Why I’II vote to stay in the EU

Comment logo 1In just under four months’ time we will take the most important decision about the future of our country for at least 40 years when we cast our vote in the EU referendum.

General elections settle who will run the country for the next five years; this decision will affect the future our country for the rest of our lifetime. It’s a choice, therefore, that really matters.

Each of us will have one vote, and I will be using mine in favour of the UK remaining in the European Union.

Photo: Yanni Koutsomitis via Creative Commons
Photo: Yanni Koutsomitis
via Creative Commons


Because being part of the EU makes us more prosperous and more secure. It has brought peace to our continent after centuries of conflict. You only have to visit the graveyards of the First and Second World Wars to see the last resting place of two generations of young Europeans who perished fighting each other, among them by great Uncle Oliver who died at Gallipoli and my uncle Michael – an RAF pilot – who was killed just after D-Day.

It has given us jobs, investment and economic growth. We are part of the world’s largest single market – just under half our exports go to Europe – and as a result a great deal of investment has come into the UK, our region and Leeds. And because the EU has negotiated free trade deals with around 50 other countries around the world, that gives local businesses a better chance of selling their goods there too. This is what we have now, but the Leave campaign cannot tell us what trade relationships would replace them if we left. I think that’s a big risk.

The EU has also done a lot for British workers. We now have a right to paid holiday, limits on our working time, improved maternity and paternity leave and better protection for agency and temporary workers – all thanks to our membership. But if we leave, I worry what our Tory Government would do to these rights.

Europe has given us practical benefits like a limit on expensive roaming charges when we use our phones in other EU countries. We have cleaner beaches now. Being in allows us to work and travel across the continent and get free or subsidised medical care. When we buy from online retailers like Amazon and the goods arrive from another European country our consumer rights are protected by European laws. And the European arrest warrant means that criminals can no longer escape justice by fleeing abroad – a really practical example of how working with our neighbours makes us safer.

Finally, there is the benefit of being part of the EU for our place in the world. The truth is that Britain’s voice is stronger because we are in Europe, and we need to work with our neighbours to deal with the challenges facing our world whether that’s the tragedy in Syria, flows of refugees or tackling dangerous climate change.

Now, of course, the EU isn’t perfect. It needs to change and it’s only fair that people coming here from the EU will need in future to pay in first before they can receive in-work benefits. I know there’s a lot of discussion about free movement, but it does work both ways. Lots of British people work elsewhere in the EU and European citizens coming here contribute a lot in taxes as well as working as nurses, lecturers, care workers or in manufacturing industry.

In the end, we have to weigh all this up and decide. I am clear that remaining in is best for jobs and security for the people of Leeds, but it’s your vote. Please use it.


Our MP, Hilary Benn has kicked off the debate on leaving the EU. We know there are strongly felt opinions on both sides. South Leeds Life won’t take sides, but we want to be a forum where all the arguments are put and then we can all make up our own minds. Keep reading for more coverage from both sides over the coming months.

What do you think? Please comment below:


5 Replies to “Why I’II vote to stay in the EU”

  1. A well written piece, free from the hyperbole we see so often from David Cameron.

    I just happen to disagree with the content.

    EU membership for most countries is a product of pessimism, and we in particular joined at a time of great despair, and in doing so turned our backs on a growing and prosperous market, the Commonwealth.

    The honourable member makes a very good point about it being an important decision that will shape the future of our country, and that general elections give us the chance to endorse or remove the government.

    The decision makers in the EU are NOT elected, and can’t be removed by the people of Europe – and equally the EU doesn’t take no for an answer.

    The French and Dutch rejected the EU constitution, only for it to be re-badged as the ‘Lisbon Treaty’, and when that was rejected by the Irish they were told to go away and vote again and get the correct result.

    The EU does negotiate trade deals – but is awfully cumbersome in doing so, and considering the diversity of economies within the EU can’t possibly negotiate a deal that is in the best interests of all parties. Meanwhile little Iceland negotiated a deal with China.

    In addition, there is the yoke of regulation that has a negative effect on small businesses in particular, and plays into the hands of multinational corporations – who funnily enough are unanimously in favour of staying in.

    The world is now smaller than it has ever been, there is a growing middle class in India, China and elsewhere – our future depends on being able to supply goods and services that these customers want. Europe is the one continent in the world that isn’t growing. More Europe and ever closer integration (despite the faux renegotiation) isn’t the solution.

    We pay a very substantial sum each year for such ludicrous legislation banning the sale of goods in pounds and ounces, spring onions now being named salad onions, and the 26,912 words regulating the sale of cabbage.

    Whether you are left wing, right wing or somewhere in between, socialist or libertarian, the case for exit is irresistible.

    One can only hope that we make the right decision.

  2. Just to say, I completely agree with Luke. Europe demands millions of pounds from us, actually , we put €10.8bn more into the EU pot last year than we took out !! ALL that money could have been good to use for Charity, the homeless, anything apart waste it. Maggie Thatcher will turn in her grave now, after saying we are IN EUROPE…NOT RUN BY EUROPE…..

