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Quitting EU would be economic suicide, says Deputy Prime Minister
10:26am Thursday 5th December 2013 in Business News
EXITING the EU would be a "spectacular act of economic suicide," Nick Clegg has said in response to a question from a North-East MP.
With David Cameron away in China, the Deputy Prime Minister faced repeated queries in the Commons on Europe yesterday, led by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, who said jobs and investment were at risk in his constituency, and across the region, if Britain left the EU.
Mr Wilson quoted key North-East employers Nissan and Hitachi, which said they may pull the plug on investment, if an EU exit becomes likely.
Nissan employs more than 6,000 people at its Sunderland plant and Hitachi will create at least 730 factory jobs when it starts making trains in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham from 2016.
In addition, tens of thousands of North-East supply chain jobs would be jeopardised by a loosening of ties with Brussels.
In response to the Labour MP's warning, Mr Clegg, said: "I agree and I'm sure I speak on behalf of people on both sides of the House that it would be a spectacular act of economic suicide for the country to pull itself out of the world's largest borderless single market."
By some estimates over three million jobs are dependant one way or another in this country on our membership of the European Union.
Last month, the CBI revealed EU membership is worth between £62bn and £78bn to the UK, and 3,000 a year to every household in the country.
Almost half of the region's export business is done with members of the EU, supporting an estimated 140,000 North-East jobs.
Last week, Stockton South MP James Wharton, managed to pilot the European Union (Referendum) Bill through the Commons.
If it is passed by the House of Lords it will set in law Mr Cameron's commitment to a referendum - by the end of 2017 - to decide if the UK should leave the EU, following a renegotiation of powers.
Conservative John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, yesterday challenged Mr Clegg to order his Liberal Democrat peers to back the European Union (Referendum) Bill when it goes before the Lords.
He said: "It may surprise you to learn the Liberals have a reputation of advocating an EU in/out referendum at elections but actually not following that through when in this place."
Mr Clegg replied: "You and I joined forces back in July 2011 to legislate for the first time for a referendum lock which for the first time guarantees in law that if the rules of the European Union change, if there is a transfer of sovereignty from this place to the European Union, there will be a referendum.
"That is the position my party believes in, that is the guarantee in law to the British people that a referendum will take place when circumstances determine.
"I understand your party is having a debate which is now changing that position.
"My party, however, will stick to what we legislated for in the summer of 2011, he said.
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