"To 'Leave' would be a leap in the dark—a reckless gamble"by Angela Eagle / June 22, 2016 / Leave a comment
Tomorrow the British people will make the most momentous decision in a generation—whether to “Leave” or “Remain” in the European Union. This is not a general election to elect a government for four or five years; it is a vote to determine the future of our country for decades to come. The EU is not perfect. But for the sake our future prosperity, our economy and security, I passionately believe that we need to remain as a member of it.
First and foremost this referendum is about jobs and workers’ rights. The evidence could not be more stark. Three million jobs are linked to our trade with the EU. Nine out of ten economists agree that we are better off within the EU, and have argued that leaving the EU would be a threat to jobs and the economy. There is also no doubt that isolation from Europe would result in a bonfire of workers’ rights. “Leave” campaigners, in an unholy alliance, refer casually to the “burdens” and “red tape” that we could slash on leaving—we are yet to be told whether this “red tape” consists of holiday pay, maternity leave, or other vital protections that the EU guarantees.
But as well as the economic case, this vote is also about what sort of country we want Britain to be for generations to come. The vision of Britain put forward by Nigel Farage and his fellow Brexiteers is a toxic blend of division and isolation. The “Leave” campaign’s rhetoric has at times been irresponsible and dangerous—most notoriously with Farage’s poster depicting Syrian refugees fleeing war under a headline screaming “Breaking Point.” It has now emerged that Vote Leave have received a large donation from a former BNP member. This is not the Britain I know, and it is not the Britain I want to live in.
We live a in a globalized world. It would be naïve to suggest that this has brought only benefits, and there are communities up and down the country—particularly those with an industrial heritage—that have suffered as a result of dramatic economic change. And yet we cannot hope to combat the challenges of globalization by trying to deny its existence, by “quitting,” in the words of the Prime Minister, returning to a mythical past of splendid isolation.
The “Leave” campaign’s empty slogan about “taking back control” is dangerously misleading. To leave the EU would be to surrender the control and influence we currently have in the world, to give up on the pooling and sharing of resources in the EU, to reject the single market and trade deals that bring such benefits to UK workers. To leave would be a leap in the dark, a reckless gamble with our country’s future. Sadly it is those people and communities who feel most under threat from the pressures of globalization who would suffer the most if we were to quit, not Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage.
Britain will prosper in the future if we work in partnership and cooperation with other nations, both in Europe and in the rest of the world. Whether this involves tackling terrorism, the refugee crisis or climate change, the myriad challenges of the 21st century need to be addressed in alliance with other countries, and we cannot hope to solve them on our own. The European Union is not the only vehicle for this approach, but it is a vital one.
“I am particularly fearful of what will happen if an emboldened Boris Johnson is given free rein to pursue his shameless bid for No. 10”
For over a century the Labour Party’s mission has been underpinned by the values of cooperation and solidarity. These are also the values which sparked the formation of the EU, and continue to guide it today. If we want to project our values onto the world, and fight for a more prosperous future for Britain, then this future will be significantly strengthened by remaining in the EU.
Ironically, Tory Brexiters have successfully identified the multiple problems of their own government’s making during this campaign, while trying to make the EU the scapegoat. They have emulated the tactics that UKIP have been employing for years, falsely blaming the EU for every valid concern in our society. To Labour voters who are flirting with Brexit I would say this: yes our public services are suffering, but this is because because they have been starved of resources by the Tory Government; yes we face a chronic housing crisis, but this has been created by the government’s failure to invest and an aversion to social housing; yes too many people face insecurity at work, but this is a consequence of a government that is indifferent to workers’ rights and whose industrial strategy is non-existent.
Farage and his fellow Brexiteers have attempted to smear the “Remain” campaign as “Project Fear.” And yet I am fearful of what will happen if the UK turns it back on the world by voting to leave the European Union. I am fearful of what will happen if companies dependent on trade with the EU uproot, and the disappearance of the thousands of jobs they currently provide. I am particularly fearful of what will happen if an emboldened Boris Johnson is given free rein to pursue his shameless bid for No. 10, on a platform of slashing workers’ rights and starving our public services. For a more prosperous, secure future for generations to come, for more jobs and opportunities, where we maintain our influence on the global stage in order to tackle problems at home and abroad, tomorrow I will be proud to cast my vote to remain in the European Union.