Prime Minister David Cameron has cast doubt on the security of jobs in Lancashire’s aerospace industry if Britain pulls out of Europe.
The Premier was at BAE Systems in Warton yesterday banging the drum for the IN campaign ahead of the June 23 referendum.
But, in a hangar where the Typhoon warplane is built in collaboration with other European nations, he warned against the country taking a “leap in the dark” which could place jobs at risk.
“I passionately believe that from all I have seen as your Prime Minister, the right choice is to stay in a reformed European Union,” he told an audience of around 200 workers. “It is right for Britain, right for businesses like BAE Systems and, I believe, right for our jobs, our future and, crucially, our children’s future.”
Later in a brief interview with the Evening Post he responded to a question about the implications for aerospace companies by adding: “I think the consequences (of pulling out) are the uncertainty.
“I can tell you what the case for remaining in the EU looks like. We know that on the 24th of June, after a referendum, we have the same access to the single market, we have the same co-operation with our European partners, the same ability to trade and travel across Europe that means so much for workers here in BAE Systems who often have to go to work in Munich or elsewhere.
“We know all of those things. But what we don’t know is, if we leave, what happens next? Do we have access to that single market, do we see economic problems and dislocation? How long does it take to put in place trade deals with the rest of the world?
“And, at a time of economic uncertainty, why take a leap in the dark when there is now a better deal in Europe on offer?”
BAE Systems employs around 9,000 workers at its two Lancashire plants at Warton and Samlesbury and a further 4,000 elsewhere in the UK.
Ian King, the company’s CEO, welcomed the Prime Minister for his third visit to the Warton site and said it showed the affinity he had with the company in Lancashire.
“It is a recognition of not only what we contribute to the defence security sector and the armed forces, but also our contribution to the economy, skills, technology and exports,” he said.
The visit came just two days into the EU referendum campaign with Mr Cameron admitting: “I think it is an absolutely vital decision for our country.
“In many ways it is much bigger than a general election. In a general election you pick the team that you want to run the country and five years later, if you want, you can get rid of that team. Obviously I don’t like that bit, but that’s the way it is.
“But this referendum is a choice for a generation, a choice for our lifetime, about whether we stay in or we get out.
“I am very clear as your Prime Minister with six years experience behind me doing this job, I am absolutely clear the right decision is to stay in a reformed EU.”
Talking about the deal he hammered out in Europe over reforms to Britain’s agreement, he added: “We are better off, safer and we are stronger (in Europe). You have to contrast that with the uncertainty and the risk of voting to get out.
“That (the reformed deal) doesn’t solve all our problems in Europe, but it goes a long way to healing the grievances that I think, rightly, we had about Europe.
“Now we have fixed those things it is the big choice. In or out?
“I believe we are better off inside a reformed EU. I think jobs would be at risk. There are three million jobs (in the UK) that in some way depend on our trade with the EU.
“I think the choice we make is basically between a greater Britain inside the EU and a great leap in the dark outside it.
“But it will be your choice in four months time on June 23, the British people, not the politicians. And if the British people decide we should get out then that is what I, as your Prime Minister, will deliver.”