Bristol needs Britain to be leading the EU, not leaving it

Devolution intervention Oct 15 2015The forthcoming EU Referendum represents the UK’s biggest political decision for generations. The outcome will affect the lives of every Bristol resident.

I was nine in 1973 when the UK became a member of what was then the European Economic Community. I recall the special commemorative 50p piece featuring nine overlapping hands, each representing a member country.

In later years I was lucky, visiting places that had been the scenes of horrendous World War battles: some Normandy beaches and the Somme battleground, for example. I marvelled at how countries previously torn apart by war had chosen to work together hand in hand. Europe felt instinctively a good place to be. For me it still does.

Being part of the EU has helped secure economic growth and our families’ prosperity. Bristol enjoys many of the advantages a growing economy brings. Challenges too, such as migration, which many people raise with me as a concern. It’s not often I agree with former Conservative Prime Ministers but Sir John Major last weekend rightly described the ‘Leave’ campaign’s tactics as ‘deceitful.’ Those suggesting leaving the EU would solve our country’s migration challenges are wrong. And they’re only making the claims because they’ve lost all the economic arguments.

A thriving economy and the availability of work has always attracted people to Bristol from across the UK, Europe and beyond – true today as ever. Our ability to constantly adapt and plan ahead is what makes this a great place to live, work and raise our families. Failure to build housing and infrastructure to support our economic success is a failure of government forward planning.

The perils of a ‘leave’ vote are clear: a huge blow to jobs, living standards and business confidence, with the UK needing to tear up positive trading agreements that have evolved and strengthened over four decades, and start again.

The EU might not be perfect. But to influence something, it’s far better doing so from the inside, not deliberately going into uncertainty, looking in, powerless to shape anything. Bristol needs Britain to be leading the EU, not leaving it.

This article was written for The Bristol Post, published on 9 June 2016.