Today's columnist, Paul Blomfield MP: It's best to work together

I've been out listening to people's views about the European Union ahead of the referendum.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 10:03 am
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2016, 10:11 am
European Union flag and national flags in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.

I’ve heard a lot of support for staying in Europe, because of all the benefits of working together.

There’s a lot at stake, but those wanting to leave mainly give immigration as the reason.

There are real concerns about migration, which must be addressed, but leaving the EU won’t help and could make it harder.

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In today’s world every developed country has a challenge with migration.

It’s dominating the US Presidential primaries and, across the world, Australia is recording record immigration levels.

Around half of UK immigration, from outside Europe, would be unaffected and closing borders with the EU wouldn’t be a one-way street – with roughly the same number of Brits living in the rest of Europe as there are Europeans here.

Some politicians, like Nigel Farage, have deliberately mixed up concerns about migration with membership of the EU.

But they don’t admit that leaving won’t make much difference.

Even the most enthusiastic ‘leave’ campaigners want a new trade agreement with the EU, because they know that up to a million jobs could be lost without it – as both employers and unions have confirmed.

So what would an agreement involve? Obviously we won’t be able to ‘cherry pick’ just the bits of the EU we want.

Other countries will only give us the benefits of open trade if we accept all the rules.

That’s why countries like Norway and Switzerland, which are not members of the EU but have trading deals, must allow workers in like any EU member.

If leaving the EU isn’t the answer, what is?

It’s clearly not right that some employers recruit exclusively from Eastern Europe without giving local workers a chance.

We need to make these practices illegal. We also need tougher enforcement of rules to stop rogue bosses using migrant labour to drive down wages.

We can only tackle the big problems that we all face in Europe – from the refugee crisis to international terrorism and climate change – by working together.

Putting our hands over our eyes and turning our backs on our neighbours won’t make the problems go away.

Working together offers the best chance of building the future our children deserve.