I want to begin by thanking Siobhain for her welcome. Since 1997 she has served as MP for Mitcham and Morden, working tirelessly for her constituents and it's a great pleasure to be in her constituency today.
I would also like to thank Ross Kemp for his kind introduction. We are particularly grateful that today you have joined this campaign.
Many of you will be most familiar with the work Ross has done on screen, for years a daily fixture in the living room of millions.
I would also like to recognise the work Ross does off screen to support our veterans, as a Patron of Help for Heroes, and to raise awareness of the effects of mental ill health for those returning from service.
I'm personally grateful to him for the documentaries he filmed in Afghanistan. They were hard-hitting portrayals of what life was like serving on the front line in Helmand. I remember returning from Afghanistan in 2007 and watching one of them.
When you return from a deployment people often ask you what is was like. Mostly we don't want to talk about it, so I just used to say "watch Ross Kemp on the telly. That's what it was like.”
I know many others said the same, and for that we were truly grateful. Thank you.
The Royal British Legion was founded by veterans of the First World War.
A century on from the start of that conflict, we pay tribute to their work in supporting today's service men and women, veterans, and their families.
It is a privilege to be joined today by veterans from our armed services. Men and women who with quiet humility and pride in their country have given so much in the service of others.
People are often surprised that anyone who has served as a major in the British Army could ever be a Labour MP. They shouldn’t be.
Because although there may be differences there are also similarities.
Not least the basic belief that collectively, you achieve more together than ever you could alone.
Same in the British Army.
Same in Labour politics.
And it’s the same for the EU. We achieve more working together with our neighbours than ever we would alone.
That is why for many of us, this referendum is the most important vote of our lifetimes.
More than any general election, its impact on our country, our economy and our security, will be profound and permanent.
The increasing insecurity and instability we see globally not only require cooperation across borders, they demand clarity on how we secure our own interests.
So today I want to be clear that it is because we put Britain’s national interest first that we make the hard-headed case to remain.
Because our choice will impact on our national security and how we keep our country safe.
That is why the strength, stability and security brought by our membership of the EU is the only responsible choice.
We take this decision as witnesses to a period of profound change - from the rise of India and China, to new risks from nuclear proliferation, and an emboldened and re-assertive Russia.
The EU continues to play a role which best secures our national interest.
- With Britain at the top table as part of the world’s largest economy.
- Securing influence to limit threats through a coordinated response.
Our place within the EU empowers Britain to look outwards to the world with confidence, not turn inwards towards isolation.
So this referendum is the moment to decide whether we want to be Great or little Britain.
The impact of a decision to leave would be immediate and lasting.
Limiting not only the opportunities of our children and grandchildren, but their ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
That is why we all have a responsibility to play our part.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the non-partisan former head of MI5, made clear her reason for speaking out. She said:
“I can’t remain silent when the Leave campaign are making an entirely spurious and nonsensical claim that we would be safer out.”
It is the nature of such decisions that those who make them seldom feel their full effect.
Never has this been truer.
This decision is bigger than any individual or government.
When the true costs would be felt in future decades, those who have campaigned for their whole political career to Leave, and Boris Johnson, won’t be there to pick up the pieces.
It will be our children who, with their families, their hopes and their dreams, live with our choice.
It is their security we must ensure and threats to their way of life we must defeat.
So what will our legacy be as they seek to answer the challenges of the 21st century?
I believe that the lessons of history teach us that we will continue to benefit from the strength, stability and security of being part of the EU.
THE WORLD’S GREATEST EVER PEACE PROJECT
History has become contested in this referendum debate, yet there is a simple lesson from Europe’s journey away from war, violence and recrimination.
Recognising that conflict claimed over a hundred million lives in the first half of the last century alone.
Remembering that a continent collectively made a conscious decision for peace.
A peace that cannot be assumed.
And should never be taken for granted.
Yet as the memory of those terrible wars fade there is a danger we become complacent.
Seventy years after World War Two and a quarter of a century since the Cold War we face a choice between two futures.
To re-engage with our partners in Europe, securing our interests in a changing world…
Or returning to isolation by voting to walk away.
This is a key moment in our history which will define our future.
Our privileged position within the international system is at risk as rising powers seek greater control and influence internationally.
As the US pivots towards Asia, the G7 expands to the G20, and international institutions face pressures to reform, the status quo will not be an option.
So we must not set ourselves on a downward trajectory of influence.
