Labour supports holding a referendum, so we can get on quickly with debating the big issue of Europe and set out why we will be campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU.

I passionately believe in our membership of the European Union.

Europe creates jobs and boosts economic growth.

Around 160,000 jobs in the North East rely on trade with the EU. Indeed, the car firm Nissan has said that being part of a single market is vital to its interests here.

Europe invests in the North East. Our region has received billions of pounds of investment from the EU, most recently the Vaux site development in Sunderland.

Indeed, over the next Parliament, the North East will receive over £660m in funds to help regenerate our region.

Europe protects our rights at work. EU membership safeguards paid leave, maternity leave and equal rights for agency workers.

Europe helps to keep us safer, as countries with common interests can work together to confront crime, human trafficking, terrorism and climate change, issues which do not respect national boundaries.

But beyond the dry statistics about investment, jobs and growth, which are, of course, crucial, I think our membership of the EU says something about us as a country -; that we believe that we can improve the lives of people in Britain, and make the world a better place, by working together with our allies to fight for causes we believe in.

We are an island nation, but we do not exist in isolation.

Our great history is that we are, and have always been, a global nation, a people that looks out into the world.

We don’t fall for Tory traps of introspection. Leaving the EU would leave Britain diminished in the world, economically damaged, and that’s why I will campaign for Britain to stay.

I hope you will join us.

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