Next week voters across the United Kingdom will go to the polls to decide on our country’s future relationship with our European partners.
This decision could not be more important and I urge you to make sure your voice is heard on Thursday 23rd June. For my part, I wanted to set out why I am passionately in favour of the UK remaining in the European Union.
As an internationalist, I see the European Union as an opportunity for us to punch way above our size on the global stage.
Through our membership of the European Union, businesses in Orkney and across the have access to freely export to the largest common market in the world, a market of some 500 million people. Indeed, in 2014 that market was worth £5.1bn for our Scottish food and drink sector alone.
In other parts of Orkney’s economy too we see the vital importance of European Union. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy provides £20 million a year in support for Orkney’s farmers. Our renewables sector benefits from key EU funding, keeping us at the forefront of research and development. Meanwhile, over half the value of our vital tourism sector relies on tourists from the EU, travelling without visas.
To leave the European Union and walk away from the single market would be to close the door on these opportunities for Orkney.
Whilst the economic arguments are compelling, for me they do not represent the fundamental purpose and values of a union we helped build. Jo Grimond was right to describe the creation of the European Community as “the disappearance of the cloud which has lain over Europe for a thousand years – the plague of Western European wars….it is alone worth any petty tribulations that the EEC may inflict”.
The recent commemorations in Orkney for the Battle of Jutland centenary brought home to me how far we have come since war ravaged our continent. As populist, nationalist movements across Europe grow more prominent and shrill, the dignified and moving acts of remembrance and reconciliation should serve as a timely reminder.
As a leader in the European Union we have collectively brought peace and security to our continent. As a leader in the European Union, we have helped shape progress in tackling cross-border crime, protecting the environment and safeguarding the rights of citizens and workers. As a leader in the European Union we are better placed to confront fundamental challenges such as climate change, mass migration and terrorism.
The case for reforming the European Union will always be made. However, we can only influence that by leading, not leaving. Economically, environmentally, socially and in terms of our security we benefit greatly from our membership. The alternative is isolation – taking back control, but control over far less.
On 23rd June, make sure your vote counts and help ensure the UK’s voice continues to be heard internationally. Please vote Remain.