative effects of globalisation. It is only through co-operation in the EU that we will make sure there is no race to the bottom on working conditions. For a low-paid worker, Brexit will mean worse conditions and worse career progression. For a higher-paid worker, Brexit will mean fewer opportunities, less trade, worse pay progression and higher taxes. For a pensioner, Brexit will mean less money to invest in the pensions system. Even pro- Brexit economists acknowledge that there will be a short-term hit.
I have talked about the long term, but let me take a moment to consider the short term. Brexit will mean a recession, as if we needed another recession after the horrors of 2008. Unlike in 2008, however, we would not have a Government willing to work with others around the world to solve the crisis; we would have a recession under the most right-wing Government in living memory, and we would have a closed economy that would make all of us, but especially those with the least, poorer.
This is the question on the ballot paper next week. It is a choice between prosperity in the EU and austerity out of it; between influence in the EU and irrelevance out of it; and between facing up to the modern world economy and making it work for Britain, and pretending that we can solve our problems by quitting, which we will not. Let us vote remain.
I believe it is in our national security interest to remain in the European Union and, indeed, that it is in the national security interests of the United States and of our allies in Europe. At a time when there are many conflicts around the world and when the world is very unstable, with an aggressive Russia and a belligerent North Korea, the very last thing we want is a fragmentation of the European Union, ambiguity in foreign policy or a weakening of the European Union and of the strength we draw from one another.
There has been a lot of debate about whether NATO or the European Union is the cornerstone of our national security, but I would argue that both have become such a cornerstone. I do not resile from the fact that NATO is a major cornerstone of our national security. However, I ask Brexiteers this: if the UK were to leave the European Union, is it more likely that France and Germany would fast-track EU defence structures? My answer is yes. If that is the case, is it likely to undermine NATO? Again, my answer is yes. In my view, in the medium term we would see EU defence structures compete with NATO rather than complement it. That makes me very concerned indeed.
We also hear, on counter-terrorism, that our so-called open borders endanger our cities and towns and those who live in this country. But the majority of counter-terrorism challenges in this country are home grown. The majority of those involved in the awful and egregious attacks in Brussels and Paris were EU citizens. It is completely misleading to suggest that remaining in the European Union increases our likelihood of suffering a terrorist attack. We could be attacked at any time. I pay tribute to our intelligence services, our armed forces and police.
Along with my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), I co-wrote a motion on having a European referendum that went against the Conservative Prime Minister and Government. We are where we are, and I make no apology for having played a key part in that, because it is right that, after 41 years, the British people are re-enfranchised on the European question. Nevertheless, I served on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for five years and on the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy for four years and, after serious reflection, I have come to the view that, on balance, for national security reasons we should remain in the European Union.
We have rightly heard a lot about the economic impacts of withdrawal from the European Union. I have absolutely no doubt that there would be a massive shock for our economy. If there was a £30 billion or £40 billion hit, yes, there would be further public sector cuts and tax rises. That would be bad for Britain, which today is leading the economies of Europe and indeed has the fastest growing economy in the G7. But without national security, we cannot have economic security, and without economic security we cannot have national security, because we will not have the funds to pay for our defence and our intelligence agencies. My hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) quite rightly called for an expansion of the Foreign Office—both the Secret Intelligence Service and the mainstream Foreign Office.
My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) put his finger right on it: do we want to put up the white flag and surrender all that we have worked for in Europe to France and Germany? They are close allies, but occasionally on foreign policy they can be eccentric, to put it politely. Diplomacy is a key part of national security. Are we going to surrender the diplomacy of the European Union to some of the more eccentric play of France and Germany? Would we have the robust and tough sanctions on Russia over Ukraine if it had not been for the Prime Minister’s and Foreign Secretary’s robust representations in Brussels and around the capitals of Europe to make sure that Russia paid for its aggression? If Russia were not paying for that aggression through sanctions, would there be aggression in the Baltic states?
I am not a Europhile. I am not passionate about Europe. I love the United Kingdom. That is why I believe that, on balance, the best prospect for a safer, more secure and more prosperous United Kingdom is to remain in the European Union.
The forthcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will say a great deal about how we, the British people, see ourselves as a nation. Are we a nation at peace with ourselves, internationalist in outlook, confident of our place in the world and comfortable in the belief that by working closely with others we can govern our peoples to the benefit of everyone? Or are we fearful of the outside world, feeling that the European Union is doing Europe to us rather than us being a part of Europe, and fearing the threat of immigration, because the concept of free movement of European citizens has been conflated with free movement of refugees, economic migrants and legal or illegal migrants from outside the European Union?
We face a whole host of problems: illegal migration, people trafficking, drug smuggling, terrorism, environmental pollution to our rivers and seas, and so on, and none of those things respect national boundaries. Working together in the most successful multinational organisation that the world has ever seen, with its own single market, is a solution to our problems, not a problem in itself. Yes, we have our differences with our European neighbours, but they are settled on conference tables in places such as Brussels, Strasbourg, London, Berlin and Paris; not by bloody wars on European soil as they were for hundreds of years—indeed, in the last century, those problems escalated into two world wars and resulted in the deaths of millions of people.
The real response is for Britain to admit that those problems are also our problems. We cannot shut ourselves off politically and economically from the rest of Europe, and we must recognise the geographical and political fact that we are part of a union of nations that share common interests, values and goals, and that our neighbours’ problems will soon become our own unless we work with them to help solve them. If we did not already have the European Union, we would have had to create something similar to deal with those problems, and many others.
History, solidarity, and common sense are good reasons for staying in the EU, but let me be a little more hard-headed and talk in terms of costs and benefits—I have said little about the benefits of the EU and many of the things that we take for granted. The anti-Europeans and xenophobes who say that Europe is a threat totally disregard decades of successful membership that have contributed to making Britain the world’s fifth largest economy. Yes, we could “survive” and “manage” outside the European Union, but at what price? The benefit of being a member of the largest single market in the world has a cost, which is why we pay contributions for membership as we would when joining any club. We do so because we accept that the benefits outweigh the costs.
Let us consider what the UK’s largest business organisation, the CBI, has said, as well as the UK’s largest workers’ organisation, the TUC. We have access to a $16.6 trillion a year single market of 500 million people, which is a key benefit. The single market goes beyond a standard free trade agreement. The EU has eliminated tariff barriers and customs procedures within its borders, and it has taken strides towards removing non-tariff barriers, such as goods regulations, across the board. The UK’s contribution is a small net cost, relative to the benefits, of around €7.3 billion, or 0.4% of GDP. It is clear that the UK’s largest business organisation is in favour of our remaining in the EU.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, says:
“Working people have a huge stake in the referendum because workers’ rights are on the line. It’s the EU that guarantees workers their rights to paid holidays, parental leave, equal treatment for part-timers, and much more…These rights can’t be taken for granted…And without the back-up of EU laws, unscrupulous employers will have free rein to cut many of their workers’ hard-won benefits and protections.”
