Speech in Parliament - The Benefits of EU Membership

Yesterday in Parliament I spoke in a debate on the benefits of EU membership. I emphasised the importance of our EU membership for businesses and the university in Portsmouth. We trade with Europe, we have major employers with European connections which depend on free movement of people, goods and services.

The only way to guarantee access on the kind of terms we enjoy now is by remaining in the single market, and the only way to guarantee that is by remaining in the EU.

This is the text of my speech:

"Like many others in the House, I am a firm supporter of our membership of the European Union, and I was campaigning on this issue even before the general election. I support our membership not simply out of fear about what would happen if we left, even though there remain serious questions that the leave camp need to answer; my support stems from the positive contribution we can make to the organisation and the benefits we get from being a member.

We are the fifth largest economy in the world, as the leavers continue to remind us, and the second biggest in Europe. Long-term forecasts from the OECD suggest that our economy will overtake Germany’s in the early 2030s, but that will happen only if we carry on along the same trajectory that we are now on. It would certainly not happen if we were to leave the EU. Why, when we enjoy such a prominent position in the world, and when we have the potential to champion the ideals that have made our country great, would we want walk away from providing leadership, just at a time when Europe is crying out for it? People wishing to leave the EU say that our values need to be defended, and I agree, but I say that our values are also worth exporting. And exports —and, indeed, the economy—are among the most important reasons we should remain.

As a single market, the EU remains our biggest trading partner. A company can set itself up in the UK from anywhere in the world and instantly have access to 500 million consumers. The virtue of our membership attracts some of the best talent from around the world and encourages new businesses to set up here, investing in the UK and creating jobs. The UK market for goods and services is the second-least regulated in the OECD, second only to the Netherlands. Surely that is proof that the EU is not making us less competitive for investment.

We attract world-leading companies because of our access to the single market, but the EU is also a vast scientific and academic network that our own universities ​and companies can draw on. Portsmouth is home to several international companies that depend on free access to European markets. It is also home to one of the most rapidly developing universities in Europe, and I believe that, in Portsmouth, our interests are best served by remaining in the European Union.

The United Kingdom is the gateway to the EU for other countries, including all the major and developing economies of the world, but particularly for the Commonwealth. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, has said:

'As far as India is concerned, if there is an entry point for us to the European Union that is the UK, that is Great Britain.'

Our membership of the EU is one of the factors that binds the Commonwealth together. We did not abandon the Commonwealth or leave it behind when we joined the European Economic Community; we provided the simplest and most straightforward route for our Commonwealth partners to get most benefit from it.

Our links with some of the most powerful emerging economies are enriched by our membership of the EU, not jeopardised by it. There are many other benefits that our membership brings to the UK and to the rest of Europe, but the overarching theme is one of stability. The equal partnerships between us and our neighbours have supported a period of peace and stability that is unprecedented in our history. We have had 70 years of peace following 1,000 years of war. That has to be worth fighting for. I hope we will vote to remain on the 23rd, not out of fear but out of confidence in our ability to shape the future of the continent, where Britain already plays a leading role."