Margaret Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington, Member of the House of Lords
Baroness Jay of Paddington, Member of the House of Lords

Neither of my two grandmothers ever went to Europe. They never thought that they missed anything. But that only shows how much things have changed since then.

Today, two million British citizens work and live in Europe. At the same time, European immigration has brought vast benefits to Britain. There are all these jokes about Polish plumbers, but didn’t they bring skills that we were short of?

And just think of football. Everybody is obsessed with football. A huge number of players on our favourite teams are from Europe. The two most important teams here in London are managed by a Frenchman and a Portuguese. To millions of people, they are heroes.

So does this mean that Britain will vote to stay in the EU? I hope so, of course, but there is no room for complacency. The forces of negativity are very well organized and very well financed. They play to the fears of people in the south-east of England who feel overwhelmed by immigration, and they play to the fears of the decaying industrial population in the north of England.

UKIP won only one seat in the recent elections, but that’s just because of our voting system. With proportional representation, they would have 83 seats now. That is a position we cannot afford to ignore.

Nevertheless, I believe that the tide is beginning to turn. As the referendum is becoming real, people are beginning to understand the danger of leaving Europe. They are also beginning to think about the positive things that Europe has brought us: family leave for instance, or the minimum wage.

“Better Together” – that’s the slogan we used in the Scottish independence referendum. This should be our message for the referendum on Europe as well. That we are better together – economically, culturally and in every other way. Better together with 500 million people.

Margaret Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington, Member of the House of Lords

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