I’ve poured my heart and soul into this campaign. Whatever your views about this referendum one thing we can all agree on is that this is the biggest decision we will face as a nation for several generations. There’s no way I could do anything other than look at the evidence, listen to the experts, look to my own experiences, then decide what I believe to be in our best interests. It is my view that we are better off Remaining in the EU and I have given the campaign everything I have.
As I’m the only Labour MP in these parts I didn’t want that to stop there being a strong Labour voice in this debate. I have door-knocked, done street stalls, and delivered leaflets in every part of Hove and Portslade as well as taken part in loads of public meetings.
I’ve also toured the whole region in my own ‘battle wagon”! I’ve travelled right across the region with an amazing team and met up wth campaigners from all walks of life and every political party to show people everywhere that the campaign to stay in Europe is positive, full of hope and energy, and grounded in a desire for what’s best for our country as well as the international community.
I’ve held events in Dover and the Medway towns of Rochester and Sevenoaks. I’ve debated Tim Loughton in Worthing, Daniel Hannan in Brighton, and Nigel Farage in Dover. I’ve campaigned in the coastal towns of Littlehampton, Worthing, Chichester and right across to the Isle of White. I’ve been to Surrey twice and loved spending time with residents in Bognor Regis, the town I grew up in. And my tour just ended by holding a massive and exciting event in Basingstoke.
There’s been so much going on in recent weeks, but I really wanted to make time to understand the concerns people have and tell them face-to-face why I have come to believe that the risk of leaving the EU to too big a gamble.
As you walk or drive to the polling station can I ask a favour of you? Please think about your own life, where you and your friends work, where the people who fix your home come from, where the products you buy, the wine you drink, and the places you like to go on holiday are. Our lives and the things we buy and consume are so connected these days, not just within out community and country but abroad too and most of all within Europe.
Then consider your family. Are your parents or grandparents some of the two million who are retired in France or Spain? Or if they’re living here but need care, where do the carers come from? If you have children or grandchildren, would you like them to go to a college or university which has the best students from around the world to broaden their horizons and give them the chance to study abroad, with universities collaborating across Europe on the biggest research projects in the world? Once they’ve finished their apprenticeship, college or uni, do you think they should have the chance to use all their potential to sell, trade, or work across 28 nations without any barriers at all or just within our own?
And then, as I did, take a look at our city. At the moment we welcome 7 million visitors to Brighton and Hove, the single biggest group of foreign tourists coming from EU countries. We have two universities that are enriched by students who aspire to study here from abroad. Sussex University alone relieves almost £9 million in EU funding, which of course comes originally from our membership fees as a nation but is used to enable collaboration on skills and research right across the EU and is a key reason why Britain has so many Nobel winners choosing to work here. Our city is dominated by small businesses, four out of five of which want us to remain in the EU because the bureaucracy of selling into trading blocks with tariffs and import restrictions is far more of a problem for small businesses than large. And even our largest local employer, EDF, has written to its staff saying that remaining in the EU is better for their company but also for Britain’s ability to solve our energy challenges too.
And finally our country as a whole. Our ability to trade freely with our biggest markets, to cooperate with our closest allies, and to make it easy to travel for work or holiday and have confidence that we’ll be taken care of if we fall ill or have the same protections if we’re there to do business that we enjoy at home. At key times Britain has used the EU to spend our own values and deliver positive change far afield. Under Labour we make tackling third world debt and climate change the key priority when we had the EU presidency and we delivered for those in greatest need. Time and again we’ve used this platform to extend the freedoms, values, and expertise of our nation to enhance peace, stability, and prosperity.
A lot needs to get better but I believe we have a better chance of making that happen by keeping our seat at the table where the biggest decisions are taken and not standing outside screaming at a closed door.
Your vote will count for the same as mine, we each have one vote. But as your MP I owe it to you to say how I have voted and why I came to this decision. I’m going to be out and about all over Hove and Portslade and I really hope to see as many of you as possible. In the evening I’m travelling over to Southampton where the tallies are all bright together from across the South. I’m already nervous because I know how much is at stake for our country and our community.
There are lessons to come from this campaign for all of us and especially those like me in public life. I’ve learned so much from travelling across our region and listening to people who live in communities that have not benefitted from life in modern Britain as much as others. I really want my party, the Labour Party, to learn those lessons too. But that’s for another day as I’ve gone on too much already on this post!
Good luck in making your own decision, I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts. All the best, Peter