"A vote to 'Remain' is a vote for an outward-looking, confident Britain"by David Lidington / June 22, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Brexiting yourself in the foot
The United Kingdom is a European country with global interests and influence. Tomorrow’s vote on our membership of the EU is not a choice between Europe and the rest of the world. We need both. Being in the EU has made our country better off and has strengthened our security. Leaving would put that at risk.
Inside the EU, British companies can treat 500 million people in 28 countries—the biggest and richest trading bloc in the world—as their home market. Nearly half our aerospace exports, more than 40 per cent of car exports, and a third of financial services exports go to Europe. Europe includes seven of our ten biggest export markets for food and drink.
Big and small firms alike benefit. Just under a quarter of small and medium-sized enterprises either export directly to the EU or are in a European supply chain. Trade is tariff-free, with just one set of product standards, inspections and paperwork instead of 28.
By the way, the OECD’s analysis shows Britain inside the EU having the least burdensome business regulations of any developed economy except the Netherlands—also in the EU!
Of course the EU isn’t perfect. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. All the alternatives to EU membership involve tariffs, quotas and more bureaucracy and paperwork—a killer for trade and jobs. Worse, UK companies trading or in supply chains with the EU would still have to follow European rules, even though Britain would have no say in making them.
Because we are in the EU Single Market, companies from around the world, from carmakers to banks, have set up shop here. Japanese and American companies are clear: “Leave” the EU and not only will Britain not get that investment in future, but many jobs here already will be at risk.
I’m used to seeing vigorous argument among economic experts but on this issue the consensus is overwhelming: being in the EU is good for British jobs, growth and trade; leaving would bring enormous risks to employment and living standards, with the cost falling most heavily upon young workers.
“Remain” in, and we can complete a Single Market in the digital sector and in services to match the one that exists for goods. We can drive forward more international trade deals, using the leverage of a market of 500 million people to get better access for our exporters. In today’s world, to “take control” and shape the rules of trade and business to our advantage, we need to work with other countries, not flounce out of the room where the decisions are taken.
But this referendum will not only affect the economic fortunes of the United Kingdom—it will also affect our place in the world.
Being in the European Union doesn’t diminish us as a nation; it amplifies our political and diplomatic influence globally.
I’ve seen first-hand as a minister how our country has shaped and led EU initiatives that have protected British interests and the safety of British citizens: police forces across Europe sharing information and intelligence about terrorists and gangsters; tough sanctions that brought Iran to negotiate over nuclear weapons; European navies working together in the Indian Ocean to defeat piracy.
So often the challenges we face are international in scope, too big for any one country—for Germany or France or the UK—to tackle on our own. Together, we can change things for the better. In a turbulent world, there is strength in numbers.
If we want to tackle the root causes of large-scale migration, we will need to work internationally, including at European level, to give people in Africa and the Middle East hope of a safe and decent life in their home countries. There’s no silver bullet. We’ll need to harness development aid, trade access to our markets, coordinated action against people smugglers, diplomatic work to end conflicts and more.
Quitting the EU will do nothing to help tackle the problem. On the contrary, it will make it more difficult to build the international agreement needed for an effective solution.
The “Leave” campaign talks about the world beyond the EU. They should listen to what our friends around the world are saying. Every single NATO ally argues that the Atlantic alliance is stronger and more effective through continued British membership of the EU. That’s also the view of NATO’s Secretary General and every one of his predecessors still living.
Our “5 eyes” intelligence partners—the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand—urge us to stay in. So does Japan. So do the countries of the Commonwealth, who see Britain in the EU as their champion for policies on trade access, development aid and climate change that help the world’s poorest.
We should be confident in our ability to lead efforts in Europe to solve the challenges that face us globally. A vote to “Remain” is a vote for an outward-looking, confident Britain.
Now read: Why Brexit could be Britain’s biggest diplomatic disaster