22nd June 2016

Dear Neighbour
I hope you will not mind my writing to you to urge you to vote tomorrow for our country to remain in the EU. I believe that this referendum should not be taking place, as there is no change in our relationship with the EU which would call for a referendum as a matter of treaty obligation, and in any event the issues raised are far more complex than are properly susceptible of a simple yes-no answer.
However, given that we have been saddled with it, it is very important that we should vote. Only 24% voted for this current government, but still they claim to have a ‘mandate’ to do some highly-contentious things. Let us ensure that by contrast, whatever the decision tomorrow, it is a clear majority decision.
I passionately want us to remain in the EU. I believe that our future, politically and economically, will be stronger if we are part of a union of 28 countries, and if we continue to have free access to a market of 500 million people. I believe that the EU has created peace in Europe for over 70 years – a longer period than ever before – and that, although NATO has played an equally important part in ensuring peace as against possible threats from the former Soviet Union, it is the shared economic interest between members of the EU which has kept peace within Europe so effectively.
Discussion of numbers of immigrants – ‘too many’, etc – misses the point that people are coming to this country to work: claiming benefits is not legally possible for 4 years. We do not have enough indigenous doctors, nurses, plumbers etc, so immigrants fill the needs.
The reason why the NHS is on its knees is because the government spends 7% of GDP on it, whereas other leading European nations, such as Germany, Italy, France and Holland, spend 10-11% of their GDP on healthcare. It has nothing to do with immigration, from the EU or elsewhere. It is a result of this government’s austerity policy.
It is not ‘project fear’ to point out that an overwhelming majority of professional economic bodies and indeed other countries believe that our economy would be subject to what the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has described as a ‘catastrophe’, in the event of a vote to leave the EU.
I believe that the Brexit catastrophe would cause enormous harm, not only to our industry and financial institutions, but also to our universities and research institutes. The poor in our society, already harmed by the government’s austerity policy, will lose out even more.
As Simon Stevens the NHS chief executive has pointed out, if (as seems highly likely) the pound falls in value, the cost to the NHS, for equipment and drugs paid for in € or $, will rise. You may note that George Soros expects the pound to fall 15% in the event of a vote to leave.
Let us be positive: let us stand together with our friends in Europe, who all want us to stay – and who will be offended if we spurn them. Let us take the opportunity to lead Europe from within, not to cast ourselves off into insular irrelevance.
Yours faithfully
Hugh D. Bryant