I've actually been to EU Parliament, and I'm still voting IN

Earlier on this month polling commissioned by Electoral Reform Society, said only 16% of voters felt well informed on the issues of the EU referendum, I'm hoping by now that number has vastly increased! On Thursday 23rd June 2016, voters will vote either "remain" or "leave" to the very specifically worded question "Should the UK remain a member of the EU, or leave the EU?" In itself this question and the answers were tweaked from "yes" and "no" because the Electoral Commission believed the phrasing could be understood as biased. Excitingly for my North friends, Manchester Town Hall will see the overall referendum count with the combo of 12 regions on Friday, the day after voting, where we will learn of the final decision. The UK previously joined the EU formerly the EEC (European Economic Community) or "common market" in 1973 with another 8 fellow "members states", which now in 2016 has increased to 28, and there are many people who think this in itself has watered down our UK place at the table, however I feel this actually gives us ALL more influence globally. I have talked to many people, regular folk, family, working class, union members, business owners, well-to-do, and intently "overheard" a few more conversations too. And you know what, it's been really interesting to discuss different details with each.

There are many pros and cons, to being IN or OUT of the EU, neither option is perfect, but sadly we have seen many slanging matches with politicians and big-named-so-called-influencers, that have muddied the waters for people trying to make educated decisions based on facts. I think my conversations with others have been very well received, even with those who are voting opposite to me. It seems the common people of the UK have generally, managed to have interested, educated and polite conversations, ok heated, but none that I've seen have got so silly as those on the TV with the people who should have ALL the facts, and know much better about how to conduct themselves. I was invited to be in the audience for the BBC1#EURefNW debate, and even that was a splurge of waffle and little facts. It's been an absolute quagmire of information, and most of it, untrue or bent. The stats from the independent offices are the ones I've based my decisions on, alongside my previous knowledge of the EU and what the UK, and me personally, have gain from being in the EU. I also managed to read this book EU Referendum A Guide For Voters by David Torrance.

My reasons for voting to stay IN the EU

The single market - A "single market" for goods, services, capital and workers is it's "four freedoms". This is the cornerstone of everything the EU does. I think, that being in the EU enables us to share wealth, skills, people and products with others in the EU, and we are stronger as part of the EU to bargain for anything with others outside of the EU, rather than going it alone on our own. I truly believe this is what makes the EU great, a good dose of solidarity. What I've heard from the leave side, is a sad state of "me, me, me" where there are much worse off people in the world, we should have a duty of care to support in some way. I'm happy for my money to go to others, and in return if we stop being the 2nd richest country in the EU we would get some support in return. You may ask how are we 2nd, and might not feel like we are a rich nation, but sadly that I think, comes back to the UK's politics and the ethos of "making the rich richer". I think my fellow union members would agree this is happening.

Freedom of Movement - Some of my friends and a large chunk of my union friends in broadcasting alone are EU workers not from the UK. They live and work in the UK as they are the best people for the job. If you wanted that job, you should have applied for it alongside these people too, and in good working environments, especially job panels I've been on, the names and personal details of the applicants are removed when looking at who to engage, so it isn't about that. And if it is, well do you really want to be working for that type of sly employer?

Womens Rights - "In all its activities, the [European] Union shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women.” Article 8, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union BOOM! This along with many EU based laws support women in the workplace, maternity and paternity rights, health and safety at work etc. Also the EU has been key in trying to increase the number of women on boards and in the C-Suite. Being OUT, we will see these rights and programmes diminished for more pro-employers schemes. The TUC has a great overview here

Workers Rights - This is a massive reason for me to stay IN. A large percentage of workers rights, health and safety laws and especially the Working Time Directive have originated from the EU. Without these workers would be less safe, less healthy and less supported in times of need. We already see big businesses in the UK taking advantage of workers with the Zero Hours contracts where workers have zero rights and no protection, I strongly feel that being OUT, would just make it easier for employers to use and abuse their staff. I'm a business owner and engage staff on different contracts, I see workers rights as a RIGHT for everyone not "just more red tape" to stop bad employers from creaming the profits from hard working members of society. An unbiased breakdown can be found here

Unions - The EU is supportive of unions, workers rights and working people, the current UK government don't like unions, keep attacking their rights to strike and organise, and want to water-down their rights and penailise those who choose to be in a union. They can't it's a human right! But sadly, the UK's current government last year started trying to remove this for a more "UK based human rights act" I dread to think! "The right to form and join trade unions, to collectively bargain and to strike are universal human rights. And these rights have been our cause since our beginning." Amnesty International

NHS - This pretty much sums it up for me - "Just under 50,000 citizens from the EEA work in the NHS, including over 9,000 doctors, 18,000 nurses, midwives and health visitors and 2,500 allied health professionals, such as physios and radiographers. While this represents just around 4.5 per cent of the total, these workers provide a vital source of skills and expertise plugging gaps left by the underfunding of training places in recent years." TUC

Migration - 184,000 Net migration from other EU countries to the UK in the past year. 188,000 from outside the EU. Being OUT, won't stop migration, it will only slow it down. And, if we still want to trade with the EU and we are out of the EU, we will need to sign upto the freedom of movement as part of the single market arrangement. I very much doubt the EU will budge on that as it's one of their "four freedoms".

"Being British" and "taking back our country" - and erm, who would be taking it back and running it? I'd rather trust my land with a group of people, with varying backgrounds, who have processes of how to agree things as equally as possible thanks. "Being British" this is a crock of £$it, I love being British, because to me that means, multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-lingual, multi-anything, which serves up a lovely melting pot of opinions, beliefs and foods. Sending all the EU people "home" and receiving back all those ex-pats that have lived in Spain etc for the sun, but still reap the benefits of being a UK citizen, is that what people call "British"?!

EU funding - I am living proof that EU money can make a bloody amazing difference. I have had 7 full time years of work and many other part time projects funded by the EU pots. This has enabled us to make massive differences to people's lives - building people's confidence, getting people trained up and back into work, getting people who have social anxiety out of the house for the very first time, giving people with massive speech problems an opportunity to make their own radio programmes and hear themselves back in a different way over real airwaves, sharing stories of people with Heart Disease and enabling community organisations and charities to have a voice, where they would otherwise not have. This to me hands down is the one reason I'll be voting IN, because I don't trust the current London-centric government will ever push any monies up North for this sort of thing. I was lucky enough to be invited to Brussels in 2014, and as part of UNI Europa Youth, sat in EU parliament talking to some of the current MEPs from around the EU about their priorities and workload, and even got to join the European Economic and Social Committee in session, where they were running a discussion about plastic bag charges. After that debate the process got formed into legislation at the European Parliament level, before they proposed it to the European Commission, where they then appoint the legislation if it is passed. That seems a pretty fair process to me. It took all of a year to come into the UK and the Queen herself made it out to be a UK based idea that they were supporting the EU in, I know different. How many other EU countries have you been to where the use of free carrier bags had go so stupid?!

So there's an overview of some of the reasons why I'll be voting to stay IN the EU this week. Whatever you think, even if you're OUT, please vote.

For those of you still undecided here's some awesome things I've found online, that I have verified to be facts as much as possible.

https://www.facebook.com/LastWeekTonight/videos/921269251335418/?pnref=story

https://www.tuc.org.uk/EUref

https://www.facebook.com/UniversityofLiverpool/videos/1293361974024537/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/7254978@N03/27227571433/in/dateposted-public/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/7254978@N03/27805462366/in/dateposted-public/

And here to sum it up a nice little animated video...

Here's to, I'm hoping, a brighter future IN Europe.