Newcastle City Council passes European Union motion unanimously

April 7, 2016 9:00 PM

Proposed by Councillor Joyce McCarty (Labour) and seconded by Councillor Robin Ashby (Liberal Democrats)

"This Council believes that it is in the best interests of the residents of Newcastle that the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union.

The EU is good for the City - and other areas of the North East region where Newcastle residents may work.

City Council recognises that the EU:

  • Creates jobs and growth - the EU single market allows our businesses to trade and grow. Currently almost half of the region's exports go to the EU, which supports an estimated 140,000 jobs. It also supports science and technical innovation in the region.
  • Invests in major projects across the City and the North East - the region has received billions of pounds of investment over the decades from the EU. It continues to invest in key economic projects across the city, including The Core building at Science Central, the Toffee Factory, Live Theatre Liveworks, North Bank of the Tyne, The Beacon, and Newcastle University Translational Research Building.
  • Protects our rights - the EU helps keep people safe at work and protects consumer rights. The EU protects paid leave, maternity rights and equal rights for agency workers and has banned excessive credit and debit card surcharges and expensive customer phone lines.
  • Keeps us safe - the EU helps bring criminals to justice and creates peace and stability. The EU is helping to tackle international threats in a way the UK couldn't do if it was acting alone which helps keep our ports and airports secure. The EU also helps police tackle crime, human trafficking and terrorism which is increasingly international in nature.
  • Improves our environment - the EU leads on tackling climate change and caring for our environment. Environmental issues don't stop at borders and only by working together closely can we best protect our environment. North East beaches and air quality have improved because of Europe. Environmental protection can also bring jobs to the region through new low carbon industries.

Newcastle City Council calls on all Council members to support, as far as lawfully possible, the UK's continuing membership of the EU as this is in the best interests of the businesses and people of Newcastle and the North East."

Because other business over-ran and there was an emergency motion about the steel industry, there was no debate.

Councillor Robin Ashby would have said :

First of all I'd like to recount some history I lived through, then make an appeal to colleagues, before coming back to some of the many excellent reasons why Newcastle people should vote to REMAIN.

At the time of the 1975 referendum, leading Tory Edward Du Cann said "Many Conservatives feel the European Community is not good for Britain ... The Conservative party is divided on it" He was wrong about the first part but not much change on the second. Nor on the issues - at the time declared to be food - we were not then and are still not self sufficient even in the basics - and money and jobs, Not much change there either - including some LEAVERS hankering for the old Empire- although there are very many wider EU benefits now too..

At the beginning of that campaign opinion seemed to divide 2 to 1 in favour of leaving. But as people engaged, opinion began to change and the ultimate vote was 2 to 1 in favour.

Now it's all very well talking about that, but it's not the old guy in a suit that's going to swing it, it's most likely to be young voters. Liberal Democrat MPs Tim Farron and Tom Brake have been in debates at Newcastle University. At the end of them students voted 3 to 1 and 4 to 1 to REMAIN.

So my plea to fellow councillors - and the younger you are, the stronger that plea - is to follow the advice of the late Tony Benn at the time "It is very clear that there now must be a move for the Labour Party to campaign". Identify messages that resonate with younger voters - the sort that I was in 1975 - and take it to them. This decision is far more about their future than about mine.

The arguments might range from the mundane such as the abolition of roaming charges when you take your phone on holiday - something which was pursued by the former Liberal Democrat regional MEP Fiona Hall and by the way UKIP voted against in the European Parliament.

At the other end of the scale, air and water pollution are no respectors of national boundaries and must be tackled on a Europe-wide basis. I don't doubt that other speakers will make even more cogent arguments than these.

Back in 1975, Tyne and Wear voted 62.9% in favour of REMAIN. With vigorous cross party campaigning post May, let's hope we can deliver an equal or even better result in June.