I have a confession to make. I still consider myself a Eurosceptic, but I will be voting to remain in the EU. When coming to make my decision on the referendum, I have considered a number of factors carefully. I recognise there are some good points on the leave side but my head firmly tells me that families, businesses and the country will be better off and safer staying in the EU. The choice in this referendum is: economic security and global influence as part of the EU, or a leap in the dark.
A vote to stay is a vote for certainty. We’ll be stronger, safer and better off in Europe because we’ll get to keep access to the single market of 500 million people, with a say over the rules of doing business across Europe. That means more jobs, lower prices and greater financial security for British families. Remember that our economic security is key to our national security and that of our public services. Without being in control of our nation’s finances, we cannot be in control of our other priorities for Britain.
A vote to leave is a vote for risk. Vote Leave say they’ll walk away from the single market and negotiate a new deal, but they can’t explain what it would be and how long it will take. What we can be certain of is that if we left the EU, the other 27 countries would not give us a better deal than they have for themselves. The very strong likelihood is that prices will rise, monthly mortgage payments will increase, jobs will be at risk and government finances will be hit, which will require difficult decisions to be made on funding for public services, including our local schools and hospitals.
That is the assessment of the majority of financial authorities, economists and business leaders. You may not trust politicians but these are people who employ millions of employees in this country. This is a high price tag for leaving the EU and I do not think it is worth it.
Of course, the task of reforming Europe goes on. But our special status in Europe gives us the best of both worlds. It means families across the UK get all the benefits of being in the EU, including more jobs, lower prices and greater security.
But we are out of the parts of Europe that don’t work for us. So we will never join the euro, and never be part of eurozone bail-outs, the Schengen no-borders agreement, a European army or an EU superstate. The benefits clearly outweigh the costs.
There have been rather a lot of conspiracy theories and far-fetched myths raised in this referendum. Among the worst is that the EU is a Catholic plot to take over Protestant England. Others are that the Queen will be deposed, and that despite the agreement secured by the Prime Minister we will have to have the euro and be part of a European Army. All are palpable nonsense and the authors of them should head to Confession.
As a Catholic, my faith has not played a specific role in my decision. The idea of a universal, unelected, undemocratic and all-male hierarchy with a central (somewhat federal?) mission based on blind faith is completely natural in our religion, but I certainly don’t see those same characteristics in the EU. Yes, the EU has unelected bureaucrats just as we have the civil service, the Bank of England and so on. I would not want to elect them directly as I want the nation states to be the leading decision-makers, as they are today. As for migration, I know in East Anglia that I only see EU migrants coming to take up work when we have a shortage of skilled and unskilled labour – in our hospitals, on our building sites and in the fields. I also see EU migrants alongside me at church, praying in the pews together.
We still drink pints, bought with British pounds, drive on the left in miles and yards, and keep our safe three-pin plugs. We will still be Britain with our Queen, our Armed Forces and the pound, staying out of the passport-free, border-free eurozone so we can enforce our borders.
While the EU can at times be infuriating, do not imagine that if we left all our challenges would be solved overnight. Far from it. The more this campaign has gone on, the more I am clear that on balance families and businesses in the UK will be stronger, safer and better off if we vote to remain in a reformed EU.
Dr Thérèse Coffey is the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.
This article first appeared in the June 17 2016 issue of The Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here.