Without remaining in the EU those protections could well disappear. Vote remain.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Preston (Mr Hendrick), and I agreed with most of what he said.
When we started this process, if I had been split down the middle I was 49% for leave, and 51% for remain. Today, I am 127% in favour of remain—don’t worry, I haven’t got my figures from the leave campaign. Two reasons have got me to that position. The first is just looking at some of the facts. I am a south-west Member of Parliament. In the first quarter of this year, we exported goods worth £9.7 billion from the south-west to the EU. Some 64% of all exports from the south-west go to the EU. In my constituency, 5,249 jobs are reckoned to be dependent on trade with and membership of the EU—one of the highest, if not the highest, in the county. On a conservative estimate, 45,000 jobs will be at risk in my region were we to leave.
The average take-home pay in North Dorset, leafy and beautiful as it is, is £16,500. It would be a dereliction of my duty to vote in any way other than to protect and to preserve that. I am not one of those ideologues who wishes to sacrifice, on some altar of so-called sovereignty, the livelihoods of my constituents. Sovereignty as an abstract does not pay the mortgage, does not pay the rent, does not pay the bills and does not put food on the table. I would not be able to look my constituents in the eye and say, “But don’t worry, we’re free and all the rest of it, so we can starve in our own independence.” What a marvellous, marvellous legacy to leave!
I relied on fisheries to pay my mortgage and put food on my table for my children. Will my hon. Friend look me in the eye and say he is happy to sacrifice an industry for the EU ideal?
In the first instance I would not say that our fishing sector has been sacrificed, but I have to think about agriculture. We are all absolutely right to look at this issue from the perspective of our constituents. Agriculture, in particular the dairy sector in North Dorset, would not be able to survive without the continued, guaranteed, politically colour-blind support the EU provides to British agriculture.
There are two specific things I would like to say. The first relates to the absolute lack of clarity and united vision from the leave campaign: Albania, Norway, the World Trade Organisation, something like the North American Free Trade Agreement, we can stand alone, imperial preference, let’s bring back the corn laws—whatever it might happen to be! Somehow or other we have an arrogance, which I think was probably the death of a lot of our industries some years ago, that we have a right to sell to the rest of the world, in particular Europe, on terms to our satisfaction, and that they should feel jolly grateful that they are allowed to buy our product. The global marketplace does not work like that anymore. We have to earn our living.
Is this not the big contradiction of the leave offer from some? They claim that we can be in the European Free Trade Association, but that would mean signing up to every single EU rule and regulation, which we would not be able to change. The only way to change EU rules and regulations is to be a member of the European Union.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is either the longest suicide note in history or the worst-written business plan I have ever come across. Imagine going to the bank manager and saying, “I’ve got a fantastic wheeze. I’m going to put at risk 42% of my almost-guaranteed sales and leap in the dark to see if I can grow a few other markets.” We can actually do both, but it seems to me to be an act of the highest folly to endanger tariff-free access to the world’s largest free trading area. That would be a dereliction of our duty.
For those who slather and get frightfully excited when their erogenous zones of sovereignty are being tickled—not, in the cases of some, the most attractive prospect I can think of—let us recall and put it on the record that they keep saying that this sovereign House of Parliament must take the decisions. That is absolutely right. We are accountable to our constituents and if, after five years, they do not like what we have done they can jolly well kick us out. If we had a vote of this sovereign Parliament this afternoon, 74% of us would vote to remain—across party, across regions and across country. It is a telling sign of the clear merits and benefits of UK plc doing that traditionally British thing of fighting for our interests, championing our businesses, speaking up for our people and making sure we get the best deal possible.
I want to mention the other 60-odd per cent. of the reason I am voting to remain. I had prayed that we would not have a rerun of the debate in Russia in 1870s and 1880s and in Germany in the late ’20s and ’30s. Our infrastructure is under pressure. Well, we can solve that—it is a sovereign job of this place and our local councils—but, no, we will blame the Jew, the Ugandan—anybody but ourselves; we will blame them for taking our jobs, our houses, our places on the hospital waiting list, forgetting that in constituencies such as mine, 65% of people are retired and that we have a falling birth rate. We need these young people coming in to work in our services. Regrettably, we are hearing that bitter, twisted, mealy-mouthed, acid-riven debate about immigration. I do not want any part of it. There is a strong, positive narrative, about how we need that new blood and talent coming to our shores. When we go to Spain and set up a business, we call ourselves expats; when they come here, we see them as a drain. Not in my name or the name of this party! We will be voting to remain.
Madam Deputy Speaker, you, like many of us, might have seen a front-page splash in The Times last week trumpeting the support for Brexit from Lord Anthony Bamford of JCB, the iconic digger maker based in my county of Staffordshire. I was intrigued by the story, mainly because it smacked a little of desperation. It was, as it is called in the trade, old news, because anyone reading The Sentinel newspaper in Staffordshire would have known that when the good lord came out all of a year ago.
Anthony Bamford is part of just a small smattering of industrialists on the Brexit side that includes a maverick knight of the realm, Sir James Dyson, who makes those costly, complicated hoovers—in Malaysia. In reality, their views are not reflective of the large majority of British businesses, investors or economists. Our membership of the EU has been vital to our attracting much needed investment here. Nissan, Toyota and Honda from Japan made that clear very early on, when they urged the UK to remain, and the likes of BMW, Volkswagen, Bosch and Siemens from Germany have since joined them.
Did my hon. Friend see the story in the Financial Times today pointing out that both Sir James Dyson and Anthony Bamford had been caught breaking competition laws by the European Commission, and suggesting that that was their motivation?
I cannot speak for their personal motivation, but I am sure that they are speaking for themselves personally rather than for their own businesses.
German companies here employ 500,000 people. Along with the Japanese, they have made the UK car industry today the most successful in our country’s history—along with Tata of India, of course, with its investment in Jaguar Land Rover. Tata, too, cannot fathom why Britain would want to leave the world’s biggest single market. In this debate, their voices deserve to be heard and listened to, not silenced through intimidation, as was the intention at the beginning of the leave campaign. Then, of course, there are the voices of great British companies—household names such as Rolls-Royce, one of our biggest exporters. My grandad built Spitfire engines at Crewe for Rolls-Royce, and today the company, patriotically, urged its staff to vote remain.
It is not just multinationals that are emphatically in favour of our remaining in the EU. This spring, like other colleagues on the Opposition Benches, I carried out a survey of about 1,000 predominantly small businesses in my constituency, and we had a good response. Some 80% were in favour of remaining. Some wanted reforms, but they firmly believed that we should stay in, to reform from within. The response to our survey reflected the balance within the wider membership of Staffordshire’s chamber of commerce and the views of the British Ceramic Confederation—the industry from which my area of the potteries takes its name. This—particularly for us—vital export-led industry wants us firmly to stay in because it is in its and the country’s interests. It recognises that it is better to have one rule book, rather than 28 different ones for each country in the EU.
