Yesterday Mike participated in a parliamentary debate on the EU membership. Below you can find extracts of his contributions. Alternatively, you read read the full debate here.
Mike Gapes (Ilford South): As honorary president of Labour International, may I remind my hon. Friend that any overseas voters who have lived abroad for up to 15 years and wish to get a proxy vote in this referendum need to apply by 5 o’clock today?
John McDonnell: I suggest that all those engaged with social media apply as quickly as possible.
Mike Gapes (Ilford South): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett). He rightly reminded us of some of the economic problems this country has had, so let us go back to 1973 and 1974 when we had a three-day week. Since then, despite difficulties throughout the time we have been in the European Union, our country has been wealthier, more prosperous and more influential in the world in those deep dark days of 1973. People forget that.
One thing that really concerns me about the referendum debate is that when people come to vote, they will not be answering the question that is on the ballot paper. Some are angry about rubbish in the street and some are disappointed because it takes them four hours to get through to their GP surgery on the phone. Someone told me she did not like it that her next-door neighbours, from eastern Europe, smoked in their garden rather than in their house, meaning she could not open her windows. When I put that on Twitter, I was accused of being patronising. I am sorry but these are the kinds of reasons being given in conversations I have had. The referendum is in danger of becoming a generalised, anti-Government and anti-politician vote. That is the danger of referendums.
But we are where we are. I ask my constituents to think about their children and grandchildren. This referendum is not a vote on how they feel today; it is a vote forever. It is like buying a dog: it is not just for Christmas. We need to think about what kind of country we are. Are we, as the Foreign Affairs Committee said in a recent report, going to become smaller and less influential in the world? Do we, by leaving the EU, want to put our permanent membership of the UN Security Council in question? France would then be the only permanent member from the EU. At the moment, the other 27 member states broadly accept the status quo within the EU, but that would change. Do we want to damage our relations with our Commonwealth partners and neighbours? India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sir Lanka, Australia and Canada all want the UK to remain in the EU because we make it more outward-looking to them and the rest of the world.
We face a fundamental choice over our future. How do we work effectively with partners on climate change? How do we deal with tax avoidance globally? How do we ensure minimum standards? How do we uphold the values of the universal declaration of human rights, which are under attack from Russia and others? On that last point, it is great that today a, EU country—unfortunately not us but Slovakia—has beaten Russia 2:1 in the Euros. It augurs well for our country on 23 June. Russia is not going to win the Euros, and it is not going to get its way in our referendum.