Jamie Reed MP has addressed the people of Copeland and West Cumbria directly ahead of Thursday’s referendum on continued UK membership of the EU.
Speaking in a Parliamentary debate on the economic benefits of EU membership, the Copeland MP declared that “I want to speak to my constituents today”.
Addressing the damaging effect that the referendum could have have on the local NHS, on Copeland’s economic future including the nuclear industry, as well as on security and the environment, the West Cumbrian MP explained that “it will be constituencies like mine, and communities like the one that I represent, that will overwhelmingly suffer the most if we vote to leave the European Union”.
Copeland MP Jamie Reed said:
“West Cumbria’s best days, as a thriving part of the European Union, are ahead of us.
“To turn our back on the EU will not stop immigration, it would harm funding and recruitment to our local NHS and could risk the Moorside project – the single largest private sector investment that our community has ever seen, representing up to £20 billion of investment and thousands of local jobs.
“I have spent more than 10 years on the project to build a new nuclear power station at Moorside. NuGen, the company that is responsible for the investment, is a consortium of American, Japanese and French companies. The United States, Japan and France are all pleading with us to remain in the European Union. I say to my constituents; stick with our plan, stay on course with our project, do not squander more than a decade of work, and do not risk our future.”
Full Text of Jamie Reed MP’s Speech:
I will begin by echoing what the shadow Chancellor said about the rights that the working people of our country have as a result of our membership of the European Union. I am delighted to see the Labour party leadership making a strong, positive case for Labour people to remain in the European Union for strong Labour reasons—but not just for Labour reasons, because remaining in the EU is in the best interests of everyone in our country.
I want to speak directly to my constituents today. I want to speak to them about what they care about, what I care about, what they have sent me here to do for the last three general elections, and why they have done so. First, I want to acknowledge the confusion, the anxiety and even the anger that my constituents will feel about the European Union. I understand that anger, and I understand that frustration, because for more than 25 years my constituents, like those in the rest of the country, have listened to incredible, outrageous lies—damned lies—about the European Union and our place in it, from talk of straight bananas to any number of invented stupidities.
People like me who believe in the benefits to our country of our membership of the European Union are largely to blame for that. We have never taken it on; we have never called it out. We have rolled our eyes, we have shrugged our shoulders, and we have been shy about taking on the lies. Now we are seemingly paying the price, but it will be constituencies like mine, and communities like the one that I represent, that will overwhelmingly suffer the most if we vote to leave the European Union.
There are specific issues that will be of profound concern to the people of Copeland, west Cumbria and Cumbria as a whole if we vote to leave the EU—our local NHS; our economic future, particularly the nuclear industry; our security; and our environment. I shall deal with them all in turn.
Alison McGovern (Labour MP for Wirral South): My hon. Friend is speaking with characteristic eloquence about the north-west. Will he explain further why we must pay attention to the parts of our country that are geographically furthest away from metropolitan centres?
In an ever more globalised world and economic marketplace, we absolutely must pay special attention to those peripheral communities, which have contributed so much to the economic strength of our country over many decades, particularly since the end of the second world war, but which have been—deliberately, I have to say, as a result of policy—marginalised and ignored for too long. I have to say, too, that whatever happens in respect of this referendum, the country has changed, fundamentally and permanently, as a result of that policy. The situation in the north-west, the north-east, the south-west and other peripheral economies in the United Kingdom, but particularly in England, must form a pivotal part of the national conversation in future.
Alongside my constituents, I have campaigned for years to protect local health services, including those at West Cumberland hospital, in our local community hospitals, in our general practices and dental practices. We have built a new hospital in Whitehaven and a new health centre in Cleator Moor, and we are improving and expanding the health service in the cottage hospitals in Millom and Keswick, but enormous challenges remain. At the heart of our NHS difficulties are the policies of the Conservative Government, who deprive our community of the necessary resources, investment and recruitment. It is absolutely clear that the economic damage that would be done to our country if we left the EU would be felt throughout the NHS in Cumbria. Make no mistake: an already intolerable situation would become worse. The Conservative Government would have every excuse it could ever want to cut, slash and burn local health services in a way that we have never seen before.
As for our economic future, I have spent more than 10 years on the project to build a new nuclear power station at Moorside, in my community. That has involved writing new nuclear policy with the No. 10 policy unit in 2005, ensuring that my community was chosen as a new nuclear development site—which was never automatic —and attracting NuGen to our area as a power station developer. The project represents the single largest private sector investment that my community has ever seen—more than £20 billion—and thousands of jobs. That is investment that we need, want, deserve and have earned.
I want my constituents to think long and hard about this during the time that remains before the referendum. The United States is pleading with us to stay in the European Union, the Japanese are pleading with us to stay, and France is pleading with us to stay. NuGen, the company that is responsible for the investment in that project, is a consortium of American, Japanese and French companies. I urge my constituents to “do the math”. Brexit would undoubtedly increase the risks to the project, not just because of the financial turmoil that it would create, but because of the damage that it would do to the EU and France in particular. There are potentially profound implications for the Hinkley Point C project as well. So I say to my constituents, “Stick with our plan, stay on course with our project, do not squander more than a decade of work, and do not risk our future.”
Then there is the security issue. Brexit would undoubtedly make us less safe and less secure. With the United Kingdom out of the European Union and with the EU shrinking, contracting and weaker as a result, we will cause profound damage to NATO. What message will that send to an increasingly belligerent and expansionist Russia? Brexit could give no greater encouragement to Vladimir Putin. This is not “Project Fear”, but “Project Fact”. When I went to Chicago recently as part of the delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, we were told by the former United States ambassador to NATO that Brexit represented,
“the greatest threat to the security of the United States, the European Union and the NATO area.”
Finally, let me deal with the environment. My constituency takes an uncommon pride in its natural environment: we have England’s highest mountain and lake, and some of the best beaches in the country. The European Union has helped to deliver massive improvements in our natural habitats, all of which are visited by thousands of tourists from the EU who contribute to our economy every year. Moreover, the EU paid attention to the Sellafield clean-up before the United Kingdom did.
My constituency is special, my constituents are special and we are creating something special. A vote for Brexit would threaten it all.