We have a big decision to make, a decision that will shape not just our future but our children’s futures. Should we remain in the EU or should we leave?
There are arguments on both sides - the EU does lots of good things but there’s lots wrong with it too. If the answer was obvious, the polls wouldn’t be so close. I’m grateful to the thousands of constituents who have attended the public meetings I held around the constituency, spoken to me when I have been out campaigning or emailed me to let me know their views.
Having listened to all the arguments, I believe that we should remain in the EU for four main reasons.
1. We’re better off in the world’s largest free market
First, I think West Berkshire and the country as a whole will be better off if we remain in the EU. At the moment, we’re part of the world’s largest free market. Our businesses can sell their goods in any of the 27 other member states without restrictions or having to pay any tariffs. If we leave, they’ll lose that access. Of course, they’ll still be able to trade with the EU, but not on as good terms as they have now. If you’re not convinced, think about it for a minute: if the EU gave us as good access after we left as we have now, every other country that makes a net contribution would leave too. Why would anyone stay a member of a club if you can get all of the benefits without paying a penny?
And if businesses in the UK didn’t have as good access to the EU market as they have now, they would export less and major international firms would be less likely to have offices or factories here. That would mean some people would lose their jobs and the Government would have less tax revenue to spend on things like the NHS, pensions and schools (or have to put up taxes).
So a vote for Remain is a vote for a stronger economy, more jobs, lower taxes and more funding for our public services.
2. We should work with our neighbours, not go it alone
Tomorrow’s vote isn’t just about money though. It’s also about what kind of country we want to be.
Co-operating with other countries isn’t easy. It involves negotiation and compromise - you don’t always get your own way. But many of the biggest problems we face - tackling climate change, combating terrorism, improving the quality of the air we breathe, making sure big companies pay their fair share in tax, deterring aggression by countries like Russia - can only be solved by working with other countries, particularly our immediate neighbours.
The Leave campaign says that if we leave the EU, we can take back control of our own affairs, but the truth is we would have less control, not more.
Take air quality: if we left the EU, it’s true we could make our own laws about how much pollution cars and factories in Britain can emit. But we would no longer have any control over the pollution emitted by cars and factories in continental Europe - and when the prevailing winds are from the wrong direction, that pollution drifts over Britain. And the companies that make cars in Britain sell those cars not just in this country but across Europe. So if the EU passed a law requiring tougher standards, those companies would probably adopt those standards. In other words, we would still end up following EU laws, but we would no longer have any say over them.
I don’t want to live in a United States of Europe, but nor do I want to live in a country that pretends it can go it alone and has less influence in the world as a result.
3. Leaving would be a huge leap in the dark
It’s become clear during this campaign that the Leave campaign don’t know exactly what will happen if we vote for them tomorrow. They don’t know how quickly a new trade deal with the EU will be in place. They don’t know which of the rights we have under EU law, like maternity and paternity leave, would be kept. They don’t know whether we’d still be able to travel to EU countries without a visa and get free healthcare while we’re there. They don’t know whether the French will move our border controls back from Calais to Dover with all the problems that would cause. We needed answers to those questions and we haven’t had them. If we vote Leave tomorrow, it would be a huge leap in the dark and there’d be no going back.
4. We should listen to our young people
The decision we take tomorrow is going to affect our children and grandchildren far more than it is going to affect many of us. It’s their freedom to study, travel and work abroad, their job prospects that are at stake. The polls show that in overwhelming numbers, young people want us to remain in the EU. We should listen to them.
Respecting the decision you take
That’s my view, but whatever your view I hope you will vote tomorrow. When I stood for re-election last year, I promised that I would vote for a referendum to let the British people decide our future in Europe. I’ve kept my word and, whatever my personal views, I will respect and implement the decision you make tomorrow.