Unlike at an election, the EU referendum is not a choice for the next five years, but the next 50 years. The stakes could not be higher. And while Westminster obsesses over the Tory leadership, it will be up to us, as Labour activists, to get out on the doorstep, in the workplace and in the pub and actually win the referendum.
If you remember only five key facts, make them these:
- Jobs, jobs, jobs: As part of the EU, Britain benefits from being part of the biggest single market in the world – almost half of the UK’s trade and foreign investment comes from the EU, accounting for around 3.5 million UK jobs. It isn’t only big firms that benefit from Britain’s EU membership – small businesses also enjoy access to a bigger market, and even companies that do not trade with the EU depend on those that do.
- Employment rights: Thanks to Labour, British workers benefit hugely from EU laws that ensure at least four weeks paid holiday and extended maternity and paternity leave. Under EU law, part-time workers enjoy the same rights as full-time staff, and the wellbeing of workers is protected by high health and safety standards in the workplace.
- Consumer benefits: EU membership has meant cuts to roaming charges; compensation for delayed and cancelled flights; and caps on credit card fees. Being in the EU means the average family saves around £450 a year due to lower prices, achieved through the strength we derive from being part of the biggest consumer market in the world.
- Security: From climate change to terrorism to cross-border crime, we are better off working together with our neighbours to solve these problems rather than pulling out of the EU and weakening our country. The EU has helped keep the peace in Europe for decades, and it continues to keep us safe in difficult and dangerous times.
- Influence: Britain’s EU membership makes us a major player in world trade – as an EU member, we’re part of a market with 500 million consumers which other countries want to do business with. Those who want to leave the EU have failed to say what Britain’s place in the world or Europe will be. Norway, for example, has to pay to access the single market and abide by most of the rules, but has no say on any of them.
The starting gun has been fired. The clock is ticking. The days are lengthening. In 121 days the vote takes place. In 122 days we could be facing a bleak, uncertain future; or we will have secured our nation’s prosperity and safeguarded the jobs, rights and opportunities of millions of people.
The fight starts now – the fight against the likes of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith – not to mention those more interested in who will lead the Tories than what is in the national interest. It’s a fight we must and will win, and while the Tories scrap amongst themselves, Labour’s got to lead the campaign for Britain’s future.
Glenis Willmott is leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party