Sir Oliver to vote for the UK to remain in the European Union

Below is the text of Sir Oliver's recent speech, arguing that we should remain in the European Union.


"For me, it is clear: to be in the EU makes us better-off, safer, and stronger.

Better off

Fundamental to our membership of the EU is the Single Market. Some Leave campaigners confuse this with a Free Trade Area, but the two are not the same, and their claim that the UK can have all the benefits of the EU Single Market without paying for it, and without free movement of people, is not true.

In a Free Trade Area, there no charges on the goods you export to other countries within that area. However, this only applies to products that adhere to the legal standards set by the country to which you are exporting. If your products do not match their standards, you can’t export those products to them at all. Free trade deal or not.

The EU, however, provides us with a Single Market, which not only has the same tariff-free arrangements of a free trade area, butalso sets common legal standards. This means that every country’s regulations are the same. Therefore, if we make something that is fit for sale in the UK market, it is automatically fit for export to all the other 31 European Economic Area (EEA) countries. On top of this, there are rules to ensure that EU states cannot reject British products simply because they are British.

As a result, UK businesses only have to follow a single set of rules in order to make products fit for sale in all 32 EEA countries,and they can do it without paying any customs duties.

In the Single Market, big employers in Hertfordshire have prospered. Johnson Matthey in Royston, for example, has doubled its workforce. It is a FTSE 100 company driven forward by EU environmental regulation requiring auto-catalysts on all European vehicles; auto-catalysts that they are making.

MBDA in Stevenage is a World-beating European defence company with ownership in UK, France, Italy, and Germany.

GSK sells its asthma treatments across the EU from Hertfordshire, and Airbus is a European initiative.

Companies of a different size, like Altro – Letchworth’s largest company – and Kindlelight, recognise the benefits of the EU and want us to remain, because of the bigger market and single regulatory framework that the EU provides.

Many people here travel to London for work in service sectors, such as financial services, insurance, and the Law. These, and other service sectors, are taking advantage and doing great business in the Single Market and their areas have the greatest potential for growth. Because these businesses have regulatory approval in the UK, they can sell their products everywhere in the EU, without extra taxes, regulation, or discrimination.

I once spent six months on an all-party Select Committee investigating why businesses from outside the UK, and many outside the EU, chose Britain for their inward investment. The two reasons we found were the English language and access to the EU. (And golf, in the case of the Japanese!)

Along with these advantages, David Cameron has managed to secure a number of important improvements from the EU to ensure that no-one can take advantage of the UK’s immigration system for benefits.

We have complete access to a united, Single Market of 500 million consumers, making exporting as cheap and easy as possible. Leaving would reduce our home market from 500 million Europeans to 65 million Brits. The knock-on effect could be to reduce it further to 60m, if the Scots decide to hold another referendum and leave the UK over it. From a business point-of-view, this is madness.

Our position in the EU’s Single Market is the best trade deal possible. It has taken us 30 years to achieve it, and it would be foolish to throw it all away by leaving.

What about trade with the whole World?

Many in the Leave camp say that by turning our back to Europe we will be able to open our arms to the World, but, in fact, it isthrough Europe that we are trading with more of the World.

This is because the EU has 50 Free Trade Agreements with other countries, and new ones are being negotiated right now with Japan, the USA, India, New Zealand, and Australia. When these are finished, we’ll have free-trade access to a third of the World’s economy, through the EU.


There is a commitment from the EU to adopt a “think small first” policy to protect small businesses from unnecessary red-tape. This means that many regulations will exempt small businesses.

Already, we see the number of new initiatives proposed by the current EU Commission down 80% compared with the last one, and more deregulation is the order of the day. Our own MEP Vicky Ford chairs the internal market committee of the EU Parliament. She tells me that last year they got rid of 80 EU laws; for this year, it’s 48; and they are reviewing 400 more - asectorby sector, yearbyyear review to strip out unnecessary red tape. 