Let me take a local example of the new economy. One of our most passionate supporters of the remain campaign is bet365, which is now the world’s biggest online gaming company and the owner of Stoke City football club, which I must of course mention. In little more than 15 years, the Coates family has built that business up into the biggest private sector employer in North Staffordshire, with more than 3,500 highly skilled staff. It is one of the UK’s biggest business success stories of the last decade. Frankly, bet365 can only dream of one rule book, because at the moment it has to contend with not only 28 but far more rules, with each of the German Länder and other different European regions having their own individual regulations. Bet365 is precisely the sort of business that will benefit by staying in and extending the single market to services and e-commerce, which were key topics in the Prime Minister’s renegotiations.
Earlier on, my hon. Friend probably heard me mention the reasons why two Prime Ministers of two different parties wanted to enter Europe, but a third who was not exactly friendly to Europe should be borne in mind—Margaret Thatcher. Why did she sign up to the single market if alternatives were available? This is what led to the free movement of labour, the proposal for a central bank and, more importantly, the euro. This shows that some of these Brexit people were the very ones who signed up to support the EU.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Margaret Thatcher knew exactly which side the country’s bread was buttered on, as did John Major, whose Government were held to ransom by many of the people who are campaigning for Brexit this time, and who will no doubt make the life of the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) a misery after this referendum, when we will hopefully vote to stay in. The businesses that I have mentioned, locally and nationally, will not benefit—and neither will the wider British economy —by us stomping out truculently and bad-temperedly next Thursday.
If I had more time, I would talk in greater detail about the benefits of EU membership to the NHS and higher education. I have a whole campus, Keele University, in Newcastle-under-Lyme which, together with our NHS, now has one of the country’s leading medical schools. Its position is shortly to be boosted by a £20 million new research facility for drugs and medical treatments, £13 million of which will come from the EU. In all, the university, the NHS and therefore our local economy are due to gain £30 million-worth of EU funding for research and education over the next few years. It is right to point out the risk of losing it if we vote to leave. The EU has been pivotal in securing other rights that are too often taken for granted—equal rights for agency workers, minimum paid holidays, maternity pay and indeed equality of pay across the board.
To conclude, I firmly believe that having this referendum was a reckless and unnecessary gamble with our country’s future. It was a tactical exercise in party management, which has seen the governing Conservative party fall apart over the issue. The right hon. Member for Witney, through two general elections and two referendums so far, has in many respects been the luckiest of Prime Ministers. I hope that his luck holds next Thursday. The decision we face next week is about much more than jobs, investment and prosperity. It is about learning the correct lessons from history. The past has shown that Britain has an important role at the heart of Europe. That engagement and co-operation make our continent more progressive, more outward-looking and more stable. Next Thursday, the right lesson to learn from history is to vote remain.
It is a great privilege to be called to speak in this historic debate. I will vote remain for one fundamental reason. I am a father of four small children, and the last thing I want is for them to grow up in a country with less opportunity than I have had the great privilege to enjoy. What an opportunity it is. If we vote to leave, this country will not go to the dogs; it will rather be a case of an opportunity cost and an opportunity missed. Alone in the world, we are the only major nation on earth that enjoys unfettered access to the European single market in a currency over which there is no existential doubt.
I was passionately opposed to membership of the exchange rate mechanism and the European Union, but I believe that to be a major nation in the EU but outside the straitjacket of the eurozone is to be in an incredible position; and that position has been strengthened greatly by the Prime Minister’s renegotiation. Some say that it was not a fundamental renegotiation, but the securing of the one key point that the EU cannot discriminate against countries that do not use the euro means that our platform of prosperity is now secure. I believe that, by voting to remain, we can build on that in four vital strategic economic areas.
First and foremost, we will restore our reputation as a safe haven and a sound and stable country in which to invest. This referendum, like the referendum in Scotland, puts that at risk by threatening huge uncertainty. If we vote to remain, while those two constitutional issues will not go away, to the people who matter—
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I should be delighted.
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the independence referendum in Scotland. At least he will concede that the Scottish Government provided a 650-page White Paper saying what they would do in the event of an independent Scotland. I have seen squat from the vote leave campaign.
I do not need to add very much to that, but the point that I am making is in no way intended to incite the Scottish National party. I am simply saying that I believe we will restore our international reputation as a sound and stable nation by putting those two constitutional issues not to bed but to the margins, in the eyes of the investors and the people who matter most.
My second point concerns the terms of trade. Last year I was standing on the platform at Marks Tey station, on the main line into Liverpool Street, with a member of my Conservative association. A goods train passed, travelling from the Felixstowe direction towards London, and therefore its load was obviously from China. There was a container on every single wagon. A few minutes later, a chap looked at me with dismay when another goods train went in the opposite direction, with not a single container on it. I reassured him by saying, “Don’t worry: that’s what we mean by ‘invisible exports.’” [Laughter.] But actually, that is the key point. Because a few minutes later, on the same platform, herds of commuters—including many from my constituency —boarded the train to Liverpool Street, not to go and make widgets to be sent back to China, but to sell the insurance, to negotiate professional services, to do the finance.
That is where our comparative advantage lies. Trade is about comparative advantage—doing what you do best. If we leave, there is no way in which we can have a say in the attempt to complete the single market in services. I believe that if we stay, we will achieve that, and you cannot put a value on what that will add to our economy, given our expertise in the service sector.
My third point is about inward investment. I find it absolutely astonishing that we keep hearing from Brexit campaigners about the deficit in European trade compared with trade with the rest of the world. Only one group of companies is doing all that trade, and most of those—the ones that are making the biggest dent in exports—are foreign companies: Japanese car makers, American banks, and French pharmaceutical firms such as Sanofi, based in Haverhill, which I visited recently. Its biggest export market is, by far, the United States of America, but it is based here in the United Kingdom because we have access to the single market. To pretend that European trade and global trade are somehow separate is complete nonsense.
I believe that if we vote to remain, we will drive inward investment far higher, and therefore drive our exports. Instead of worrying about trade figures as some negotiating stance, let us look at them as we should, and conclude that we need to do better—and one way of doing that is to vote to remain, to show that this country is open again for business from around the world.
My fourth point relates to what is said about the future of the eurozone. Those who want to leave the European Union say, “The glass is half empty: we should leave because the eurozone will collapse,” and so on. Our flexible position means that if the eurozone gets into trouble, that will simply reinforce our unique status in that we alone, as a big country, have unfettered access and are not in the euro. If the eurozone strengthens, that will massively boost our exports and help with our trade deficit. We cannot lose, provided we play our cards right.
