In or Out? In !
This is pretty much my last chance to blog about Europe as we are about to enter the period of " purdah " which will proceed the European referendum. My personal position is to very strongly support staying in the European Union. That's a position overwhelming shared by the City Council and by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
One of the things I hear lots of members of the public asking for is the evidence. As far as Greater Manchester is concerned that evidence exists in reports, one prepared by New Economy for the Combined Authority, the other by the City Council's policy section for the Council's Economic Scrutiny and Executive committees, and both are available on the respective websites.
The reports are balanced and make no recommendations but are able to contrast what we know about current benefits and disbenefits of being in the EU, with the position of countries in Europe outside the single market, and with the total uncertainty of what life would be like outside. The European Union is the world's largest single market with over 500 million people in it and from the point of view of trade, investment and jobs the case for staying in is overwhelming. If we were outside, if we wanted to continue trading with Europe, we would, as Norway does now, still have to pay into the EU, still follow most EU regulations, but with absolutely no say.
We are also a big beneficiary of free movement of labour. EU citizens working in the made a net contribution of over £20billion to our economy over the last decade and some of our public services, notably the NHS, would collapse if we removed all the EU citizens that work in it. And they're not blocking Britons from those jobs as there are currently 23,000 unfilled nurse vacancies alone.
The EU contributes enormously to the regeneration of the city, and unlike national government funding which is very hit and miss, mainly miss with the current government, EU funding is guaranteed over a six year period. They are also a major founder of research in the city, for example in advanced materials and cancer research.
A short blog can't do full justice to a pair of reasonably comprehensive reports so please have a look at them. However I do want to finish on one issue that's not covered in either, that of sovereignty. The very fact we are having a referendum demonstrates that we have and can exercise sovereignty. We are free to chose whether we are in or out of the club, but be clear, every time we strike an international agreement or sign an international treaty, whether it's NATO or climate change, we are choosing to share some of that sovereignty. The only place I can think of that doesn't is North Korea and is that really the model for the Britain of the future.