For weeks now I have been speaking to voters to ask how they might be voting in the EU Referendum.
The main concern that has come up time and time again, is immigration, so I’d like to share some information to voters on this very important issue.
Over half of our migration comes from outside of the EU so rules for asylum seekers, refugees and those outside of the EU seeking work will not change with this vote.
In terms of EU migration people have legitimate and serious concerns and it is right that these concerns are addressed. For a modern economy we can’t have flows of goods and services without flows of people but it is how we manage these flows and how we prepare areas for increases in population that matters.
The last Labour Government did just that. Gordon Brown implemented a migration fund targeted at areas with high levels of immigration to ease the pressures new arrivals can bring on housing and school places.
This great scheme which would have made a big difference to communities was sadly scrapped when the Tories came into office.
One of the key grievances that people in South Shields raise with me is that unscrupulous employers and recruitment agencies have exploited EU economic migrants by paying them less than British workers, resulting in loss of work for existing staff. This has been happening for a long time in our country and that is why going into the last election Labour had polices to protect local workers and to put an end to the undercutting of wages and to protect migrant workers from exploitation. I am pleased that the leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, is also passionately committed to protecting local workers.
Across the UK, the leave campaign has and continues to be dishonest with the public building up a false and nasty rhetoric that blames immigration for all of the problems that the Tory Government has created. Because of their extreme austerity measures, people are struggling in the UK, especially in the North because of huge cuts, and a lack of investment or strategic planning for services.
But these austerity measures and the lack of investment were choices made by the Tory Government. They had nothing to do with the EU.
In this Referendum, there are a multitude of facts, counter facts and issues being debated by politicians, but independent experts like the IFS and the Governor of the Bank of England have made it clear that our economy is at risk of recession if we leave. Recession will hit areas such as Shields very hard. I don’t want to see jobs and public services take the hit for an exit vote whose main beneficiaries will be Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith who we can be sure will do nothing for the North East but try and privatise our public services.
Leave campaigners have admitted that they don’t know what ‘out’ will look like and the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage’s response just last weekend when asked about the value of the pound falling - which would put up prices for everyone in the UK - was, ‘So what’.
The risks to the UK don’t come from immigrants who have contributed to our economy and helped us to become one of the most prosperous nations in the world. The risks come from people like Nigel Farage and the most right-wing elements of the Tory Government.
Whichever way you vote on 23rd June please think very carefully about it and I hope to have the opportunity to speak with you about this in the coming days.