25 FEB 2016

Greg's view on the EU referendum

In the General Election campaign last year I stood on a manifesto that promised that everyone in Britain should have the chance to decide whether we should remain part of the European Union in a clear in/out referendum.

At the time, many people didn't believe that was a promise that would be kept. So I am proud that, less than a year after winning a majority in Parliament, we are delivering on that promise - with the referendum taking place on June 23rd.

My vote in the referendum counts the same as everyone else's in Tunbridge Wells - no more, no less. And that's how it should be. In our area there will be people who want to remain in the EU, people who will campaign to leave and others who will - perfectly reasonably – prefer to keep their decision to themselves.

I will be casting my vote in favour of Britain remaining part of the European Union. I believe that we have a brighter future as a leading part of Europe than out of it. For me it comes down to our national interest. We are a trading nation. Nearly half of all our exports go to countries in the European Union - the biggest free-trade zone in the world. Our jobs and our livelihoods depend on businesses large and small selling their wares to other countries.

If we left the EU, we would be left outside the European single market. We would have to try to negotiate a way for our businesses to access their customers across Europe. With no say in setting them, the rules of the market would be used to favour EU members at the expense of British firms and British jobs. I think it's far better for Britain to help make the rules rather than have to follow the rules set by others – our competitors.

For us here in Tunbridge Wells I believe we have benefited particularly from this engagement with Europe. Many of our local employers operate across Europe. The head of Axa – the biggest private sector employer in Tunbridge Wells – said that Britain leaving the EU would "deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk". And many of my constituents earn their living in London - the most successful city in Europe whose strength depends on it being the commercial capital of Europe.

Some readers of this column - including many good friends - will take a different view. That is a healthy reflection of our freedom and democracy and I have respect for those who come to a different conclusion. That is why it was right for the Government to give everyone a direct say, not just MPs.

I hope the debate over the next few months will be spirited, serious and respectful - recognising the fact that each person's vote counts equally.

Whatever we decide on June 23rd, our future ultimately depends on the strength of our democracy, the soundness of our economy and the unity of our nation.

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