THE BRITAIN Stronger in Europe campaign got under way in the West Midlands when a lorry highlighting some of the benefits of staying in the EU toured the region.
Northfield MP Richard Burden and Labour councillors Brett O’Reilly (Longbridge) and Peter Griffiths (Kings Norton) spoke to residents and students from Bournville College on Friday when the lorry pulled up in the new Longbridge Town Centre.
On the side of it, there was a banner claiming 384,000 jobs across the West Midlands were linked to trading with the EU.
Speaking to The Standard, Mr Burden said: “I can understand there are fears over a closer union with Europe but if you look at countries like France and Germany, their people have those same concerns over identity.
“They don’t want to be less French or less German, but I don’t see it like that.
“I am a Brummie, I’m a West Midlander, I’m English, I’m British and I’m European.
“You can have more than one identity and it is important to remember that.
“Sometimes issues affecting towns and cities here are more similar to situations in European towns and cities than British ones.”
He cited Longbridge Town Centre as a fine example saying when the plans were being drawn up for it, a lot was learnt from the French town of Lille about what it should be like and certain aspects were replicated.
And he said in today’s world, issues could not be sorted out within national borders as many of them needed cross-border co-operation, such as immigration.
“None of us should be scared of contact and co-operation with others as it enriches us.
“The EU brings people together and it brings businesses together so we can all learn from each other.”
He said in the last week alone in his role as Labour’s Shadow Roads Minister, he had sat on committees aimed at sorting out two issues – air quality and lorry drivers’ hours and tachographs.
“You cannot address issues like those just in the UK, there has to be co-operation with the rest of Europe.”
He also spoke about the financial aspect of the EU, claiming those campaigning for Britain to leave only really highlighted the cost of being in Europe and not the benefits to the UK.
And he added if Britain was in a similar position to Norway – which many campaigning to leave gave as an example of the alternative – it would still have to pay to trade with EU countries, as Norway did.
“The EU is not perfect but that does not mean it is better for Britain to leave.
“Does it have to change? Yes. But, there’s a lot in British politics which we could do with changing as well.”
The Government has until the end of 2017 to stage the in/out referendum but, with Prime Minister David Cameron currently negotiating with other European heads, it could be as early as this summer.