We can have the advantages of EU membership, but also carve out a special position for our country and its businesses.


I have recently spent two years as Solicitor General, advising the Government on the law and ensuring that the Government acts in accordance with it.

As you can imagine, that touches on security matters and law enforcement issues. The EU has built structures for cooperation between different countries for investigations, questions of jurisdiction, and the handling of information. Organisations such as Europol and Eurojust, and schemes like the European Arrest Warrant help us investigate and track serious criminals and terrorists.

Eurojust enables joint investigation teams (where British prosecutors work side by side with investigators and lawyers from other member states) to investigate and build cases against organised criminals. We have a great deal of co-operation from other EU countries. Countries outside the EU, even close ones like Norway, do not have the automatic and immediate access to this information that we have.

Immigration is rightly a concern for this country, and it is important that we are able to manage it. Having access to EU databases like Europol, the Schengen Information System, and the European Criminal Records Information System means that a British immigration officer can see on their screen within seconds if someone trying to enter our country has a criminal record, a live arrest warrant, and any intelligence information concerning them. They can then question them, and turn them away where necessary, as the UK has done with over 6,000 EEA nationals since 2010, who posed a risk to this country.

We also help to decide how to tackle the migration crisis from the EU’s southern border with Turkey, and across Europe, and we are not part of the no-borders area. If we left, we would only have a say in border matters as far as Dover, and we would, therefore, be worse off in security terms.


As Solicitor General, I also had to consider issues concerning our legal relations with the EU. It is sometimes suggested that the EU is impeding the UK, but I saw no evidence of this. The UK is succeeding.

Countries which act together can do things they cannot do alone. By reaching agreement, EU countries have been able to create the Single Market and good security arrangements. This pooled sovereignty has given the UK more power, not less. Countries outside recognise this.

The Prime Minister of non-EU Norway, Erna Solberg, has explained that they have to enforce large parts of EU law in their own country in order to be part of the EU’s Single Market, but, as they are not actually in the EU themselves, they have no say when these laws are drawn up. She said, “We lack influence…we have lost our sovereignty…we are not participating in the actual decision making.”

As well as greater power across Europe, the EU gives us greater power across the World. For example, the EU states acted together to impose serious sanctions on Russia for its illegal activities in the Crimea.

Together, the EU imposed sanctions on Iran to bring them to the table, and stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Together, the EU contributed €1b to the fight against Ebola – a fight that was won earlier this year.

For this reason, if the UK decided to phone a friend and see what others thought about the possibility of Brexit, we would see that no-one in the EU, no-one in NATO, and, in fact, not one country friendly to the UK wants us to leave the EU. Only Vladimir Putin wants Brexit, and that speaks volumes.

What Leave means in practice

The Leave campaigners say our entire exit deal could be completed in the two years that the EU’s exit process gives us. That’s impossible.

Would we still be in the EU Single Market, or would we have a Trade Zone deal like Albania’s (as Michael Gove suggested)? Or might we just operate under World Trade Organisation rules, or have a Canadian-style deal? The Brexiteers don’t know.

What about our security arrangements? Those arguing for Leave don’t know and can’t agree.

If outside the EU, would the UK be able to keep the current EU trade deals with other countries across the World? No. They would all have to be re-negotiated, taking years and years, making our exports more expensive and the UK less competitive for decades. We would fall well behind in the global race.

Remain in the EU

The UK is the World’s 5th largest economy, and the Government have taken difficult decisions to create a strong and growing economy after the 2008 crash. Our ability to trade in the Single Market has been central to that. Britain has good security arrangements within the EU, and we are a huge an influence for good in the World. Do we really need a dangerous leap in the dark? Of course not.

We are powerful because we are at the centre of all the important international organisations. So, it is by pressing for further reform in the EU, staying stronger together, and staying in that we keep the UK safe, prosperous, and strong.

 Vote to Remain on June 23rd."