On June 23, a referendum will take place to decide whether Britain stays in the European Union.
Today, writing exclusively for the Sunderland Echo, Prime Minister David Cameron argues why an ‘In’ vote is best for Wearside ...
There’s a big decision around the corner, and a huge choice for everyone in the North East: whether to stay in a reformed European Union, or leave for good.
The big question people need to ask is: will we be better-off inside a reformed EU, or out on our own? In other words, what will happen to jobs? What would leaving mean for the most important industries in the North East? And what would that mean for your family’s financial security and your children’s future?
My view is straightforward: the North East, just like the rest of the UK, will be stronger, safer and better-off inside the EU. In a reformed Europe, businesses will continue to have full access to the free trade single market.
It’s this market of 500 million consumers that brings the jobs and investment that this region and our country need to thrive.
It’s our trade with Europe that helps businesses to grow and take people on.
And it’s our membership of the single market that, together with our skilled workers and industry expertise, helps make the UK a brilliant location for attracting foreign investment. This is especially the case in vital sectors like the car industry, which depend so heavily on investors who prize our ability to export to the rest of Europe.
Consider these facts: the car industry now contributes around £12 billion to our economy, with 1.6 million cars rolling off the production lines every year in Britain. An incredible 80% of those cars are then exported to be sold abroad, with more than half of these exports going to EU countries.
So that means there is a huge amount of British jobs tied to our access to this market; around 450,000 jobs in the UK rely on the car industry, either directly through manufacturing, or as part of supply chains.
I know how vital the car industry is for Sunderland and the wider North East.
This region has become a world-class location for car manufacturing, with Nissan’s Sunderland plant the largest in the UK. And it isn’t just Nissan itself; it’s the many locally-based equipment manufacturers and suppliers – like Lear Corporation, Vantec, Unipres, Calsonic Kansei and Johnson Controls – that serve Nissan.
It’s suppliers like these – and ones further afield in Newton-Aycliffe, Stockton and South Tyneside – that mean almost one in ten of Britain’s car manufacturing jobs are now based in the North East.
Seven out of ten cars produced at Nissan are exported to the EU. Of course, Japanese and other foreign investors are attracted to the UK by a young, dynamic workforce that is able to produce cars so efficiently.
But let’s be clear: if we lose access to this huge open market – free from quotas, tariffs and other impediments – the ongoing presence of car manufacturing at this scale simply can’t guaranteed.
Only today, almost 80% of Britain’s car manufacturers and traders have said that we must stay in Europe. Their message is loud and clear: jobs are on the line.
If we leave this single market, all of the alternatives involve serious risks to jobs. We risk a new 10% tariff on car exports, making the UK a less attractive – and perhaps unviable – prospect for manufacturers. We could see additional business costs, with new border taxes, custom checks and expensive bureaucracy. And of course, we’d have no say over the rules in the EU, leaving our big competitors, such as Germany, free to stack the odds against the success of UK industry.
This isn’t a scare story – it’s just a cold, hard economic reality. But from those who advocate leaving the EU, we are not hearing a lot of reality.
Nor are we hearing a lot of economics. Can they look you in the eye and guarantee that these jobs won’t go elsewhere? Can they tell you how much of the £500 billion of trade the UK enjoys with EU countries would be put at risk? Of course they can’t – not when they can’t even agree amongst themselves what kind of trade arrangement they would want to negotiate. The referendum campaign has just begun, but already it’s clear that leaving the EU is a complete leap into the dark.
Soon it will be time to make your choice. Risk, economic danger and lost jobs – or a safer, stronger, more prosperous country, with real stability and certainty for our most important industries.
It’s a decision that will shape the destiny of Britain, and affect the future prospects of our children and grandchildren.
I’ll be voting to remain. I hope the people of the North East will, too.