SINCE the Prime Minister returned from Brussels with his new deal for Britain in the European Union, many of you have been asking me how I will vote in the upcoming referendum.
There are strong arguments on both sides, and I have thought hard on them over the last few days. I have also been talking to Solihull employers and other stakeholders: my first duty as an MP is to represent our town, rather than my personal views alone.
Of course, in a referendum I am not casting a vote for all of us: I’m only one of the 76,000 electors in Solihull. Every resident will be able to have their say in June, and I think that’s only right for such an important decision.
It goes without saying that there are downsides to EU membership. I would much prefer that more laws were made in this country, by people directly accountable to us. The EU should certainly be more democratic. The state of border control on the continent should make us all grateful that we wisely opted out of the free travel area.
Yet after my discussions with local employers, and having weighed the arguments carefully, I have decided to vote to Remain in the EU.
The UK is doing very well: we’re creating a record number of jobs, and have one of the strongest economies in Europe. I have written often and proudly of our community’s exceptional employment record.
But as the Chancellor has warned, the recovery remains fragile. The fall in the value of the pound after Boris Johnson called for Brexit highlights the disruption we risk if we leave the EU. I think that’s too high a price to pay.
As our own Jaguar Land Rover warned: “The current uncertainty around EU membership leads to uncertainty for our customers, suppliers and may impact long-term investment plans.”
And Paul Kehoe, CEO Birmingham Airport, told me: “Birmingham Airport benefits from access to the European Market, and the air travel and cargo that this generates. The UK’s position within a reformed Europe is something I believe is of benefit to the Midland’s Engine and to the wider UK economy.”
I’m also conscious of Solihull’s character as an exporting town, with strong trade and business links all over the world but especially in the EU. I can’t champion a course which might put local jobs at risk, or stymie the outside investment which could produce the jobs of tomorrow and start the next chapter of the Solihull success story.
Of course, in this debate I’m just a voter like any other. There will be many intelligent and articulate voices on both sides of the argument, and any interested resident will have the information to hand to make up their own mind. In my experience we have a very grown-up political debate in our town, and I do not intend to badger the public on the subject.
I plan to spend the months between now and June concentrating on doing my job: speaking up for Solihull in Parliament and helping residents with their problems. Real life doesn’t stop for a referendum, no matter how important, and I look forward to making progress with my local campaigns.
This decision is crucially important to our community and our country. I’m proud that this Government has given everybody an opportunity to have their say, and I trust the people of Britain, and Solihull, to make the best decision for our future.MP’s stance reflects