THERE are just seven days until the most important vote for a generation and it is time for a calm, clear-headed assessment of the arguments for remaining in, or leaving the EU.
I have carefully weighed the pros and cons of EU membership and, on balance, am convinced that we should remain in the EU. Of course we could survive outside the EU, but the question is not “can we survive”; it is “are we stronger, safer, and better off in?”
I want us to be a strong nation, standing tall in the world. Being part of the EU makes us stronger because we can use the EU to magnify the impact of our international diplomacy.
When I visit other countries – China, Japan, the US for example – I get two bites of the cherry in terms of diplomatic influence. One, as the Foreign Secretary of the UK – the fifth largest economy in the world, one of the foremost military powers, the leading soft power. And another as the Foreign Secretary of one of leading members of the EU – the world’s largest single market. Without doubt, this adds to our influence and our ability to fight for UK interests. So while we would survive outside the EU, we wouldn’t have the same clout to fight Britain’s corner.
I want the UK to be a safe nation in these dangerous and uncertain times. We have world-leading intelligence agencies, dedicated security and police services and vital information-sharing relationships with our five-eyes partners in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But make no mistake, our membership of the EU makes us safer because we have strength in numbers.
When it is in our national interest to do so, we work within the EU framework to fight cross-border crime and terrorism. The European Arrest Warrant has allowed the law enforcement agencies of Yorkshire and the Humber to bring back 77 people to face justice in the UK and extradite more than 630 people accused of crimes to face justice in EU countries.
And I want the UK to be a prosperous nation, with opportunities for our children and grandchildren to make their way in the world. Our membership of the EU makes us better off because British businesses have full, unconditional access to the single market of 500m people and a quarter of the world’s GDP. Crucially, we have a seat at the table when the rules are being set. Keeping us there will safeguard jobs and investment and deliver lower prices and greater financial security.
Britain has much more to get from our EU membership. The single market has huge untapped potential in digital, in services, and in energy. These are all sectors in which the UK, in particular Yorkshire, excels. The EU is committed to accelerate opening of these markets in the next few years and, if we remain in, the UK is set to benefit disproportionately – meaning more jobs, and more investment.
As it is, 250,000 jobs in Yorkshire and the Humber are directly linked to our membership of the EU. Forty seven per cent of goods exported from this region were sold in the EU. And the region has benefited from £3.7bn of inward investment from EU member states in the last five years alone.
The leave campaign know all this would be put at risk if we left the EU – some of their leaders even admit it in private. But they have no plan and nothing to offer to replace the investment, the trade, the jobs that would be lost if we left. If we vote to leave the EU on June 23, we will face a dramatic economic shock – on that, all serious economic analysis is clear. We will also miss out on the, as yet, untapped potential of our future leadership role in reforming the EU.
The deal that the PM agreed in February is significant. It gets the UK out of “ever closer union”, it delivers a new mechanism to return powers from Brussels to the UK and it gives our UK Parliament power to block unwanted EU legislation. It will help make the EU more competitive, cutting red tape, deepening the single market and delivering new trade deals with other large and fast growing markets around the world. It keeps the UK out of the euro and protects our interests as the eurozone integrates further. And it will reduce migration from the EU by ending welfare payments to new arrivals.
The task of reforming Europe does not end with this agreement. We are the EU’s second largest economy, and forecast by many to become its largest. We are the natural leaders of an increasingly influential group of reforming Member States. We have the ability, the allies, and the clout to shape the EU into an organisation that works much more in our interests. And we are resolved to do so.
At a time of uncertainty in the world, leaving the EU would be a huge leap into the dark. Better by far to stay, to bank the benefits of this deal, exploit the special status the UK enjoys, and continue to lead the crusade for further reform in the future.
Philip Hammond is the Foreign Secretary and Remain campaigner.