In the upcoming Referendum, I will be proudly voting for the United Kingdom to REMAIN a member of the European Union. I'd like to explain why I have came to this conclusion.
Put simply, my opinion is that the North East has greatly benefited by partnership with the European Union. We should protect the economic development in our region by committing to this productive relationship.
Investing in the North East
In my lifetime I've seen Newcastle Quayside develop into a thriving tourist attraction. Many of the developments were paid for out of European Union regional development funds. I'm part of a blossoming software industry. The North East still has a strong manufacturing base - from Teesside petrochemicals to the Washington Nissan factory. In the case of Nissan, 70% of their trade is with the European Union. We're one of the most Eurosceptical regions of the country, but we have benefitted, and continue to benefit in huge ways from this partnership.
Not only will voting to leave the European Union affect the entire country, it will hit areas like ours disproportionately hard. Best economic estimates predict a minimum of a two-year recession. We've seen the effects that a recession has on areas like ours. Tory austerity cuts to the bone, and then onwards.
Our funding from the European Union (matched in some areas by UK Government Departments) has helped industries get off the ground. It's contributed money into the redevelopment of Gateshead College and New College Durham through the European Social Fund. We get more out than we put in. Advocates of leaving claim we'll control this money ourselves, but it's not exactly clear how. We know councils are worried about future funding cuts from the UK Government.
As part of our current arrangement, the North East of England punches well above its weight. We should vote to protect this and commit to developing our region, not devouring it through more austerity.
No Clear Plan for Leaving
No country has ever left the European Union. There can be no certainty on what happens next, but there are some likely scenarios that we can consider. Unfortunately, the politicians advocating Leave have been widely discredited on all fronts, unable to provide a clear plan for how the United Kingdom would operate outside of a European Union. They talk about creating trade deals with other countries - but we're already doing that. They talk about how the world will rally to our cause - despite clear indications from other nations that this will not be the case. They have claimed we can have our cake and eat it - that we will regain access to the Single Market without having to pay tariffs or comply with their regulation, but remaining an influential partner. Again, we've been told otherwise, by the very people who we'd be negotiating with.
All we're left with is blind, almost religious, belief that everything will be okay. Maybe it will, but we need to think about how long this would take, and what happens along the way.
I don't think it's a big ask for these people to give us a clear answer on their plan. It rings alarm bells that they cannot.
We're being asked to make a huge decision. There are no certainties - just probabilities, to which people will assign different weightings based on their own philosophies. The primary reason I wish to remain in the European Union is to protect the strong position the North East has forged. Of course, there are lots of secondary reasons too: in the short term the economic shock caused by leaving will leave lasting damage and will be exploited by the right-wing for further cuts. In the long term, it's unclear, but my best guess is we'd need a significant restructuring of our economy.
I have concerns about the fascist rhetoric that the Leave campaign has adopted. Immigration and the European Union are the dual scapegoats for all the ills (real, imagined or untrue) that the United Kingdom faces. Racism has not gone away, it's been deliberately exploited by politicians and the press to push a deeply Conservative agenda. We have to accept that we live in a globalised society. Attempting to roll back this progress is counterproductive. This rhetoric needs to be thoroughly rejected.
We've been given little of substance to give us a reason to leave. We need to acknowledge the positive impact European Union membership has had on our region.