I would make one final, fundamental point. There are those who say that in this referendum on neither basis are we voting for the status quo, and they are right. If we vote to remain it will not be the status quo, because we will have made up our mind: after all these years of being held back by this interminable debate about whether to be in or out, if we decide as a country to remain, we are deciding to get stuck in in Europe, representing this country. I believe we will then have to stand tall, proud and prosperous in this great continent on behalf of this great country, and the only way to do that is to do the patriotic thing and vote to remain in the EU.
This afternoon I want to focus on why it is important for Croydon North that Britain remains a member of the European Union. Croydon North is part of an outer London borough, but it has many of the features of an inner-city area: an extremely diverse population, high levels of youth unemployment—particularly, sadly, in the black community—and too much poor quality housing, particularly in the private rented sector, but it also has a very enterprising and ambitious population.
Croydon is at a crossroads. The Labour council elected two years ago has announced a massive £5 billion regeneration project for the town centre that will affect the whole borough. It will reshape the retail centre around a new Westfield-Hammerson’s shopping mall, including thousands of new homes, thousands of new jobs, new education and leisure facilities, and a growing new tech hub. Being a 15-minute train journey from Gatwick in one direction and central London in the other, Croydon is ideally placed to take advantage of being part of the world’s biggest trading bloc.
The future looks bright for Croydon, but a big question-mark hangs over it all, and that is the threat of Brexit in next week’s referendum. The investors Croydon hopes to attract will think again if Croydon is outside the European Union. They do not want trade barriers blocking their access to Europe and they will think twice about investing in an economy that is going backwards into recession.
If we tried to stay in the single market without EU membership, we would be subject to EU rules and freedom of movement, like Norway and Switzerland are, but without the veto we currently have: the same circumstances, but no voice.
That is the one argument that people on my street just are not aware of. They think we can have a trade agreement with the EU and still lower the immigration from EU countries. It simply is not true, because we would have to sign up to the same freedom of movement. We need to get that message out.
That is absolutely true. I am sure my hon. Friend is doing as much as she can in her constituency, and I am going to be doing as much as I can in mine.
We would become weaker, not more powerful, if we left the EU. We would lose control over our destiny, not gain it. The Governor of the Bank of England has warned that a vote to leave the EU could trigger a recession, and nine out of 10 economists agree with him that Brexit would damage the economy. A vote to leave next Thursday would be the first time a country had voluntarily chosen to throw its economy into recession, and that would mean more job losses, lower tax revenues, a growing deficit, more cuts in public services like health and education, rising interest rates to prop up the pound and, because of that, higher mortgages. And it is not the wealthy élite that will suffer; it is ordinary people in places like Croydon North.
Immigration has helped London’s economy to grow, and it has benefited Croydon immensely. Where there are pressures because of immigration, like housing or the NHS, those are not the fault of immigrants, who put in more than they take out; they are the fault of a Tory Government who are underfunding our health service and selling off social housing. We cannot allow immigrants to be scapegoated for the failures of this Conservative Government.
Too many people in Croydon work long hours for low pay in insecure jobs. Their lives would become harder still without the employment protection that comes from our membership of the EU. Pro-Brexit Tories have already made it clear that they cannot wait to leave the EU so that they can cut workers’ rights in half. That is exactly what one of them has said they want to do. They want to remove rights for part-time workers and parents, increase working hours, and reduce paid leave. It was the European social chapter that triggered the Tory revolt on Europe, not because they want to protect British workers, but because they want to exploit British workers.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the independent legal opinion of Michael Ford, QC, who has said that in the event of a Tory Brexit, the damage would go much further and affect collective consultation, collective bargaining and the rights of part-time workers? He also believes that TUPE rights, which apply to outsourcing, would go.
I was not aware of that particular opinion, but I am keen to learn more about it. It does not surprise me, however, because that is what many commentators are saying about the implications of a Tory Brexit for workers’ rights, jobs and the prosperity of ordinary people in this country.
For that reason, and all the others that we have heard this afternoon, I am confident that voters in Croydon North will vote next week to remain part of the European Union. The EU is an organisation that needs reform to make it more accountable, but we need to hear the concerns being expressed by people of good will and use them to make the EU work better. We cannot cut ourselves adrift and leave ourselves subject to an EU that we can no longer influence because we are isolated on the outside. Croydon is better off in Europe, and Britain is better off in Europe. I will be voting to remain next Thursday.
Like many others in the House, I am a firm supporter of our membership of the European Union, and I was campaigning on this issue even before the general election. I support our membership not simply out of fear about what would happen if we left, even though there remain serious questions that the leave camp need to answer; my support stems from the positive contribution we can make to the organisation and the benefits we get from being a member.
We are the fifth largest economy in the world, as the leavers continue to remind us, and the second biggest in Europe. Long-term forecasts from the OECD suggest that our economy will overtake Germany’s in the early 2030s, but that will happen only if we carry on along the same trajectory that we are now on. It would certainly not happen if we were to leave the EU. Why, when we enjoy such a prominent position in the world, and when we have the potential to champion the ideals that have made our country great, would we want to walk away from providing leadership, just at a time when Europe is crying out for it? People wishing to leave the EU say that our values need to be defended, and I agree, but I say that our values are also worth exporting. And exports —and, indeed, the economy—are among the most important reasons we should remain.
As a single market, the EU remains our biggest trading partner. A company can set itself up in the UK from anywhere in the world and instantly have access to 500 million consumers. The virtue of our membership attracts some of the best talent from around the world and encourages new businesses to set up here, investing in the UK and creating jobs. The UK market for goods and services is the second-least regulated in the OECD, second only to that of the Netherlands. Surely that is proof that the EU is not making us less competitive for investment.
We attract world-leading companies because of our access to the single market, but the EU is also a vast scientific and academic network that our own universities and companies can draw on. Portsmouth is home to several international companies that depend on free access to European markets. It is also home to one of the most rapidly developing universities in Europe, and I believe that, in Portsmouth, our interests are best served by remaining in the European Union.
The United Kingdom is the gateway to the EU for other countries, including all the major and developing economies of the world, but particularly for the Commonwealth. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, has said:
“As far as India is concerned, if there is an entry point for us to the European Union that is the UK, that is Great Britain.”
Our membership of the EU is one of the factors that binds the Commonwealth together. We did not abandon the Commonwealth or leave it behind when we joined the European Economic Community; we provided the simplest and most straightforward route for our Commonwealth partners to get most benefit from it.
