Leaving the European Union would be ‘a disaster’ for Teesside’s chemical industry says Peter Mandelson.
The former Hartlepool MP - now Lord Mandelson - was speaking on a visit to the region ahead of tomorrow’s EU referendum.
We are talking about a massive chunk of our economy, of people’s jobs and living standards. It’s simply not worth the risk.Lord Mandelson
“We have the largest integrated chemical plant in the UK here on Teesside,” he said.
“That represents a huge chunk of our regional economy and people’s livelihoods.
“One reason chemicals are so important to Teesside is that , for the moment at least, we have lost steel.
“There are 1,400 companies involved in supplying the chemical sector. The sector exports £50billion of goods to the EU and a lot of these are manufactured here in the North East - £12billion of these exports comes from Teesside alone.
“We are talking about a massive chunk of our economy, of people’s jobs and living standards. It’s simply not worth the risk.”
Membership of the EU made Britain and the North East an attractive proposition for major foreign firms such as Nissan, said Lord Mandelson.
“The reason Nissan are here in the North East is not just because Britain is a great place to do business, it is because they can get tax-free, barrier-free access to the Single market.
“If you come out of the single market, it would be a disaster for firms like Nissan. The same goes for Hitachi and the chemical companies on Teesside.
“They are here because they have a huge, 500million consumer European market on the doorstep to trade with. That is where the bulk of our exports go to.
“You would not have the same access, and it certainly would not be on the same terms, if you left the European Union.
“There may be many reasons people do not like the European Union, but if we left, we would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.”
Immigration has dominated the closing stages of the debate, but it was wrong to assume a ‘Leave’ vote was the answer: “I know immigration is a concern for people, but no-one should be conned into thinking that leaving the European Union is a magic bullet for immigration.
“Most migrants come from outside Europe - it is up to us, not the EU, how we do this. We need people coming into the UK to work in the NHS and other services.
“In future, EU workers will have to work for four years and pay taxes before they are eligible for claim benefits.
“That is a vital reform Britain has developed and other European countries are following.”
Vote Leave’s Boris Johnson is also touring the country today, after using last night’s TV debate at Wembley Arena to criticise Remain for “woefully under-estimating” the country.
He said: “At the end of this campaign I think you’ll agree there is a very clear choice between those on their side who speak of nothing but fear of the consequences of leaving the EU, and we on our side, who offer hope.
“Between those who have been endlessly rubbishing our country and running it down, and those of us who believe in Britain.
“They say we can’t do it, we say we can. They say we have no choice but to bow down to Brussels, we say they are woefully under-estimating this country and what it can do.”
He added: “If we vote Leave and take back control, I believe that this Thursday can be our country’s independence day.”