Sadiq Khan: Remaining in Europe is the Way to be True to British Values

Sadiq Khan
Labour's London Mayor Sadiq Khan, London, May 4. Writing for Newsweek, Khan says that remaining in the EU is the way to protect British values. Rob Stothard/Getty

On June 23, Britain will make the most important political decision the country has made in a generation. The European Union referendum will have far-reaching consequences, and the stakes could not be higher.

The Leave campaign has tried to dismiss the economic arguments. But when you strip away the rhetoric and the myths, the evidence is undeniable.

Whether it's analysis from the British Treasury, the Bank of England, the Confederation of British Industry, the International Monetary Fund or the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, it is clear that remaining part of the EU will be better for our economy, better for trade, better for businesses—both large and small—and better for exports.

Almost half of everything we sell to the rest of the world we sell to Europe. In London alone, we export more than £12 billion every year to Europe, and we are home to the European headquarters of 60 percent of the world's non-European global businesses.

Access to EU markets is crucial to the success of the City of London, and for every £1 we put into the EU, we get almost £10 back through increased trade, investment, low prices and jobs.

These are just some of the critical economic arguments, but in the days remaining before June 23, we also have a responsibility to ensure that people know the benefits of remaining in Europe go far wider.

It is only thanks to our membership in the EU, for example, that we have protection for workers' rights, such as guaranteed paid annual leave, paid maternity leave, security for the workforce when companies change ownership and the fair treatment of part-time workers. These rights cannot, and should not, be taken for granted.

It is also thanks to our membership in the EU that we get hundreds of millions of pounds in London to support apprenticeship and employment programs to help the most disadvantaged in society.

And it is our membership in the EU that offers us a crucial route to meeting the biggest challenges we face—from climate change and the refugee crisis to tax evasion and terrorism. We can't get around the fact that we can solve challenges on this scale only by working together, not by turning our back on our partners.

Also, crucially, remaining in Europe is the way we can be true to our British values and our history. It's a fundamental question about who we are, our character and how we perceive ourselves.

I am the son of immigrants who grew up on a council estate in south London. I saw firsthand how Britain embraced my parents and my family and provided us with countless opportunities. And my story is far from unique.

In London and across the country, we have always been open, looked outward and formed partnerships. This is how London has developed into the thriving, vibrant city it is today—the greatest city in the world. But we will be able to stay on top only if we continue to attract the best and brightest from other countries and if we retain our internationalist outlook rather than taking a narrow, isolationist approach.

Finally, it is important to highlight the one group for whom this decision matters the most—young people.

Not only do they want to see Britain retaining an influence on the international stage, helping to shape the world for the better, but they also have the most to gain from remaining in the EU and want to make the most of opportunities to live and study abroad, exploring Europe and expanding their horizons.

From now until June 23, I will be talking to young people, talking to Labour Party voters, talking to communities across London—putting forward the positive, patriotic and values-based case—and I urge others to do the same. For if we end up with a vote to leave because we failed to do enough to get the positive message out, then we will have let down millions of people who will end up paying the price.

Let's make sure our legacy is not closing doors for the next generation.

Sadiq Khan is a Labour Party politician and has been the mayor of London since May 2016.