Speaking in the House of Commons today, Paul Farrelly urged that, backed by major employers in Newcastle and the country at large, Britain remains a member of the European Union.
You can read the full speech here.
Madam Deputy Speaker, you, like many of us, might have seen a front-page splash in The Times last week trumpeting the support for Brexit from Lord Anthony Bamford of JCB, the iconic digger maker based in my county of Staffordshire. I was intrigued by the story, mainly because it smacked a little of desperation. It was, as it is called in the trade, old news, because anyone reading The Sentinel newspaper in Staffordshire would have known that when the good lord came out all of a year ago.
Anthony Bamford is part of just a small smattering of industrialists on the Brexit side that includes a maverick knight of the realm, Sir James Dyson, who makes those costly, complicated hoovers—in Malaysia. In reality, their views are not reflective of the large majority of British businesses, investors or economists. Our membership of the EU has been vital to our attracting much-needed investment here. Nissan, Toyota and Honda from Japan made that clear very early on, when they urged the UK to remain, and the likes of BMW, Volkswagen, Bosch and Siemens from Germany have since joined them.
German companies here employ 500,000 people. Along with the Japanese, they have made the UK car industry today the most successful in our country’s history—along with Tata of India, of course, with its investment in Jaguar Land Rover. Tata, too, cannot fathom why Britain would want to leave the world’s biggest single market. In this debate, their voices deserve to be heard and listened to, not silenced through intimidation, as was the intention at the beginning of the leave campaign. Then, of course, there are the voices of great British companies—household names such as Rolls-Royce, one of our biggest exporters. My grandad built Spitfire engines at Crewe for Rolls-Royce, and today the company, patriotically, urged its staff to vote remain.
It is not just multinationals that are emphatically in favour of our remaining in the EU. This spring, like other colleagues on the Opposition Benches, I carried out a survey of about 1,000 predominantly small businesses in my constituency, and we had a good response. Some 80% were in favour of remaining. Some wanted reforms, but they firmly believed that we should stay in, to reform from within. The response to our survey reflected the balance within the wider membership of Staffordshire’s chamber of commerce and the views of the British Ceramic Confederation—the industry from which my area of the potteries takes its name. This—particularly for us—vital export-led industry wants us firmly to stay in because it is in its and the country’s interests. It recognises that it is better to have one rule book, rather than 28 different ones for each country in the EU.
Let me take a local example of the new economy. One of our most passionate supporters of the remain campaign is bet365, which is now the world’s biggest online gaming company and the owner of Stoke City football club, which I must of course mention. In little more than 15 years, the Coates family has built that business up into becoming the biggest private sector employer in North Staffordshire, with more than 3,500 highly skilled staff. It is one of the UK’s biggest business success stories of the last decade. Frankly, bet365 can only dream of one rule book, because at the moment it has to contend with not only 28, but far more rules, with each of the German Länder and other different European regions having their own individual regulations. Bet365 is precisely the sort of business that will benefit by staying in and extending the single market to services and e-commerce, which were key topics in the Prime Minister’s renegotiations.
If I had more time, I would talk in greater detail about the benefits of EU membership to the NHS and higher education. I have a whole campus, Keele University, in Newcastle-under-Lyme which, together with our NHS, now has one of the country’s leading medical schools. Its position is shortly to be boosted by a £20 million new research facility for drugs and medical treatments, £13 million of which will come from the EU. In all, the university, the NHS and therefore our local economy are due to gain £30 million-worth of EU funding for research and education over the next few years. It is right to point out the risk of losing it if we vote to leave. The EU has been pivotal in securing other rights that are too often taken for granted—equal rights for agency workers, minimum paid holidays, maternity pay and indeed equality of pay across the board.
To conclude, I firmly believe that having this referendum was a reckless and unnecessary gamble with our country’s future. It was a tactical exercise in party management, which has seen the governing Conservative party fall apart over the issue. The right hon. Member for Witney, through two general elections and two referendums so far, has in many respects been the luckiest of Prime Ministers. I hope that his luck holds next Thursday. The decision we face next week is about much more than jobs, investment and prosperity. It is about learning the correct lessons from history. The past has shown that Britain has an important role at the heart of Europe. That engagement and co-operation makes our continent more progressive, more outward-looking and more stable. Next Thursday, the right lesson to learn from history is to vote remain.