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Rushanara Ali’s Open Letter

Dear Friends,

Like the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and countless leading individuals in politics, business, science and the arts at home and abroad, I truly believe our country will be stronger, safer and better off by remaining in the European Union. The Vote Leave camp cannot tell us what would happen in the event of an exit from the Europe Union even though this is the most important decision of a generation. A vote to leave the EU is a vote for risk, economic uncertainty and instability. It could tip the UK’s economy into a year-long recession, with at least half a million jobs lost and cause the value of the pound to drop by around 3.6%. In other words leaving the EU could mean an £800 cut to wages for someone working full-time and put at risk the lower prices in our shops which save families over £350 a year. So it’s vital this referendum is decided on proper evidence.

It’s a fact that over 3 million jobs are linked to trade with other EU member states. It’s a fact that we receive an average of £24 billion of investment every year from other EU countries. And it’s a fact that membership to the EU allows the UK to be part of the biggest trading bloc in the world. The Labour Party is overwhelmingly in support of staying in Europe. It was Labour that made sure that Britain’s EU membership gave British workers’ rights to minimum paid leave, rights for agency workers, paid maternity and paternity leave, equal pay, protection from race and religious discrimination, through EU-wide laws. Since the Second World War, the EU has been instrumental in bringing peace and security to our continent, and in helping to build that peace elsewhere too.

There is no better example of how different communities can co-exist and thrive together than my constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow. I’m concerned that the Vote Leave campaign have distorted immigration statistics and in so are creating a campaign of fear and intolerance. The NHS in London has 16,800 staff from EU countries, including over 2,800 doctors and over 6,900 nurses – leaving could make it harder to recruit staff vital to our services. Whether it’s the skilled workers we need for our economy, or the doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to help run our NHS, immigration has had an undoubtedly positive impact on our country.

We can’t ignore that lead campaigners in the Vote Leave team include divisive politicians including those from far-right party UKIP who repeatedly use islamophobic and racist language. The likes of Nigel Farage who have been preaching intolerance for years against Britain’s ethnic minorities and the Muslim community in particular will never stand up for our rights if given more power if the UK left the EU.

The Vote Leave Campaign say that the European Union restricts immigration to Britain from countries outside Europe. This is completely misleading and wrong-headed to pit our membership of the Commonwealth against our membership of the European Union. Over the past 10 years, figures from the Office of National Statistics show immigration from countries outside Europe has been steadily higher than within the EU. Moreover, the EU strengthens Britain’s economic ties with the Commonwealth. The UK has access to the EU’s free trade deals with 19 Commonwealth countries which makes trade cheaper and faster benefitting the public through lower prices for goods and services and creating more jobs.

Being part of the Union also means we have strength in numbers and can work collectively on vital issues such as securing better trade terms for Pakistan after floods in 2010 and 2011 or overturning the EU ban on Indian mangoes in 2014. And after the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, the UK took action with the EU and the International Labour Organisation to ensure better health and safety rights for garment workers. Tax avoidance, climate change, the migration crisis, terrorism: we’re not going to be able to tackle these global issues on our own.

We must listen to why our allies all around the world, including President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and countries throughout the Commonwealth are urging the UK to stay in the EU. And we must not ignore the leading voices in finance, politics and business at home including all the former Labour Prime Ministers who are also campaigning to remain. It’s gravely concerning that the Bank of England governor Mark Carney says that a vote to leave could cause a the UK to plunge into another economic recession. The EU referendum will be one of the most important moments in our country’s history. Please join me in casting your vote on 23 June to remain a member of the European Union.

With warmest wishes,

Rushanara Ali
Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow