I have always believed throughout my journalistic career that the vast majority of MPs and councillors go into public life to do good. Jo Cox was indeed one of them. My sympathy to her lovely family and the many Labour MPs who were close friends and are bitterly grieving at this time.
IMMIGRATION MAY DECIDE IT.
We are on the brink of voting to leave the European Union. Sunday’s polls show a stemming of the Remain advance, but it remains likely we will vote to leave.
The immigration issue is overwhelming the very strong economic arguments to stay in. So what needs to be done to avoid this disastrous result? Increasingly lurid threats about emergency austerity budgets probably won’t do it. An appeal to solid Labour voters in the North of England will help. They hold the key to next Thursday’s vote. So let’s put the Remain case to Labour voters who feel their jobs and neighbourhoods are threatened by “uncontrolled” immigration from the EU.
It is not actually uncontrolled. We do deport EU migrants who break our laws. The Prime Minister has negotiated that they won’t get unemployment benefit. If they haven’t got a job in six months they will can be asked to leave and it will be a full four years before they can claim full benefits in the future. The “pull” factor of being able to get £10,000 a year benefits on arrival is going. All that said most EU immigrants staff the NHS, pick the fruit, pay their taxes and add to our diverse culture as they have done since the Anglo Saxons enforced free movement on the indigenous Celts.
Another “pull” factor is also diminishing. One of the reasons for the large influx of EU workers has been the disparity between the UK economy which has been doing well and the poor performance of the Euro zone. That is now reversing with the latest figures indicating that the Euro zone is doing better than the UK economy which has been hit by all the uncertainty of the referendum.
Turkey will not be joining the EU for years, and we have a veto anyway. It is the case that more immigrants come here from outside the EU.
Finally I have no doubt that if by any chance we narrowly vote to stay in, the politicians and Commissioners of the EU will have got the message that something has to be done about free movement in the Single Market. Senior Labour figures are already indicating they support this.
Other messages to northern Labour voters are these.
Most major employers are urging a Remain vote. Jobs and investment is at risk. Also some Tory Brexiteers have their eye on scrapping workers rights provided by the EU.
BREXIT WILL BE AWFUL AND FOR EVER.
If we vote to leave, there is no going back, no second thoughts. The whole complex and expensive process of detaching ourselves from forty years of engagement with our former friends will begin. It will be carried out against a background of economic downturn and turmoil. Just look at what has been happening to the pound and the markets as the likelihood of a Brexit vote has loomed.
The lie about us paying £350m a week remains on the Brexit bus. It is half that and the EU has funded projects in the north of England that Whitehall would never have done as our MD Frank McKenna argues powerfully in his blog.
The Brexiteers have no answer about what is going to happen to the Northern Ireland border with the Republic crossed by 200 roads.
The EU has ensured 70 years of peace after a thousand years of conflict in Europe. Vladimir Putin wants a Brexit vote to destabilise the EU.
This is not a referendum on a David Cameron, a here today gone tomorrow Prime Minister. It is about the future of this country in Europe and the world for the rest of this century. Let us maintain our role of leadership in Europe and respect from the rest of the world by voting to Remain.