A few days ago I gave a speech in Salford’s Media City making the case for why we need to stay in the European Union and the benefits for our economy.
The question at the heart of the referendum is how do we ensure a prosperous and secure future for all our people – but especially for the young? They will live the longest with the consequences of our decision and be affected the most.
Remaining in Europe should be about more jobs, better jobs and fairness in the workplace. A positive campaign based on hope, opportunity and fairness.
Polls show massive support among young people for staying in in the European Union. According to a recent YouGov poll there’s a three-to-one majority amongst under 30s in favour of Remain.
But there is a generational divide. Among the over-60s, the leavers have a ten per cent lead.
Last month I had a conversation in my constituency with a man in his 40s who was conflicted between listening to the views of his parents, who plan vote leave, and worrying about what the future holds for his teenage children
He thought of the instability if Britain did go it alone – what it would mean for his children. And he decided it was vital to get his parents to think again about what their vote might mean for their grandchildren.
This same conversation is going on in families up and down the country, as people grapple with the enormity of the choice we face, and the future we will shape.
What we want to do is to prompt and encourage a conversation between the generations.
We can learn much from the recent Irish referendum campaign which saw just such a conversation. The younger generations persuaded their parents and grandparents not to vote for an outcome they saw as damaging to Ireland and reputation of the country – with the great, progressive result to legalise equal marriage.
Today’s young are convinced that their futures lie in Europe. They look outwards with confidence. They have grown up with the internet and social media, diversity in our schools, conversing daily with thousands across the world. For them, this interconnectedness is the norm.
They cherish the freedom to travel, to learn and to experience all that Europe has to offer. They see migration in terms of the opportunity it brings them. Immigration needs fair rules and proper controls, but it also benefits our economy. And it works both ways. There are almost as many Britons living in mainland Europe as there are people from other European countries living here.
Young people see the benefits of the EU in ensuring good and secure jobs – with guaranteed rights at work and good working conditions. Young tech entrepreneurs also see the benefits for them.
Young people like Tom Jennings, a 21-year-old digital entrepreneur who I met in Salford and spoke very powerfully about the need to stay in the European Union. Everyone in his company grew up in the 21 century – they are millennials. His success and thousands like him depends on the interconnectedness that his generation have grown up with as the norm. A business like his can be “global from day one, reaching consumers on the other side of the world and talented potential employees across multiple time zones.”
We are helping lead plans to create a digital single market in Europe. It is forecast to add €400bn per year to the European economy and create the best part of four million jobs. Many of these will be in the UK’s thriving tech industry.
Indeed, science, scientists and engineers also overwhelmingly back the prosperity and innovation of EU membership. Stephen Hawking and the more than 150 fellows of the Royal Society who wrote to The Times last month know that Britain’s membership brings increased funding and huge benefits from collaboration between British and continental scientists.
The EU accounts for more than a third of world scientific output – outstripping the mighty United States – and that gap is growing. Collaboration between scientists across Europe produces advances and national boundaries should not hinder this interaction and cross-fertilisation between these brilliant minds. It is not just the original research that is important, but how it feeds through to the innovation pipeline of new commercial opportunities and jobs.
Britain’s excellence in the knowledge and digital economy is underpinned by our membership of the European Union. Hundreds of thousands of young people who we want to encourage to vote in the referendum already benefit from the digital industries such as creative industries. They know that the value of our creative industries exports exceeds £18bn and more than half of it goes to the European Union.
Britain has benefited from being in the world’s largest and successful economic and social union for four decades. Our continued membership is the most secure route to a more prosperous future for our country and our people.
We are not pretending that Europe is perfect.
Labour is pro-Europe. But we are also the party of reform in Europe.
For the sake of our economy, our shared prosperity and a future for our young people – where they have the same opportunities as their peers across Europe – it is vital that we vote Remain.