Our links with some of the most powerful emerging economies are enriched by our membership of the EU, not jeopardised by it. There are many other benefits that our membership brings to the UK and to the rest of Europe, but the overarching theme is one of stability. The equal partnerships between us and our neighbours have supported a period of peace and stability that is unprecedented in our history. We have had 70 years of peace following 1,000 years of war. That has to be worth fighting for. I hope we will vote to remain on the 23rd, not out of fear but out of confidence in our ability to shape the future of the continent, where Britain already plays a leading role.
This debate has consumed us in this Chamber for the best part of the year, at times compromising our ability to scrutinise and properly review other matters of public policy. It has also been raging for months in the communities outside, yet the most dispiriting thing about this process for me is that I find so many people who say now that they are less well-informed than they were at the beginning of the discussion. The reason for that is all to do with the manner in which the debate has been conducted. Not only has it been incessantly negative, but it has traded in glib soundbites and tried to pander to prejudice, rather than illuminate, educate and inform people so that they can make a proper decision.
I therefore hope in the limited time available to explode some of the worst myths and misrepresentations that have been put about, the first of which relates to sovereignty. Next Thursday, we will be part of the European Union and the people of this country will vote on whether to continue that relationship. In that moment, sovereignty will lie with the people of the United Kingdom. Nothing they can do next Thursday will change that situation, so no matter what the result is, in one, two or five years’ time or never the people of the UK can choose to review the decision they make next Thursday. Nothing is forever, and government must always be with the consent of the people. Therefore, when those in the leave campaign say that the choice next Thursday is between retaining sovereignty here and giving it away, that is not a half truth or a misrepresentation—it is a lie.
The next point is to do with the money. We have talked about how much we contribute and how much we get back. It is a fact, and we need to tell people, that we are net contributors to the European Union, but we need to explain why that is and where that money goes. The bulk of that money goes to support social and economic development programmes in European member states that are less prosperous than we are. That is not a result of charitable donations by philanthropists in the Cabinet; it is a strategy to try to develop the economy across the continent so that in years to come the people who live in southern and eastern Europe will have the economy, the support and the money to be able to buy the goods and services we offer in this country. It is about a continental approach to economic development.
Is it not also much better to invest in these countries so that we can trade with them and build democratic structures than to send young men and women out there to die on battlefields, as we have done on this continent for centuries?
I could not agree more. I also want to tackle the question of democracy, because the leave campaigners have suggested that this is about an unelected, unaccountable European bureaucracy versus—I guess—the exemplar of democratic participation that we apparently have in this country. That also is untrue. There are three institutions in the European Union: the Parliament, which is directly elected by the people; the Council of Ministers, which is composed of elected Ministers from the national Governments; and a third institution made up of appointed Commissioners—but they are appointed by elected national Governments. So when people say that the European Union is undemocratic, that is also not a mistruth—it is a lie.
I now wish to speak to some colleagues on the left who have joined the leave campaign, some of whom are in my party. I regret what they have done because they have given the veneer of political breadth to a campaign that is fundamentally reactionary in its nature, and I hope they will reconsider. When we come across glib phrases such as “a bosses’ Europe” or “a bosses’ club”, we should take a moment to try to understand what is happening. Anyone who has a materialist view of philosophy knows that we make our own history. Therefore, the institutions that govern us are not divine, and are not inherently one thing or another; they are created by us. It is a fact that every European Union treaty there has been has been a reflection of the political balance of power in the continent at that time. In the 1980s we made great advances in workers’ rights because the social democratic parties and the left parties were in the ascendency, much to the chagrin of Margaret Thatcher at the time. In recent years, that has not been the case and some treaties have been more pro-corporate, but that is because, my friends, the left is not in the ascendency in Europe. What those who believe in a progressive Europe need to do is link up, as the shadow Chancellor said, with other forces across the continent and explain that a different form of Europe is possible. I believe we can do that.
Finally, let me talk about this issue of migration and public services. I have been an MP for over a year. In that time, I have tried to help more than 1,200 people. Invariably, most of them have problems with public services: they want to move up the housing ladder, they want their benefits reinstated, and they are worried about the NHS waiting lists. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people among that 1,200 who are citizens of other European countries. Most of them are young, working couples who are trying hard to build up their families and to build a better future for themselves—by the way, in doing so, they are making Edinburgh one of the most vibrant capitals in Europe.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way during such an impassioned and informative speech. Does he agree that it is deeply regrettable that, for far too much of the debate on immigration, too many people on both sides of the House have concentrated on the supposed negative side of immigration rather than following the example of the Scottish Government and talking much more forcefully about the massive benefits that immigration can bring to all our communities?
Absolutely. In my experience, the people in Edinburgh East who are migrants from other EU countries, many of whom are here temporarily and do not intend to settle here, put less of a strain per capita on our public services than the population on average. A way to tackle that is to have a system of funding our public services based on population, so that if migrants go to a particular area, more money is put into the public services in that area. That is probably the fairest way to do it.
I greatly resent the way that some people have tried to turn this into a referendum on immigration. That is what it has become in some places, and I find that not only distasteful but disreputable. What I say to those people who may be seduced by those arguments is that when they see ruthless right-wing employers, who would if they could pay their workers nothing, complain about low pay, do not believe them. When they see right-wing politicians waxing lyrical about an NHS that they have made their career trying to underfund and destroy, do not believe them. Do not be seduced by this right-wing reactionary rhetoric, and vote to remain next Thursday.
It is a great honour to speak in this debate after so many powerful and lucid speeches. I am unashamedly speaking in favour of remain, but next week my constituents each have one vote—the same number I do. My job here is to try to represent what I see as their best interests. They may not see it like that, but it is what I see as being in the best interests both of my constituency and the country.
I will follow on from what my hon. Friends the Members for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately), for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) and for North Devon (Peter Heaton-Jones) have said about the importance of stability, prosperity and co-operation, and about the United Kingdom’s place in the world and its position as a force for good.
Let me start with stability and prosperity. It is quite clear—this is acknowledged even by those who speak for leaving—that there will be at least a short-term impact on the United Kingdom economy if we leave the EU. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has said as much. He talks about the Nike swoosh, or the dip, that would happen. We are talking about not a graphic but a direct impact on people’s pockets and on Treasury revenues.
As for what happens in the medium term, there is more debate. A vast majority of economists have said that being part of the European Union would be better for our economy in the medium and long term, but I accept that there are a wide range of views on that. How much that would cost—how much we would gain, or not gain—is more difficult to say. One thing is absolutely clear: those who claim that we will thrive outside the European Union in a way that we do not inside are profoundly mistaken.
Economically, there are two areas in which we suffer the most. The first is our failure to export enough, which we have spoken about time and again, and the second is our productivity. Neither has anything to do with our membership of the European Union, and both have everything to do with ourselves. Germany and France have considerably higher productivity levels than us, as does the United States. Germany is quite capable of exporting three or four times as much to China as we can, from within the European Union. I fully agree that there are aspects of regulation and so on where we might do better if we controlled them entirely ourselves, but those are minor points—mere pinpricks—compared with the responsibility on our shoulders to improve our productivity and exports. We can do that whether we are inside or outside the European Union. Coming out of the EU is no panacea.
