OPINION: MP Tulip Siddiq - ‘Why I’ll be voting to stay in the EU’

MP Tulip Siddiq

MP Tulip Siddiq - Credit: Archant

Maiden speeches are a significant moment in any politician’s career. They provide an opportunity to celebrate the communities we represent, and to confront the issues we believe will define our efforts in Parliament.

Back in June, I chose to give my maiden speech during a debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union. I did so because I believed, and still believe, that the question is of monumental importance.

First and foremost, I believe that our biggest policy decisions must take account of any consequences for our national security. In this regard, the upcoming EU referendum is no different. Working alongside our European partners, we are more equipped to ensure the seamless sharing of intelligence before arresting criminals.

Through the European Arrest Warrant, we benefit from a collective strength that we would not have were we to leave. Several hundred criminals have faced justice in Britain after fleeing abroad, including would-be attackers on London’s transport system. This has been made possible by the warrant. The onus is on those advocating for Brexit to explain how such cooperation would be in place without our membership. Are we seriously going to abandon continental security arrangements in the midst of a sustained terrorist threat?

Leaving the EU would also be an act of economic negligence. Almost half of Hampstead and Kilburn’s residents are foreign-born: our thriving villages are a testament to the benefits of free movement of labour. This is not to say the EU is perfect. If I was leading the current negotiations, a major priority would be to secure greater employment protections in the EU’s expansive trade agreements.

However, I wouldn’t contemplate deserting a trading bloc which drives down our cost of living, delivers new business and secures thousands of jobs.

An isolated Britain in which we have to restart relationships from scratch would create havoc in our local economy.

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It is also clear that the EU referendum has become a proxy debate on immigration. Despite the traumatic scenes we have seen over the past few years, either in the Middle East or on our doorstep at Calais, the debate has been littered with examples of disgraceful scaremongering and xenophobia.

As in my maiden speech, I wish to reiterate my pride to represent an area famous for its historic compassion towards migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Many in this debate would like the public to believe “the foreigners who come over here” are a consequence of an EU that “we could do without”. Well, I say that our multicultural, multinational home is a source of strength and the false choice of “aspiration or immigration” must be rejected at every turn.

Though my decision is based on our economic and national security, increasingly, I have come to believe the decision will guide Britain’s outlook toward the most vulnerable. I fully intend to vote to remain in the EU referendum.