Because that, in turn, would strengthen the claims of other nations to question whether our special role as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council remains appropriate.
Our future is linked historically, geographically, unavoidably, to that of Europe.
So let us never compromise our influence to shape that shared future.
Because just as threats to our security are spread and shared in today’s world – so too must be the solutions.
That is the lesson of our continent’s history.
It is better to be engaged to secure the peace than to respond once freedom is lost.
I think those who are fortunate enough not to remember the horror of the European nations fighting in trenches should listen to the words of John Ainsworth.
Now a veteran of 96 years, John served in the 10th Survey Regiment of the Royal Artillery during the Second World War. One of the thousands of British soldiers who risked everything to land in Normandy, so that Europe could be liberated.
Looking back he reminds us of the fundamental purpose of the EU, saying:
“We freed Europe and it was the right idea for Europe to come together and stop wars between European nations. We have had 70 years of peace between us.”
On the 23rd of June, John is going to be voting to remain in the EU.
A NECESSARY PARTNER TO NATO
Today the world is changing faster and less predictably than at any time since that conflict.
From the Arab Spring to the Global Financial Crisis, events around the world continue to profoundly shape our economy and security here at home.
NATO is the cornerstone of our national defence and security.
I saw that first-hand when I worked for General Mike Jackson, while he was commanding the NATO forces in Kosovo in 1999.
At its height, the Kosovo force comprised some 50,000 troops, from 39 different NATO and non-NATO nations.
I learnt a lot then – not least that operations involving such a large coalition brings a number of challenges…
Learning always to keep an eye on what the Russians are up to…
And also the diplomatic value that a bottle of Bells whisky can have!
But above all I learnt the value and the importance of the team.
Of standing with your neighbours and allies.
Of working together with others to achieve a common goal.
Having Britain as a team member of both NATO and the EU makes both institutions stronger.
From counter-terrorism to intelligence sharing and diplomacy, cooperation with Europe still offers Britain an increasingly important range of options.
Enhancing our national security and keeping our people safer.
It is the ability of the EU to combine all areas of security policy which gives it additional capacity to act beyond that of NATO and the UN.
This enables what is often called hard power to be paired with soft power.
Through its economic influence, the EU can shape behaviour through a carrot and stick approach. The threat of sanctions alongside the prize of trade access to the world’s largest single market.
Enabling rather than constraining our British interests.
Within the EU, Britain can build support for collective action – as we did to secure EU sanctions on Russia and an EU oil embargo against Iran.
Within this process Britain maintains a veto, guaranteeing that vital British interests are protected by a requirement for a unanimous agreement on defence decisions.
Cathy Ashton, a Labour peer, served as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for five years.
During that time she demonstrated how British foreign policy and security interests can be advanced as part of an EU agenda.
• Through Operation Atalanta which reduced piracy off the Somali coast.
• In negotiating a deal between Kosovo and Serbia.
• And in the EU3+3 negotiations with Iran, which secured a landmark agreement curtailing Iran’s nuclear programme last year.
The realities of today’s world demand that we step up in Europe, not walk away from our responsibilities.
We no longer live in a world where Britain acting alone is realistic, let alone desirable.
That is why NATO recognises the EU as a necessary partner to its work. As the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said:
“A strong European Union with a strong Britain is good for NATO.”
Indeed five former heads of NATO went further in calling for an active and engaged UK to stand shoulder to shoulder as part of Europe.
IT TAKES A NETWORK TO DEFEAT A NETWORK
It has been 64 days since the attack on the people of Brussels and 59 days since the Easter bombing in Lahore.
Much has been written about what the attacks teach us about terrorism and geopolitics.
The truth however is these attacks told us only what we already knew.
Things we have known since 2001 and have been repeatedly and tragically reminded.
From Madrid to Mumbai; from Jakarta to Jos and from Peshawar to Paris we have seen that these networks pay no attention to lines on a map.
Terrorist networks have become more sophisticated, combining with criminal networks.
We have seen this most prominently with Daesh – where defeating their financial networks has often become as important as traditional methods of defeating terrorist networks.
In how we approach these networks, the US General Stanley McChrystal has put it best, saying:
“It takes a network to defeat a network.”
And it is the EU that provides our strongest network.
Because it is only through the EU that we can use a networked approach to both reduce our vulnerabilities and attack the terrorist organisations themselves.
Acting not through isolationism but through partnership.
Because it is partnership that enhances the planning and execution of operations.