It is clear that where we will suffer if we leave is in inward investment. I have spoken to inward investors in my constituency on whom thousands of jobs depend, and they say they want us in and that it is very important. As the Foreign Secretary said earlier, with our current account deficit as it is, a reduction in foreign investment would be dangerous. I have not had investors coming to me and saying, “I’ve been waiting for you to leave the European Union so that I can invest in Stafford.” That has never happened.
On co-operation and Britain’s place in the world, I am unashamed about the need to work together. There are many challenges in this world, and putting ourselves on the outside is not the way forward. We must not underestimate the importance of good relations with our neighbours, even if they come through difficult meetings in the European Union week in, week out and month in, month out. The other bodies of which we are a member, such as the United Nations, are no substitute. They meet infrequently and are much bigger bodies.
Who wants us out? Do our best friends? Do the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada—those with whom we have the strongest personal and political ties? Absolutely not.
The hon. Gentleman is making a very good speech, which plays into the idea of getting some sort of independence from the European Union. It strikes me that there is a misunderstanding among some people in the debate about the referendum. The EU is not a country, it is an intergovernmental organisation. That fundamental point has been misunderstood by people who imagine that they are leaving some country. They are not. They are leaving an almost global body, and that is the mistake that many of the exiters make.
The hon. Gentleman is right. The EU is a body of proud sovereign countries that take their independence extremely seriously. The east European countries did not throw off the Soviet yoke to get a yoke from Brussels.
When it comes to stability, prosperity, co-operation with others and the United Kingdom’s place in the world, I firmly believe that we are better in, so I shall be voting to remain.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and to return to the topic of my maiden speech barely a year ago, as this country prepares to take what will undoubtedly be the biggest decision of our lifetime, which will determine the direction and destiny of our nation not just in the coming days, weeks, months and years but over the course of this century.
Global power is shifting from the western economies that dominated the 20th century to the emerging giants of the 21st century. Powers are pivoting away from nation states toward global corporations, and in that context the only question that should be on people’s minds as they cast their vote next week is which route and which choice will deliver prosperity, security and opportunity in a rapidly changing and globalised world.
Globalisation is an unstoppable process. It brings many possibilities and many opportunities for our constituents and for our country, and it also brings challenges. The question for any Government, whether our Government or Governments around the world, is how to shape globalisation to serve the best interests of their people, how to mitigate its challenges and how to make the most of the possibilities. How on earth can the right answer to those questions be to say, “Stop the world—I want to get off”? Has it not been striking in the course of this debate on the economy that there has been no debate about which is the best route to achieve what I have described?
Trying to get consensus among economists is like trying to get consensus among Labour MPs or Conservative MPs about the direction of their respective parties—virtually impossible—yet it has been achieved. The overwhelming consensus of our nation’s leading economists is that our country would be more prosperous inside the European Union than outside it. The Trades Union Congress and trade union leaders argue that being in the EU is in the best interests of working people and workers’ rights. Businesses small and large say that they can make the most of the opportunities available to them if we are a member of the European Union.
Well evidenced claims have been made about the impact of leaving the EU on jobs, investment and opportunities for our workforce, but what has been the response of the leave campaign? It can be summed up in the two words uttered by Nigel Farage last weekend when he was asked about the impact of a fall in sterling: so what? I would love to be in the privileged position of not worrying about what the state of the economy means for the financial security of me and my family or that of my constituents. The truth is that when sterling falls and jobs are lost, it will not be the wealthiest who are hit but the opportunities of the vast majority of people on low and middle incomes.
The members of the leave campaign seem to have largely left the Chamber. [Interruption.] They have sailed down the Thames. However, was it not striking that we heard the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) reinvent himself as an anti-austerity campaigner? We have also heard the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) claiming to be the saviour of the NHS, repeating the untruth that £350 million a week will be saved and invested in the NHS if we leave.
It is not often that I turn to our former Prime Minister, Sir John Major, for words of wisdom and encouragement about the direction of our national health service, but did he not have it right when he pointed out how preposterous it is to believe that the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath and their friends have the best interests of the NHS at heart? Even a former Conservative Prime Minister says that we cannot trust those on the right wing of the Conservative party and their fellow travellers in UKIP with the future of our national health service, so why should we believe them?
On economic forecasts, there can be no certainty, only analysis and assumption. In picking figures, we should trust the judgment of every leading economic voice, every university leader, the leaders of our trade union movement, the leaders of our businesses, and our leaders from across the political spectrum. They have come together because they believe remaining in the EU to be in our national interest.
Does the hon. Gentleman also think that we should trust the voice of the people?
I absolutely do. I voted to give the people a choice, and I will abide by their decision next week.
I say directly to my constituents that they have an enormous responsibility resting on their shoulders. Every day since I was elected to Parliament last year—on a slim majority and against the odds—I have said that I will put their interests first. They may not always agree with me, but they will always know where I stand. Every day, in every vote, the only question in my mind is, what is best for my constituency and my country? Now, my constituents face that choice in a vote that is more important than any that Members of Parliament will take part in during this Session.
Where does our country’s future lie? Leading Europe or leaving Europe? As far as I am concerned, there is only one answer to that question if people want a future for our country that provides economic security, national security and the ability to take on the big issues and global challenges facing us in this century. That is why I urge my constituents to make the progressive, the pragmatic and the patriotic choice to remain in the European Union.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. We are getting slightly tight on time. If Members do not take so many interventions, there will be no need to lower the time limit. However, if they continue to take interventions, I am afraid there will be. For now it is fine, as long as people keep to a minimum of interventions.
I am pleased to follow the impassioned words of the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting).
I want to start my speech in this historic debate by asking a question: have we been prosperous for the last 40 years? Yes, we certainly have. We have become the fifth greatest economy in the world, and that is while being part of the European Union, and not despite being part of it. Our economy has grown by 65% during that time. That time has also been peaceful, as my hon. Friends the Members for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) and for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) said, and we should not forget that.
The EU is by no means perfect—there is much that I personally do not like—but on economic grounds there is an overwhelming reason to remain within it. That is the overwhelming consensus when I talk to businesses in my constituency. I will mention a few companies I have visited that all say that we are better off in. Pritex in Wellington manufactures sound-proofing for the car industry. The chief executive heads up the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, and he has categorically stressed that the car industry operates totally EU-wide; it is a £15 billion trade for the UK, so we need to remain in the EU. W. H. Hendy and Sons makes high-pressure water pumps in Wiveliscombe. That is in a rural area, but the company exports right across the EU. It goes with delegations to get contracts in other parts of the world, and it could not do that alone, so it needs us to be in Europe. That is critical for rural jobs in my constituency, which we must not put in jeopardy.
