Benefits of EU Membership - Opposition Day Debate

 It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton). I congratulate her on making absolutely the right choice about the referendum.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton). I congratulate her on making absolutely the right choice about the referendum.

The decision facing the electorate on 23 June is a choice between economic security and global influence inside the EU or a leap in the dark outside it, and nowhere will the consequences of that choice be more deeply felt than in my constituency, where the Port Talbot steelworks is the beating heart of our economy and community. I was therefore pleased to see that this week Tata Steel UK sent an all-staff communication stating:

“The European Union influences very important aspects of Tata Steel’s business in the UK. The EU is by far our largest export market, with over a third of our UK steel heading there. And that’s not including the steel that goes via our customers—the EU is a critical export market for the UK’s car makers for example. So access to that market is fundamental to our business and one of the preconditions for this trade is that EU laws and regulations are followed. If the UK were to exit the EU and set these rules ourselves, it is likely we would still need to adhere to EU rules to enter that market. The difference: we would no longer have a say in how those rules are set up or applied.”

We know that the British steel industry is in a precarious state. The last thing it needs now is the turmoil that would be unleashed by a Brexit. That is why I am looking forward to once again joining steelworkers in Aberavon town on Saturday to send the message loud and clear that the steel industry is stronger, safer and better off inside the EU. 

The bread-and-butter case for remaining is clear, but there is also a compelling strategic case to be made. The fact is that Britain succeeds when we open ourselves to the world, not when we close ourselves off. We succeed as a nation when we trade, forge alliances and build bridges. We are at our best when we are leading, not leaving.

In the spirit of cross-party consensus that is gripping the House this afternoon, I would like to quote Winston Churchill, who in 1948 spoke of the “three majestic circles” that should define our approach to the world: the Commonwealth, the United States and Europe, with Britain being

“the very point of juncture”,

the only country with

“a great part in every one of them”.

Churchill’s message is as true today as it was almost 70 years ago. He knew then, and we know now, that weakening our ties with one circle will inevitably weaken our ties with all three. President Obama made that clear during his recent visit, because he knows that a strong Britain in a strong Europe is a stronger ally for the US. We need not just take his word for it; Prime Minister Modi has said that Britain is India’s gateway to the EU. If we leave, Mr Modi’s priority will not be us, it will be to find a new gateway.

Like all nations, we have grappled with the forces of globalisation for thousands of years. From the moment the Romans landed on our shores, we have been an ​integral part of the international community, buffeted by the winds of commerce, conflict and geopolitics. Over the centuries we marshalled the arts of empire building, trade and alliance building to emerge as the pre-eminent global power. Since 1948 we have evolved from being an imperial power to being a global partner. This transformation—this journey—has been morally, politically and economically right, and it has been powered by the politics of economic realism. The movement of goods, services, capital and people across national borders has given rise to a world in which the lines between the domestic and the foreign have blurred. Fast-forward 42 years and we see how right we were; from the steel crisis to the Panama papers, from the refugee crisis to taking on the Kremlin, the EU is the key player in all those issues, and that is why it is critical that we vote to remain on 23 June.