Why it has to be IN

Its no surprise as someone, who believes in the internationalism and outward-looking perspective that Britain proudly champions, for me to be a strong supporter for remaining within the European Union.

My stance on this issue has never once faltered or been brought into question – I have always been a proud supporter of the benefits of being a member of the EU can bring to the UK.

Though we will never get everything we want out of the EU – remember we are one of 28 states vying for our own national interests – what we do need to realise is there is so much common ground between us and our European neighbours, despite the centuries of war that has wrecked havoc across mainland Europe.

For me, what is important about the EU is that these ‘debates’ have now moved from the battlefield and instead entered the political battlefield – of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Never in Europe’s history have we have such a prolonged period of peace between the majority of European countries and instead seen us all working collaboratively together.

There are issues with the European Union – no system or institution is perfect. This ranges from the unnecessary and costly choices of the EU, where the Parliament moves between Brussels and Strasbourg every six months, to the crisis that has engulfed many EU countries with the eurozone crisis and also issues around national Parliaments having more of a say over what is passed by the EU.

But there are so many positives.

Without being a member of the European Union, we would never have won many of the hard fought rights that we take for granted now, from paid maternity and paternity leave, to anti-discrimination laws to equal pay legislation.

As someone who grew up in a large North East town, I know full well the benefits we receive from the EU as a region. For the North-East, the region with still the highest unemployment rate in the country, it is vital that we work with the EU to improve our economic prosperity and create the jobs that thousands of people across the region need. What this comes down to is our continued access to the single market. For many businesses in the region, such as Nissan in Washington or Hitachi in County Durham, having access to the single market is a great benefit that keeps these important job creators in one of our key strategic regions of the U.K – one that is the only net exporter to the rest of Europe in the country.

If we considered leaving the EU then these worker’s rights and job creation would be put at risk, and for a region which has seen such tentative economic growth compared to London or the South East it is important that we protect whatever fledgling growth we have and use the EU to help make our region prosper by cultivating the potential that goes unrecognised in the region.

Not only does our economy, right across the country it must be added, depend on our continued membership of the EU but so does our national security.

The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, came out over the weekend as an Out campaigner against the Prime Minister’s In campaign and one of his first interventions in what will be a long drawn out referendum campaign was that remaining in the EU would mean Paris-style attacks on UK soil.

IDS couldn’t be further from the truth! Instead what we see as continued members of the EU is our ability to use measures such as the European Arrest Warrant and our cross-border intelligence sharing to work together to combat the terrorist actions that have become more prevalent here in Europe.

Working with our European neighbours as we have done for decades since we entered into this union shows just how important it is to work on the international stage, rather than being isolationist, to address issues that affect not only our own security but that of the rest of the world. From the refugee crisis engulfing Europe because of the ongoing conflict in Syria to the threat of climate change to our environment and livelihoods; what we can do as members of the biggest bloc in the world is work collaboratively to address this issue together rather than separately.

This is something I wish the Prime Minister had made a priority in his renegotiations which for months became a circus that culminated in a weekend-long Mexican standoff (with added Haribo) which by the end became farcical. Yet, the deal the Prime Minister was able to strike was an important step in the right direction. For me, the Prime Minister securing some important measures and breaks of further EU integration was the right thing to do, yet these reforms could have been more wide-ranging and tapped into what I believe is the social aspect of the EU that protects many of the most vulnerable in our society. However, with a Tory Prime Minister at the helm of our renegotiation talks we shouldn’t have expected much.

The next few months are going to be arduous. By the end of the four month long campaign, which we are not one week into, we will all more than likely become sick of talking about the EU and will just want to put it to bed finally for a generation – if we haven’t all already got to that point.

Yet that is just the thing – this is a once in a lifetime moment, one many of us may never experience again. That is why we must all, however tired we may become of it, engage with the democratic process of the nation holding a referendum on our future and for those of us who are proud In supporters we must make the case for our continued membership by talking with, rather than at, the general public.

There is too much at stake right now, from our future economic prosperity to protecting our national security, for us to step away from one of the largest trading blocs and institutions in the world and think going it alone will be easy. It won’t. We are an island nation, yes one with a proud and great history as a world power, but to diminish our standing in the world would be foolish when the world is in such turmoil and confusion.

We must remain united and stand with our European neighbours and address the issues that affect each country together rather than pulling up the drawbridge and ignoring the shared work we can all do.

That is why I am IN on 23rd June.

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