Ministry of Cake, based in Taunton, is a £30 million business employing 300 people and the largest dessert maker in the EU. You have probably eaten some of its cakes, Madam Deputy Speaker, as it supplies coffee chains here and right across the EU. The managing director says that his UK bestseller is chocolate fudge cake, but the market in the UK is saturated, so he now needs to get 25% of his trade from the EU. He therefore needs us to stay in, because it is the best place to get trade from. We share E numbers, standards and clear labelling, and we have a free market, and he has access to all the labour in that market. He could not operate without the migrant labour force in Taunton. Nor could another great business in Wellington—K. S. Coles, the vegetable packers, run by Ken Coles. He employs 70 labourers in the winter, mostly migrants, and hundreds more in the summer, to pick beans, peas and strawberries. I do not know whether you like mashed swede, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I do. The company is not only the largest supplier of swedes to our supermarkets in this country but the second largest supplier of swedes to Germany, so it exports right across the EU and needs us to stay in for the sake of that trade.
On all those grounds, we need to remain within the EU. It is a no-brainer. As we have heard, we already have the best possible deal. We have no euro, we have free trade, we have 300 million people we can access, we have a rebate, and we have a veto on laws. What more could we want?
The subjects of agriculture and the environment are close to my heart and important in my rural constituency. The CAP is vital to our agricultural industry. The £20 billion of funding that the industry gets to keep the environment in good shape is absolutely priceless. It not only keeps the rural economy going but keeps people on the land and gives us low-priced food. If we leave the EU, the price of food will rise, mark my words. We have high welfare standards that we have to keep to, so our food will be expensive to produce and we will be flooded with cheap food from Europe. Our farmers therefore need us to stay in.
On the environment, birds do not stop at the boundaries of countries, and we share the water and the air, so we are much better off within the EU. The framework of EU legislation made us clean up our beaches and water. Our beaches, in particular, are vital for our tourist industry in the south-west. There is a direct spin-off between the environmental benefits of being in Europe and the economic benefits, both of which are absolutely clear.
The EU is not perfect, but let us be at the table fighting to improve it, especially through our presidency. Let us be sure that there is some of that chocolate fudge cake at the EU table.
It was really good to hear the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) make the case for the EU in terms of the economy, agriculture and the environment.
It is very easy for me to support this motion on behalf of the people of North Tyneside and, I hope, the wider community of the north-east, because over the years our region has received billions of pounds in investment from Europe. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) said, our region is entitled to more European funds than any other English region, and in the next five years it is due to receive £726 million in European funding. The single market has been hugely significant for business development in the north-east, with more than half our exports going to the EU and 160,000 jobs relying directly on that trade.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will carry on, if my hon. Friend does not mind.
It is no wonder that in a recent survey the North East chamber of commerce found that the majority of the region’s businesses wish to remain in the EU. The same survey highlighted the frustration that businesses feel about having to deal with EU regulations, but the conclusion was that the single market remains the region’s most important market and that it will continue to be so well into the future.
The benefit to the north-east is further illustrated by a study by The Chronicle in Newcastle, which found that the north-east has received an average of £187 per head in EU funding since 2007, compared with £82 in the rest of the UK. The generous funding from the EU to our region stands in stark contrast to how we fare when it comes to receiving funding from this UK Government.
I remind the House that it was a Tory Government who forced the closure of the Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend in the mid-1990s, with devastating consequences for Tyneside. However, thanks to money from the EU, the yard is undergoing a massive transformation. North Tyneside Council was awarded £6.7 million of European regional development funding to part-fund enabling infrastructure works at the former shipyard, which has opened up development on a strategically important enterprise zone site.
Between 2007 and 2013, under the European structural fund programme, North Tyneside Council was the accountable body for nearly £13 million in our region. That money part-funded the refurbishment of a new centre for innovation on our enterprise zone site, creating flexible start-up and business incubation space for small and medium-sized enterprises. Some £1.8 million of ERDF funding was used towards funding business support to enable start-up support, particularly in our disadvantaged areas, resulting in a rate of 400 start-ups per year.
The council is already undertaking work to maximise European structural and investment funds from the current programme to meet the EU 2020 strategy ambitions of achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The newly funded business support programme, Made in North Tyneside, will bring great benefits to the local community and businesses alike. In addition, the council is working with partners on a community-led development to help the most disadvantaged communities in the top 20% most deprived areas to utilise both ESF and ERDF funding to achieve economic growth in their own localities.
I hope that the north-east will not be fooled by those in the Brexit camp who claim that we would be better off leaving the EU. Since 2010, the north-east has suffered huge public spending cuts right across the board under the Tories—from the police and fire services, to the closure of Government offices—all of which have cost jobs and a loss of income to our local communities. The truth is that the future prosperity of my constituency and the north-east region is inextricably linked to the EU. Being unrepentantly parochial, I say that that is reason enough to remain.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this very important debate. I have listened with great interest to the many excellent speeches that have been made.
There is an increasingly healthy trend of Members from all parties coming to this place having had a career outside of politics and life experience that they can bring to our debates. During the year in which I have had the honour to represent Telford, I have seen many fine examples of our debates being informed by that experience and expertise.
I am a chartered accountant. Before coming to this place, I specialised in the financial sector, specifically in investment in financial markets. I want to draw on that experience and bring it to the debate. Over the months, the debate on the EU has, naturally, been characterised by passion on both sides. That has led to increasingly impossible claims and predictions, which have seemed to the outside world, on occasion, alarmist and fanciful. I want to put on record some of the more moderate and balanced perspectives of investors who, because they earn their living generating investment returns for clients, truly understand the meaning of the word risk. We have heard that word repeatedly today and on other occasions. Investors are motivated to put economic considerations before any others.
I am sure that Members present who have an interest in economics will be familiar with the outstanding reputation of Neil Woodford, an investor in UK business. The Woodford report, which was published earlier this year, provides a balanced commentary on the economic impact of Brexit. I encourage those who genuinely harbour fears about a post-Brexit economy to read that report. In case they do not have the chance to do so, its main conclusions are: first, that the most extreme claims about the costs and benefits of Brexit are wide of the mark and not evidence-based; secondly, that a more tailored immigration approach, the freedom to make trade deals with global trading partners, moderately lower levels of regulation and savings to the public purse, although they will not be huge, will have some positive net benefits; and, thirdly, that the most plausible outcome from Brexit will be a modest positive impact on jobs and growth. Neil Woodford states:
“We continue to think that the United Kingdom’s economic prospects are good whether inside or outside the European Union.”
We have a Conservative Government to thank for that.