    They tell us:

    How powerful our vacuums can be.
    Speed limits.
    WHO and HOW MANY can come into OUR ISLAND Country.
    What we can pay people to work and so on.

    lets think about that when we vote to GET OUT, please.

  3. Hilary,

    I’d like to take up a couple of points before getting to my main one:

    First, the idea that the EU has brought peace to Europe. In fact, the Cold War brought peace to Europe by freezing the rivalries between the main powers that had led to two world wars. While the EU’s own expansionist policy was in part responsible for the recent conflict in the Ukraine, as well as imposing its rules, and even rulers, on the peoples of southern and Eastern Europe.

    Second, you mention all the ‘right’s the EU has brought to British people. But as Carl Thomas (no relation) has pointed out elsewhere on SLL, it’s up to us to make the case for our own rights and “not to abrogate this responsibility elsewhere”. We should fight for our own rights, not have them handed down to us by unelected officials, who can equally take them away again. Which brings me on to my main point.

    The one thing, the main thing, missing from you argument is any discussion about sovereignty and democracy. As Luke Senior says below, “the decision makers in the EU are NOT elected, and can’t be removed by the people of Europe” echoing points your dad made at the Oxford Union in 2013 that “all the key position are appointed not elected”. In fact, I’d say that the whole structure of EU decision-making is designed to insulate the EU elite from public pressure – which is why they, and much of the UK elite, are so wary of referenda.


  4. One interesting video to watch is one by Conservative MP Jacob Rees Mogg ‘the EU is a threat to democracy’.

    He isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I quite like him and he makes a series of very valid points.

    I really don’t see the EU as ‘saving us from those nasty Tories’ for two reasons.

    Firstly, most people I have met in the Conservative party are very nice people (though the leaders are incompetent Blairites) and secondly because if I’m sick of the Tories I can use my vote to attempt to remove a Tory MP, or bolster the chances of someone else remaining in place.

    The European Commission are entirely invulnerable to public opinion. Those who dare question them get silenced – look at how spineless Alexis Tsipras became after the initial referendum on the ruinous bailout package.

    Our voting system is broken, we need larger, multi member constituencies whereby more people are better represented by a series of members from various parties.

    Rather than artificial constituencies such as the awfully drawn Elmet &amp Rothwell, where areas like Linton are tied to areas of Rothwell.

    If you had a ‘Leeds’ constituency with 7 or 8 MPs, elected in a similar way to the MEPs – a form of proportional representation – you’d probably have three Labour, three Tories, one UKIP and a Lib Dem.

    Likewise areas where few people vote Labour, like Surrey, those that do might end up with a Labour MP to represent them.

    Not everywhere in the country is like Liverpool, where Labour candidates routinely score 75%+ of the vote.

  5. Hilary,

    Your arguments about staying in the EU are the same as Cameron’s and as such you are supporting The Tory Government of Austerity. I would have more respect for your in position if you were approaching it like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell who desire a socially just Europe. I wish this referendum wasn’t happening right now as it has been forced upon us by the Right in the Tory party and the hard right Ukippers.

    I must protest your assertions about peace, prosperity and workers’ rights. Peace – really? France and Algeria, Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and the North of Ireland. Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain. Austerity and water charges in Eire. Little peace for the people in Greece who have been assaulted by the EU Institutions bringing mass unemployment and the halving of pensions. Workers’ rights – really? You will remember the brave women of Fords and Grunwick’s who fought hard for the trade union rights and for equal pay. Other employment rights were fought for by organised workers everywhere and not granted by the EU. Holidays, sick leave, maternity rights and so on. Nor does the EU appear to be preventing the growth of extremely dangerous hard-right racist and fascist parties in France, Hungary and Slovakia and also just today within Germany. And has the EU protected us here from zero hours, depressed wages, Austerity, privatisation of our beloved NHS, loss of social housing, benefit sanctions for the poorest of job seekers and sick people? Tenants of greedy private landlords and the return of Rachmanism? Has the EU protected those families and communities across London housing estates from the threat of eviction and dispersal as their homes are bought up by private corporations and the threat of the doubling and tripling of rents? No.

    And what about Frontex/Fortress Europe? What about refugees facing barbed wire fences, tear gas and rubber bullets from Macedonia to Calais and Dunkirk? We won’t easily forget that your imperialism and neo-liberalism and violent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and your ridiculous speech propping up Cameron’s stunt to bomb Syria has caused the massive refugee and humanitarian crisis today. It is ordinary people, communities, churches and mosques that are getting organised to support these refugees in their terrible situations.

    I am keen to see the weakening of the authoritarian EU and British State by the defeat of Cameron and his divided party. I am keen to build united and confident communities at work and on the streets to support humanity not banks and unelected technocrats and bureaucratic institutions.

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