On 23rd June every British citizen of voting age will be invited to vote in a referendum on our membership of the European Union. And this week the campaign begins in earnest.
In this referendum I will have the same number of votes as each of my constituents. So I will not pretend to be representing anyone but myself in the choice that I make. But I think my constituents deserve to know why I will be voting for the UK to remain a member of the EU.
I am not starry eyed about the EU. It interferes in things which are none of its business. It wastes money on MEPs shuttling between two different parliaments. It has been slow to grapple with the migrant crisis that has led so many desperate people to risk, and sometimes lose, their lives in the Mediterranean.
Some of my closest friends and colleagues, both in Lincolnshire and in Westminster, want to leave the EU. But I am in no doubt that it is in our interest to remain in the club, a bit semi-detached because we will never join the Euro or the Schengen open borders regime but enthusiastic participants in the Single Market, using our voting rights in the European Council of Ministers and European Parliament to lead the process of reforming the way the EU operates.
We live in a dangerous world in which our enemies will stop at nothing to attack our interests and threaten our security. In facing down an increasingly reckless Russian president and fighting to eradicate the ruthless monsters of Isis who killed over 30 British holidaymakers in Tunisia a year ago, I am certain that we are stronger acting in concert with our European allies, and that membership of the European Union makes us safer here at home.
But the main reason I will be voting for the UK to remain in the EU is that I do not want to put the jobs, incomes and future prosperity of my constituents at risk. I am not claiming that Britain could never make it on its own. We are a resourceful people and have overcome worse setbacks than this would be. But I simply do not understand what anyone thinks we would gain from putting British businesses and families through the massive dislocation of extricating ourselves from the European Union.
This week the International Monetary Fund, the body charged with overseeing the world economy, issued a stark warning: that British exit from the EU ‘could cause severe regional and global damage’ and ‘would disrupt and reduce mutual trade and financial flows.” Less than 10 years after a huge financial crisis and prolonged recession, our economy is motoring again. Can we really afford to put it all at risk and take a leap into the dark? I don’t think so.
On 23rd June the British people will make their decision and, as a Member of Parliament and a government minister, I will do everything in my power to make the best of whatever they decide. But between now and then I owe it to you, the people who put me there, to tell you clearly what I think. Britain is stronger, our communities are safer and you, your children and your grandchildren will be better off if we remain in the EU.