COLUMN: Why Britain should stay in EU
PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 January 2016
I'm sure everyone who reads this will each be looking forward to their own milestones in 2016, setting their new year's resolutions and reflecting on what I hope was a healthy and happy 2015.
For me, these new year’s greetings have a particularly special meaning for me as we look ahead to the forthcoming European referendum.
The EU referendum will decide whether Britain retains our place at the heart of a reformed Europe, better able to secure our national security, jobs in our region and investment in our future.
The alternative is a Britain going back to the 1950s with rights at work including for maternity leave and paid holiday in jeopardy, the lack of a European arrest warrant leaving criminals on the run and jobs and business put at risk.
So I hope that the next year will end with Britain firmly in the European Union.
But of course 2016 is not just about the EU referendum.
Next year will see the first full year when the new round of European-funded projects locally will be up and running.
A draft EU law for better access for disabled people that I have personally championed, should come to fruition. And I am working hard to secure further European investment to cut congestion and improve our region’s transport links.
As a nation we will cheer on Roy Hodgson’s England side as they look to end 50 years of hurt on the global football stage. The European Championships have given me some memorable football nights with colleagues from other countries in the European Parliament, sitting together but cheering on our respective sides.
It is where we should fight our battles, but where – of course – England should always win.
One of the great moments of 2015 was seeing a British astronaut fired into space as part of the programme of the European Space Agency and thanks partly to businesses right in the heart of my own constituency. And who thought that was possible?
Some of the most sombre moments for me in 2015, came in mourning the victims of terrorism in France as, once again, we recognised the importance of standing together.
Let us support the work of our armed forces and emergency services, and wish everyone a safe 2016 – here and abroad.
As a Labour Member of the European Parliament, a big part of the year was the thousands of doors I knocked on during the General Election in May.
While the result did not go the way we in Labour would have wanted, I am buoyed by the 14,000 new members who have joined the Labour party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson.
I believe this sets Labour up for a bumper year in 2016 in the local elections and those for our police commissioners. And finally I would like to thank all my constituents for the correspondence, invitations, phone calls and tweets, mostly nice, I have had in 2015.
It remains my greatest pleasure to represent you in the European Parliament and take your concerns to Brussels and Strasbourg where, every week, I fight for a better deal for you, your family and our communities.
Have a happy, healthy and peaceful 2016.