Neil Woodford is in good company. Richard Sharp, an external member of the Financial Policy Committee who has more than 30 years’ experience in finance and who is in constant contact with major international investors in UK businesses, said in evidence to the Treasury Committee:
“The UK is a thoroughly investable economy and it would remain a thoroughly investable economy whichever way the vote goes”.
The tone of those professional investors is a welcome relief from the sound and fury that political campaigns inevitably generate—although the debate today has been moderate and considered.
From my experience in the financial sector, and after listening to investors and advisers, I believe that when we look back in the not-too-distant future at GDP, employment rates, the FTSE 100 index and inflation, it will be difficult to identify when exactly Brexit occurred. The FTSE 100 is up £17 billion today; I think that some people may not have been following the markets. I want to reassure the House that despite what is said by the ardent campaigners, whose will to win I fully understand, we can sleep easy in our beds on June 24 because the economy will remain strong either way.
We have heard a great deal from the establishment, the elites and bureaucrats, and all those who benefit from the EU, but they are not talking the language of my constituents in Telford. They are not listening to the millions of ordinary people across Britain whose everyday lives are most affected by our membership. Many people in Telford are affected by increasing pressure on public services, by the difficulty of getting a school place and by waiting times to see their GP. The less well-off are the most exposed to the day-to-day reality of our membership of the EU.
We in this place have said enough. Now it is time for the British people to have a say. They want to be free—free to decide who comes to our country, free to make our own laws and free to trade with the rest of the world. On Thursday, I know that the people of Telford will trust their hearts and their instincts and vote for Britain’s future.
Britain stands at a crossroads. The nation has to make a big choice: whether to stay in the EU or to leave. The EU was built on the ashes of world war two once people realised that security and prosperity were linked. Today, again, the world is an uncertain place. Russia has forcibly taken Crimea. Syria is in the throes of a devastating civil war. What is the best approach? Should we pull up the drawbridge or co-operate with our neighbours?
The Labour and trade union movement was built on the principle of solidarity, and what is true for individuals is also true for nations. I believe that, since 2010, this Tory-led Government have set about mending the public finances in the wrong way—cuts instead of investment, austerity rather than growth—and this has led to deep unfairness and economic insecurity. People must now think carefully about what is the best choice in the real world.
On putting jobs first, why has the head of Hitachi said that “jobs would be lost” if we left the EU? Because Britain is a market of 60 million people, whereas Europe is a market of 500 million people. If we leave, next time he invests in a new production line, it will be more economic to build it somewhere else. Today, Rolls-Royce has said the same. Foreign indirect investment creates 85,000 jobs in this country every year, which are all at risk from Brexit.
The Brexit campaign has totally failed to set out how a new trading arrangement would work. It has suggested the arrangements for Norway, Switzerland, Canada and Albania, but even the Prime Minister of Albania does not think that that is a good idea. Why has the head of Glaxo, part of our brilliant pharmaceuticals industry, said that the EU is the best platform for success? Because one system for drug licensing is faster and more efficient than 28 systems. Yet Dominic Cummings, the Lord Chancellor’s former Spad who now runs Vote Leave, told the Treasury Committee that “that is complete rubbish.” Such breath-taking arrogance is putting 93,000 jobs at risk.
Let us look at the car industry. If we leave, it will face tariffs of 10%. It is supposed to cope with that through labour market flexibility, which, translated into English, means wage cuts. Wages account for only a third of total costs, so people would have to take a 30% pay cut or lose their jobs. There are 450,000 jobs at risk.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) have visited textile factories that, outside the EU, would face a 6.5% tariff. It is hard to cut wages in such factories because the Low Pay Commission reports that most of the workers are on the minimum wage, so another 56,000 jobs are at risk, mainly in the north and the midlands. When I challenged the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip about that, he said that
“there is no need for them to worry.”
It is all right for him: on top of his MP’s salary, he takes home another £250,000 every year for his column in The Daily Telegraph. His attitude is flippant to the point of irresponsibility, and this is not a joke.
Let us look at what is happening in the markets: £60 billion has been wiped off the value of shares in London in a week, and people are so desperate to get their money out of London that they are prepared to pay the German Government to look after it. That may be good news for the hedge funders, who make their money betting on volatility and then use it to fund the Brexit campaign, but it is certainly not good news for the millions of people whose pensions depend on the strength of the FTSE 100.
Security and prosperity are linked. The question on the ballot paper is the choice between letting off the leash a right-wing Tory Brexit group that is able to destroy the life chances of millions of ordinary people, and voting to remain in and holding on to the security and prosperity that we have in the EU.
I feel a bit of a lone voice because I am going to speak in favour of voting to leave next week. It is very important for me to do so because I believe that Labour Members’ comments about a Tory Brexit betray the fact that they are not listening to the British people. The vote next week will quite clearly be very close, but at least half of the British people have had enough of the EU and want to leave. By calling this a Tory Brexit, Labour Members are just not listening to the many millions of British people who have genuine concerns about our current relationship with the EU.
This debate, however, is about the supposed economic benefits of our membership of the EU. I will address one very specific point in that regard. According to the House of Commons Library, in 2016 Britain is forecast to give £20.5 billion gross and £11.2 billion net to the EU, so we will be getting back some money from that £20 billion. No one can deny that that will be a large sum of money, and there are various opinions about how it could be spent, but only if we leave will we get to decide how it can be apportioned.
Part of the money we get back from the EU comes in the form of economic development aid. The constituency in Cornwall that I have the privilege of representing is one of the areas in England that benefits the most from that aid. Over the past decades, Cornwall has received hundreds of millions of pounds in regional growth funding from the EU.
I believe Cornwall has been getting around £65 million a year since 2001.
I thank my hon. Friend for that—I was about to make the point that over the past 10 years or so Cornwall has received around £600 million in economic development aid. But we need to remember that that is not EU money. The EU does not actually have any money—there is no magic EU money tree. It is our money, which we give to the EU. It converts it into euros, then converts that into sterling to give back to us, except that it gives it back with a whole load of strings, bureaucracy and red tape attached about how we can spend it.
The fact is that that money is not working. It was meant to create 10,000 new jobs in Cornwall. In fact, in the past 10 years or so, it has created around a third of that number. That Cornwall has now qualified for a third round of EU funding demonstrates that the funding is failing. It is not lifting the Cornish economy as intended. It is not raising wages or the standard of living in the way it was designed to.
I will not take any more interventions, I am afraid.
There is a very simple reason for that failure. We are not able to spend the aid on what we need to in Cornwall. How we should spend it is dictated, Big Brother fashion, by the EU. The requirements are designed for a Europe-wide programme that does not fit the Cornish economy. I will give an example. The current round of funding is targeted only at supporting and providing facilities for small and medium-sized enterprises. But Cornwall does not need another load of SMEs. We need big companies to come and invest in Cornwall, to create better-paid jobs and provide career opportuni