Biggest political decision we’ll ever have to make
The forthcoming referendum to decide if the UK remains in the European Union or leaves will be the most profound political decision of our lifetimes.
Of course many of us remember the last time we had the chance to vote on Britain’s EU membership back in 1975.
I suspect back then few of us thought we would ever be asked to make this decision again.
You might not believe it but I just missed out on voting in the last referendum because at 16 I was too young.
If I could have voted I would have voted yes because I believe that Britain is stronger, safer and more prosperous in the EU, than we would be if we left.
Engagement with Europe is the bedrock of our economy. Half of all our trade is with Europe and businesses around the world chose to invest in the UK as a gateway to access the single market.
So the consequences of leaving will be even more serious than they would have been 40 years ago.
Back in 1975 the No side told us that if we remained in the EU food prices would be higher, we wouldn’t benefit from North Sea oil and we would be merged into a single European country.
They were wrong about all these things and it makes you wonder why we should listen to their scare stories today.
While I hope the result is the same as in 1975 I want one thing to be different this time around.
I remember the frustration I felt as a 16 year old that one of the biggest decisions of my life was taking place and I was denied a say in it.
We mustn’t let that happen again, which is why just a few weeks ago the House of Lords passed a Labour motion to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in the referendum.
Unfortunately local MP Paul Maynard and the Tories has already signaled they want to overturn this decision. I believe this is the wrong thing to do.
It is today’s young people that will have to live the longest with the consequences of the referendum’s result, so it’s vital that they are given a vote as well.
End of roaming rip-off in sight
Last month in the European Parliament voted to ban mobile phone roaming charges.
Under this new law the extra cost mobile companies charge us for using our phone in the EU will be abolished completely by 2017.
This is great news for all of us and means that soon when we travel within the EU, either for business or pleasure, we can use our phone just the same as if we were at home.
This ban will be preceded by an interim period beginning next year, in which companies can still add charges, but they will be 75% lower than at the moment.
Recent research by Uswitch.com shows that currently one in six people holidaying in Europe came back to a phone bill that was £100 higher than normal. So this change and will make a big difference to all our lives.
Labour MEPs have been at the forefront of the drive to cut roaming charges and now the end of the great roaming rip-off is in sight.
Soon all of us will be able to make friends and family jealous by posting holiday pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, without having to worry that a huge bill is waiting for us when we get home.
This is just one of the ways in which we in Britain are winning a better deal thanks to European action.
This legislation also shows the EU at its best, standing up for consumers and giving equal protection rights across the 28 member states. and highlights once again why we’re better off in the EU.
How could EU improve? Tell me
Do you want to know more about what the EU does? Or maybe you’d like to tell me about how you want the EU to change. Well here’s your chance.
This Friday, I and Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, are holding a public event about ‘Why the EU matters’.
The meeting is open to everyone and I’d really like to hear from you about why you think the EU matters and how you think we can make the EU work even better for the UK.
When I was elected as one of your MEPs in 2014 I promised that I would be your voice in Europe but that I would also make sure that I was accessible to all my constituents.
Events like this one are just one of the ways I’m trying to fulfill that promise, so please do come along.
The event starts at 3.30pm on December 4 and is being held at St Johns The Evangelist, Cedar Square, Blackpool, FY1 1BP. You can book your place by going to Eventbrite.co.uk and searching: ‘Why the EU matters’.