Jonathan Djanogly MP: Why it must be a vote for Remain
22nd June 2016
After weeks of Brexit arguments, for and against, many of my constituents may be confused by conflicting positions and passions. At the very least I think we can all agree that everyone will be happy to have a break from the relentless flow of information, after voting on 23 June.
And yet this issue is most certainly one of the most important decisions for us collectively to take as a nation since the end of the Second World War, As such, everyone should be interested and vote.
To my mind the overwhelming evidence points to our future trade, prosperity and job creation prospects to be maximised by remaining in the EU. Even pro Brexit economists (of which there are very few) admit that Brexit would result in the export of manufacturing capacity and a lower level of growth, albeit on their hope that we would restructure and then prosper through trade with the wider world. On the Remain side, there is predicted a fall in the currency and the immediate possibility of recession. In either case, the national pot will get smaller – meaning less money for public services, like the NHS.
Within the EU the British consumer has more choice of products and from a wider range of suppliers, which in itself drives down prices. EU air and rail policies have resulted in cheaper travel and the scrapping of mobile roaming charges. Products brought across the single market are of the same high standards. Environmental standards mean that the water we drink and the pollution, say, going out over our beaches, is highly regulated and clean. Not only does the EU provide us with tariff free access to over 500 million customers within the EU, but also across the world with over 50 preferential trade access agreements signed.
EU trade measures stop unlawfully subsidised or dumped goods competing unfairly with British goods in the single market. Furthermore, foreign investment comes to base its foreign plant and services in the UK, so that they can use the UK to have access to the single market. All of this is at risk if we leave and, for those of us who are or will be working, do we really want to go back to a system where we need visas to work around Europe – surely we have moved beyond that situation.
For me the security aspect of the EU is also very important. The French and Germans, will normally start with a comparison of now peaceful Western European countries fighting one another, in pre EU times. In the UK, peace is often mentioned as an afterthought, if at all. But I would point to non EU European countries that have recently suffered war, like in the Balkans or Ukraine or EU countries that had to undergo Soviet oppression, like the Baltics or Poland. Whilst terrible things happened only recently in these countries, we in the EU have enjoyed free, democratic and peaceful lives. I believe that we should value this highly. But it is also dealing with our own home security that benefits from EU membership.
For instance, the EU arrest warrant means that we can quickly remove foreign criminals who are wanted in other member states and also repatriate British criminals living abroad in the EU. Gone are the days of UK criminals living freely on the Spanish “Costa del Crime” – remember that?
From what I can gather, the Brexit argument focusses on two important issues; sovereignty and immigration. As for sovereignty, I consider that the ultimate proof that we have not lost sovereignty is contained in our having this In/Out referendum – which I have always supported. For me, this is not about giving up our sovereignty but sharing it for the common good.
The UK has signed hundreds of treaties pooling sovereignty on such things as the environment, trade, the United Nations and even the ultimate life or death decision of nuclear warfare through our membership of NATO. We join all of these organisations and treaties because we want to have a better world with commonly accepted values and penalties for non-compliance. However, if we don’t like any of these treaties, including the EU, we can always leave. We remain a sovereign nation.
Being in the EU gives us a place at the table and influence. If we were to leave, we would not regain control, we would actually lose control of regulations that our exporters will need to comply with in any event, if they wish to continue to trade within the EU.
On immigration, there are clearly strains on our society that need to be addressed, as they are being to a great extent by this government; not least through our recent changes to stop immigrants instantly accessing our benefits system. Let’s keep in mind though that over half our immigration is non EU, so I simply don’t accept that the issue will go away post Brexit. This is mainly because it is demand led, i.e. British companies and farms will not need any less foreign workers because we are out of the EU. To put this in a local context; we have about 150,000 residents in the Huntingdonshire district plus some 4,000 EU citizens (mostly Polish people) working here. They are taking no-one’s jobs. Indeed with local unemployment of only about 0.5%, without our hard working much needed immigrant population our local economy would soon come to a grinding halt. Yes, we need more housing locally, but I can’t see that not being the case post a Brexit in any event. Of course, it’s not just our private sector; a quick visit to Hinchingbrooke hospital will soon prove that it’s immigrant staff, are vital to it’s running. As Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee recently noted: You are more likely to be looked after by someone in the NHS, than to be behind them in the queue.
Finally, on immigration, give a thought to the two million British workers living in the EU, who are rightly extremely concerned that reciprocal moves may be taken against them. Keep in mind also here that when the economic tables were turned, back in the 1980s, and British workers needed to find work abroad they could go round the EU. In this way the EU sets a balance, helping its member states who have troubles and providing much needed labour to those states that are thriving and creating jobs. This is not a system we should turn our backs on, without serious thought.
Notwithstanding everything I have said; after the vote it will be important, in either event, that Parliamentarians come quickly together to deal with the outcome. The issues are too important for the UK for us to do otherwise.
Jonathan Djanogly MP