HARLOW MP, Robert Halfon has set the record straight on why he believes Britain should remain within the European Union.
Mr Halfon said: “During the run-up to the General Election last May, I did not meet one person who thought that if the Conservatives won the election, they would carry through the promise of an In-Out Referendum on the European Union by the end of 2017.
Following the Prime Minister’s re-negotiation of our terms of membership, that pledge has now been kept. It is the British public who will make the decision on June 23. It is the millions of voters in our country who will have the final say. This is as it should be.
It will be Harlow residents who are sovereign – not the EU – as we all will decide whether we vote to remain or not.
After waiting for the Prime Minister to finish his renegotiation of the terms of our membership, although my heart says vote to leave, my head says to not. It is for this reason I have decided to vote to remain in the European Union.
And let me tell you why:
Last Friday visiting the state of art Harlow NHS Kidney Renal Unit, I met with a local patient, Duncan McGuirk, who was receiving his kidney treatment. Just as I have done over many weeks in talking to local residents, I asked him his view on the EU. He said he would be voting to stay in, because without his EU Health Insurance Card he would never be able to leave Britain – he needs kidney treatment at least four times a week. It means he can go overseas knowing he can get the treatment he needs from other member countries.
What Duncan said made me think really hard about this; it showed me the EU issue is not as black and white, or as clear cut as it is sometimes portrayed.
However, there is another main reason why I am thinking with my head not just my heart.
For the past five years as Harlow’s MP, I have worked hard to try and bring jobs, apprenticeships and businesses back to Harlow. It is good news that business is flourishing, the jobseekers claimant count is down by 59.2% and the number of apprentices is up by 73.3%, both since 2010. The Government is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in Harlow through our new Enterprise Zone and the arrival of Public Health England – securing thousands of jobs for our future.
My huge worry, at this time, are the dark economic clouds on the horizon across the world.
It is possible that leaving the EU may cause such an economic jolt that we would be back in economic recession, causing the loss of thousands of jobs in Harlow, and the loss of livelihoods for many hard working residents and their families. Just this morning, the BBC reported that the pound has seen its biggest drop in value against the dollar in more than a year because of uncertainty about the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union.
It is true that these economic troubles may not happen, but there is a strong possibility that they might. I am wary of taking this risk – taking a leap into the unknown when Britain has just got back on its feet and when so many Harlow families and small businesses have struggled for the past few years because of the difficult economy. EU trade is worth more than £500 billion a year to our country. Who knows what the impact would be if Britain were to leave?
Of course there are big issues concerning migration and benefits. Under the new terms re-negotiated by the Prime Minister, migrants will not be able to claim benefits for up to seven years, sham marriages will be stopped and third party nationals will not be allowed to use the EU to come to claim immigration status to stay in the UK.
Like most residents, I would still like to see tougher action on this. I will continue to work hard and fight for further measures to ensure a fair deal for taxpayers on immigration.
There is one final reason why my head says one thing and my heart another. The truth is, I am frightened.
I am frightened that Islamic extremists, in the shape of ISIS, are on the rise. I am frightened that terrorism is rampant, with the latest example being the horrific attacks in Paris. It is only because of the actions of the security services that we have escaped similar attacks, so far. I am frightened of the turmoil in Syria, resulting in the fleeing of thousands of migrants. The threats Britain faces from Islamic extremists and other terrorism remain very grave and very real.
With all this going on, for the sake of our safety and security, I believe is it better to be part of an alliance of democracies – of which the EU is a member – however flawed. Of course, we have Nato, but at this time, the free world needs to come together in many alliances. It is the EU that has issued tough sanctions on Iran and Russia, for example, and from their perspective, we may look divided and weaker if we leave.
My position on the EU has not been an easy decision for me to make.
I want more EU reform. I think that more powers should be returned to Britain. But I have come to the conclusion that being part of this alliance of democracies – at this time – is the safest bet for jobs, for our economy and for our security. That is why I am voting with my head not my heart.
One final thing, I accept that while some will agree with my position, some will disagree. It is important to remember that my view is just one of many millions of voters. This is because we have an In-Out EU referendum which means nothing is being imposed on us. It is the British people and the British people alone that will make the right decision on what is best for our country. I trust the people to make the right decision.
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