It is partnership that enriches intelligence collection, analysis, and reporting.
It is partnership that enables targeting, pursuits and prosecutions.
We remember the summer of 2005, when Hussain Osman attempted to follow the terrorist attacks a fortnight earlier by placing a bomb at the Shepherd’s Bush Tube Station.
Thankfully that attack failed. It was because of the European Arrest Warrant, and co-operation with our EU allies, that Osman was arrested in Rome.
And it was because of an EU wide legal framework that Osman is now serving life in prison.
We should pay tribute to the dedication of our security services and recognise their vital work in foiling numerous plots by Daesh and other terrorist networks.
They do not enter the public debate often, but when they do we should pause to listen.
Lord Jonathan Evans and Sir John Sawers, former heads of MI5 and MI6, are clear on the best response to the most severe set of security challenges for a generation, saying:
“Countering terror is a team game and the EU is the best framework.”
The expertise of our security services is aided by real time intelligence sharing, through Europol and hubs like the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre.
Supported by coordinated EU wide responses including common aviation security standards that make all our lives safer every day.
The nature of borders have changed beyond physical barriers. Today they are built on information and as part of the EU our border starts at Calais.
Because we stayed out of the Schengen border-free zone we require those arriving to present their passport.
Britain has refused entry to over 23,000 people since 2010, 1 in 6 of which were European nationals, stopping them at Calais before they even reached the UK.
All of these defences are networked responses; things that cannot be done in isolation.
We are best served to protect the UK from terrorist threats within the European Union.
PROTECTING BRITISH JOBS
As the world’s fifth largest economy, we lead the world in defence manufacturing, research and development.
We export more than £200 billion each year to the EU and more than 3 million British jobs are related to EU exports. Many of these jobs are in our defence and security industry.
These are highly skilled, well paid jobs which support supply chains stretching across communities throughout the UK.
215,000 people and 6,500 apprentices are employed directly, with 150,000 more dependent on the industries future.
These are not just numbers – they are people’s lives and livelihoods.
People in places like Barrow, Rosyth and Telford who are working hard to build a better life for themselves and their families.
That is why Unite the union calls our place in the EU “the best hope for the jobs and rights of Britain's workers.”
These jobs provide the UK with scientific expertise and transferable technologies which benefit our security.
Going it alone.
Outside of the EU and the single market…
would put these jobs at risk.
That’s why both workers and employers are backing Britain remaining in the EU.
On the 23rd June we face a choice between greater security and global influence as part of the EU…
Or a period of prolonged uncertainty and permanent retrenchment by walking away.
For the Leave campaign to assert that both everything will change, but nothing will change is not simply a contradiction.
It fails in our collective duty to serve the national interest.
This matters because while this is a decision for us today, it is a decision from which there is no going back.
Britain leaving the EU would undermine vital efforts for peace & stability.
Rather than security, uncertainty.
As President Obama has said, “A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership.”
So we are being asked to gamble on a profound and permanent break from a partnership which has secured peace and promotes cooperation to deal with emerging threats.
What sort of message would we send out to the rest of the world, and to our enemies, if we, the people who forged cooperation across borders, who enlarged and later led this partnership between nations, walked away?
It would be a gift to Putin, weakening both NATO and the EU.
So I ask you to think of the future…
because in a changing world we are safer and stronger by working in partnership across the EU, to meet the very real threats we face.
Not the fake fears of those campaigning for Brexit. Not fear of the future, fear of others, fear of anything but their narrow view of a great nation.
In a world where a terrorist in Raqqa can instant message a teenager in Reading there is no drawbridge to pull up.
The threats of the 21st century will be as real to our children as the threats of the first half of the 20th Century were to our parents and grandparents.
So they must be met with same spirit of solidarity and the same common endeavour.
A confident, modern, outward looking Britain leading in the world.
Because isolationism will not defeat these threats.
To think otherwise reflects both a denial of reality and a poverty of ambition.
That has never been the Labour way.
We remember that vision for a world of progress and peace set out in our 1945 manifesto, which argued:
“Peace must not be regarded as a thing of passive inactivity: it must be a thing of life and action and work.”
In that spirit, I will continue to make the positive case for the strength, stability and security that our place in the EU brings.
We do so not for Europe but because we are for the British national interest.
For a Britain that continues to lead in the world by leading in Europe.
Because together we are safer and more secure in an uncertain world.
So with pride and confidence in Britain, let us make the patriotic choice.
By voting to remain on June 23rd.