THE BLOG
09/10/2015 07:02 BST | Updated 09/10/2016 06:12 BST

Vote Leave Would Put Our Economy at Risk

Vote Leave, the campaign to quit Europe, has launched with deceptive claims and old assertions. Theirs is not a vision for a prosperous Britain but a plan to put our economy at risk.

Vote Leave ignore the simple fact that we get more from Europe than we put in.

Their spurious claim that we pay the EU £350million per week ignores everything we get back from our membership. This includes the rebate which Margaret Thatcher won, money for infrastructure and public services in poorer regions like Cornwall and West Wales and support for agriculture. Our net annual contribution in fact amounts to a weekly payment of £6.50 per household - about £340 per year. When you consider that the Confederation of British Industry has estimated our membership is worth £3,000 a year for average households, this is an investment on which British families get a great return of nearly ten to one.

Vote Leave may want to pose as champions of public services, but we won't take any lessons from a campaign led by key figures from the Taxpayers' Alliance, an organisation which has proposed cutting NHS spending. Their video may feature St Thomas's Hospital, but as someone who was born there and whose son was born there too, I wouldn't trust its future in their hands.

Perhaps most striking from today's launch is the absence of any recognition of the benefits brought to Britain from access to Europe's free trade area.

Vote Leave offer a false choice between trading with Europe and trading with the rest of the world. We are already doing both and we should continue to have the best of both worlds. Our trade with non-EU countries is growing, but half of our exports in goods still go to the EU while less than 10% go to the fast growing 'BRIC' countries like China and Brazil. Why sacrifice the bird in the hand while we look for opportunities around the world?

And we have more control from within the EU than we would outside. At the top table we ensure we benefit from global trade deals. EU trade agreements with Canada, the US and Japan will accrue £16.3 billion to the UK economy. Vote Leave have nothing to say about how they would supplement, let alone improve on, such gains from outside the EU. Nor can they tell us whether they want to follow countries such as Norway, which trade with the EU but sacrifice any say over EU rules, including freedom of movement, and make a significant contribution to the EU budget. Vote Leave are implying that they will repatriate all of our contributions, so will they admit they are happy to sacrifice access to tariff-free trade with Europe as well?

There is now only one campaign on the side of reforming of the EU. While those in favour of remaining want to extend gains from free trade while protecting our national interest, those wanting to leave simply seek to dismantle the EU based on their obsession with the fallacy of a single European political nation that doesn't and will never exist. Britain has opted out of the single currency, the no-borders 'Schengen' area and has vetoes on many key issues. We retain our independence while benefitting from increased trade and investment. The Germans, French, Italians and Spanish will never give up their nationhood. Why does Vote Leave think Britain is so much weaker than our European neighbours?

Vote Leave have the three biggest political donors in the country backing them. The 'In campaign', which will launch next week, cannot hope to match this spending power, but what we lack in money we will make up in campaigning confidence and passion about standing up for Britain's best interests.

Ours will not be a counsel of despair, but a patriotic case for what's best for Britain. Trading freely with a bloc of 500million consumers to support millions of jobs, benefitting from annual investment of over £26billion and co-operating with our nearest neighbours on cross-border challenges from terrorism to climate change.

If we want to stand tall in the world, we should build on, rather than retreat from, all the opportunities that international cooperation, inside and beyond Europe, delivers. Britain is stronger, safer and better off within Europe than it would be alone outside.

Will Straw is the Executive Director of the In Campaign. For more information on the campaign, visit their website here