As the country prepares to go to the polls, here is a personal view on the compelling reasons why I believe Labour supporters should vote 'Remain' in the European referendum:
1) IMMIGRATION. Immigration brings money into the UK's coffers. Immigrants pay far, far more in taxes than they take out in benefits. Immigrants come to the UK to work and contribute, not to scrounge. Southampton is a city built on the cumulative contributions of wave after wave of successive immigrants. And even if we vote to leave the EU, if we still want access to the single market - which even the Leave campaign admit they would want - then we'd have to continue to allow the free movement of labour as part of any deal with the rest of the EU. Yes, immigration can bring local pressures on services such as schools and our NHS. But leaving the EU will not change that: it's the UK's government that's failing here, not the EU.
2) SOVEREIGNTY AND CONTROL. The Leave campaign bang on about 'taking back control', and make outrageous claims like 'Turkey will be joining the EU any time soon and there's nothing we can do to stop it'. This is simply wrong. The UK parliament remains sovereign, and the UK has a right of veto over what happens with the big decisions like who gets to join in future. Even if the entire rest of the EU wanted Turkey to join - which they don't - we have the right to stop it. As a sovereign parliament, we already pool our strengths in all sorts of areas - such as NATO for defence, for example. Being part of the EU makes us able to tackle issues like climate change and international crime far more successfully than if we tried to go it alone.
3) THE ECONOMY. Even the Leave campaign admit that there's more risk associated with leaving the EU than with staying. The leaders of the Leave campaign can afford to be relaxed about that: it's not the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage who will have to face the financial consequences of a Leave vote. It's the people whose jobs, livelihoods, and children's futures depend on the industries and businesses which are currently a success in the UK because of its membership of the EU who will pay the price. 44% of the UK's trade is with Europe - for Southampton, with its cruise terminals and container port, that figure is even higher. A vote to Leave puts the city's economy at huge risk. It's not a risk worth taking.
4) PEACE AND STABILITY. It's easy to forget that for the entire period of recorded history prior to 1945, Europe was continually torn apart by war and conflict. The older citizens of Southampton still remember what it was like to be bombed by the German Luftwaffe night after night (and I have the remains of a WWII air-raid shelter in my back garden as a 'concrete' reminder of this.) The post-War project which brought nations together has prevented European countries from being at war with each other since. Negotiation has replaced armed conflict, and everyone is better off as a result. You only have to look at what's happened in the former Yugoslavia or USSR to see what can happen when nations fragment. Britain leaving the EU will make both Europe and the world a much more dangerous place. Again, it's not a risk that's worth taking.
VOTE REMAIN TOMORROW, 23rd JUNE 2016.
How to vote: You can go down to your local polling station tomorrow to vote in person. To find your local polling station, simply click here and enter your postcode.You don't need to have your polling card with you - just tell them your name and address and you will be able to vote. Don't miss the chance!