THE starting gun has been fired on the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. I want Britain to embrace the future and lead the world. To do that, Britain’s place is in the European Union. As a nation, we are stronger, more secure and better off.
Britain needs to be a high-skill, high-wage economy to prosper. Over a third of a million Yorkshire jobs depend on trade with the EU, through local factories of multi-national companies like Haribo, Nestle and Coca-Cola.
The CBI has warned the uncertainty around the referendum could harm British businesses and cost British jobs, British growth and British investment.
Having a seat at the EU table gives us global influence. On climate change, from within the EU we act as world leaders, most recently at the UN summit in Paris.
We led calls for the EU to impose sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine in 2013. Our voice is heard internationally because we are standing on the European platform.
Being a member of the EU means that we enjoy protections as consumers and workers. The EU gives us important employment rights, like paid holiday, maternity leave and fair treatment at work.
It also protects our environment. Some 99 per cent of our beaches now comply with EU minimum standards on cleanliness. It might be a surprise to younger readers, but as a child I would emerge from the sea at Blackpool covered in oil. Seaside towns benefit as cleaner beaches mean more tourists and stronger local economies.
British consumers benefit, too. British consumers now save £110 on their energy bills every year thanks to the EU phasing out inefficient light bulbs.
Higher standards on new car efficiency have saved UK customers billions in petrol and diesel costs, and, by 2020, new car annual fuel consumption is set to be half of what it was in 1997. The EU means a better deal and lower prices for families and businesses in Britain.
It is not just about our economic interests. It is about our values as British people. We are a confident, prosperous, outward-looking nation.
Rather than pulling up the drawbridge and opting for isolation, we are safer and stronger working with our European neighbours.
Together, we are more capable of tackling the economic downturn, climate change, or cross-border terrorism.
Why would we want to leave, and take that great leap in the dark?
Throughout the past week, we have seen the Conservatives split from top to bottom on the EU.
The Labour party is united on the EU. We are the only national party campaigning to remain in the EU, with the support of 213 of 232 of our MPs and the whole Shadow Cabinet.
We believe that we should remain in the EU, because we achieve more through our common endeavour than we can achieve on our own.
The EU isn’t perfect, but it is the longest and most successful peace process the world has ever seen.
In 2,000 years of European history, the EU has seen 70 years of peace.
Neighbours who were once enemies are now trading partners and friends. We only need to look to Ukraine, Crimea and Syria to see conflict tearing communities apart on our doorstep.
As part of the EU, we sit around the table with our neighbours. We avoided the big conflicts that have affected eastern European countries, like Yugoslavia 25 years ago.
Labour wants to see Britain playing a full role in shaping a reformed Europe that deepens its Single Market, offers more jobs and hope to its young people; a Europe which uses its collective strength in trade with the rest of the world and which stands together to combat the urgent security problems of the refugee crisis, climate change and Putin’s Russia.
The EU has protected consumers, driven investment, innovation and prosperity, and cleaned up our air, beaches and our rivers.
I, and my party, are clear that Britain is a more powerful, prosperous and secure country by being a member of the EU.
It would be a mistake to leave while still paying the full costs of full membership.
We are stronger with a seat at the negotiating table, leading change from the inside.
Global challenges will not go away if we are outside the EU. But they will be harder to solve for one nation alone than 28 nations working together.
Only together can we hope to tackle them. There is a long campaign ahead, but I – and my Labour colleagues – will be voting with confidence to remain in the EU on June 23. I hope that you will join us, too.
Mary Creagh is the Yorkshire and the Humber co-ordinator for the Labour In For Britain campaign. She is also the MP for Wakefield.