I was nine in 1973 when the United Kingdom became a member of what was then called the European Economic Community.
The vivid memory I still have is the special commemorative 50p piece that was struck. It featured nine hands overlapping in a circle, each representing a member country.
In the years that followed I was lucky enough to visit places in Europe that had, just a few short decades earlier, been the scenes of horrendous World War battles: some Normandy beaches and the Somme battleground. I also visited Brussels: as it is now, the hub of inter-European collaboration.
I marvelled at how countries that had been torn apart by war had now chosen to work together hand in hand.
Europe felt then instinctively a good place to be. For me it still does.
A welcome debate
I really welcome the debate this Referendum brings, because it allows us all to consider and articulate the benefits to Bristol people of remaining in the EU. Here are a few:
• The average Bristol family saves around £450 a year due to lower prices, because of the strength we get from being part of the world’s biggest consumer market.
• Jobs and businesses of all sizes depend on trade with Europe. Almost half our exports go to other EU countries, worth £227 billion last year to our economy, and we bring in £26.5 billion of investment on average every year from other EU countries.
• Future EU trade could create 790,000 more jobs by 2030 by opening up markets in digital services, energy and tourism.
• Large companies from all over the world build offices and factories here because we are a gateway to the European single market. Leaving the EU would risk businesses and jobs going elsewhere.
I firmly believe staying in the EU is better for economic growth and for our families’ prosperity.
It’s better for peace and for action on climate change.
And it’s better for jobs and protection for working people.
Importantly for me it also means being able to continue our close collaboration with other European countries to combat crime and terrorism. For our national security and our influence in Europe and across the world, we need to remain in the EU, because by working together we can continue to face up to, and deal with, the many threats and uncertainty in the world.
If you want to find out more about the EU, and the good reasons I feel Britain needs to stay in it, I’d suggest you take a look at the website www.infacts.org
The EU might well be an imperfect institution. But if you want to influence something, far, far better doing so from the inside, not deliberately going outside into uncertainty, looking in, powerless to shape anything.
There’s no argument that convinces me Bristol South residents would be better off out. I remain resolutely pro-EU because I believe Britain should be leading the EU, not leaving it.