My Remain Campaign Speech with George Osborne and Vince Cable, 16 May 2016

Well, it’s quite a surprise to be here – I’m not sure I ever expected to share a press conference stage quite like this.

George, Vince and I have had very many run-ins in TV studios and across the Despatch Box over the years.

And while I’m not involved in politics and the House of Commons any more, naturally George and I still do disagree on quite a few things.

But there is one issue in the last decade where George and I have been in strong agreement – that the UK should not join the single currency, the Euro.

There was a time when it would have been politically easier for me in my party to have gone along with joining the Euro. But I didn’t because I thought that would be economically wrong and against the interests of Britain.

And let’s be clear, it would have been politically much easier for George Osborne to have gone along with the Brexiteers in his party. But he hasn’t, because he knows that would be economically wrong and against the interests of Britain too – as he said earlier, it would be a one way ticket to a poorer Britain.

That is why we are here together today.

We are both against Britain joining the Euro and both strongly in favour of Britain staying in the EU Single Market.

And we are here with Vince because we all agree on what’s at stake in the EU referendum on June 23 – we know that for Britain to walk away from Europe now would be hugely costly in terms of jobs, and investment and for family finances and our public finances.

Economics of Single Market

In the last few days the Leave campaign’s mask has slipped – and we now know they want to leave not just the EU but also the Single Market which Margaret Thatcher signed up to and which has brought this country so much prosperity.

You’ve already heard from George about what the Single Market is – I want to talk today about what it means for families.

The Single Market breaks down trade barriers, and increases the flow of goods and services across the EU.  This increased openness leads to increases in productivity, which feed through into higher GDP and higher wages and that means higher living standards and families being better off.

And the logic makes perfect sense: the bigger your free trade zone, the easier it is for firms to specialise and leverage economies of scale. That drives down costs and makes things cheaper.

The EU is now the biggest free trade zone in the world. 500 million consumers. A quarter of the entire world’s GDP..

The EU also plays a key role in making sure there are no barriers to competition in the Single Market.

Take the examples of short haul airline tickets, or mobile phone roaming charges. Both are significantly cheaper than they used to be, because of greater competition in the Europe and the EU’s role as a consumer champion.

Since the 1990s the number of EU destinations you can fly to has more than doubled, while prices have fallen by around 40%,

Or take mobile phones. Using your phone on holiday used to be avoided at all costs. But thanks to an EU regulation, mobile phone companies have cut roaming charges on calls, data and texts – resulting in a 75% cost saving for consumers compared to 2007.

So it’s clear the single market has benefitted consumers.

What happens if we leave the Single Market and rely on WTO rules?

But if we leave the EU, and rely on WTO rules – then we’d be subject to the EU’s external tariffs if we wanted to export to Europe.

And the UK would also need to make a decision about the level of tariffs it imposed on imports from the EU in return.

For example, would we choose to set high tariffs on food, to protect British farmers?

Or would we set low tariffs on food, to keep prices low for British consumers, but face a backlash from the rural community?

Whatever we decide, WTO rules mean that we’d have to offer every other WTO member the same deal.

This would mean giving up a key bargaining position in negotiating new trade arrangements. We’d be sitting down at the poker table with everyone able to see our cards.

But let’s assume, for the sake of simplicity, we simply decided to replicate the EU’s common external tariffs for imports from the EU.

So a Fiat car from Italy would be hit by a 10% import tariff

A pair of Adidas trainers from Germany would face an import tariff of 17%

And a Lacoste shirt from France would be hit by a 12% tariff

And of course the price of food would rise too, as the EU applies a whole range of tariffs on food.

The likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove may think the WTO is an ‘acceptable’ option and the single market is ‘not important’, but it won’t be them that suffers from lower wages and higher prices. It will be working people.

Having spent their lives opposing measures that make life easier for working families, they are now advocating the very option that would cause families the most pain.

But there’s another reason why families need Britain to stay in the Single Market.

It’s not something you read in the papers, but the EU has also been a hugely effective champion of ordinary consumers – driving down prices and delivering vital consumer protection.

For example, the EU has a set of strict conditions on package holiday operators including guarantees that mean the consumer will be returned home or refunded if the operator goes bust.

And as a result of EU rules, goods bought anywhere in the EU are covered by a minimum two year guarantee.

To Conclude

No-one is saying the EU Single Market, let alone the EU, is perfect, far from it. Just look at the failure of the Euro and the problems at Europe’s southern borders.

And while the Prime Minister’s re-negotiation is a good start, there is more we need to do to make Europe work better for Britain.

But this is no time to walk away.

The Single Market has been great for consumers, and losing access to the Single Market has serious consequences for families.

The economic consensus on the risk is clear and unarguable, as we’ve heard in recent days from the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund, as well as hundreds of businesses up and down the country.

To suggest these warnings are somehow contrived or misleading is frankly ridiculous.

Voting to leave the EU really is a one way ticket to a poorer Britain – not just temporarily but for decades to come.

To pretend otherwise, as the Leave campaign is touring the country doing, is reckless, misleading and deeply irresponsible.

Neither Vince nor I are interested in the politics of this. You’re more likely to see us again on the Great British Bake-Off or Strictly Come Dancing than to see us return to the House of Commons.

We have no ulterior motives and no axe to grind. We are simply telling the truth.

And as someone who was proud to have kept Britain out of the Euro in the last decade, because of the economic damage that would have done to our country…

… believe me when I say: leaving the Single Market would do even more damage.

It is a risk that none of us – literally – can afford to take.

Thank you.

 

Posted May 16th, 2016 by Ed's team