British astronauts could never get to space without the EU

British science and discovery depends on EU membership, Seema Malhotra will tell the Progress annual conference

British astronaut Tim Peake. Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

In six weeks time we will make the most important decision for our generation and it is vital for our security and prosperity that we vote to Remain.

There’s a broad consensus that walking away from Europe will hit the British economy hard and that it it will be costly for British families and businesses.

That’s the message from international bodies — the IMF and the OECD and from the Treasury and the CBI. The employer’s organisation say there would be nearly a million lost jobs. The Treasury say that over 10 years the cost per family could be £4,300.

The Leave campaign rubbish these figures, but resolutely refuse to offer any of their own. They offer an uncosted leap into the dark.

I want to focus on the opportunities that would be lost if we leave. I want to illustrate that with the help of Tim Peake.

The pictures from his orbiting spacecraft of the world below are a daily treat for the thousands of people like me who follow him on Twitter. He’s also inspiring thousands of children whose schools are part of the Tim Peake Primary project.

Some might say all this twitter following is a distraction. Far from it.

Tim Peake – astronaut and educator and what he has achieved – is a symbol of why we should Remain in the EU. He is a symbol because he is part of a brilliant example of European cooperation.

The European Space Agency, which sent him up there, gets a fifth of its funds from the European Union. There will be increasing collaboration between the ESA and the EU because the space programme has huge potential for spin offs that will undoubtedly boost British industry.

To those inspired by Tim Peake I pose this simple question – could Britain on its own afford a space programme?

The answer is obvious:  There is no way, a country with the Britain’s resources, acting alone, could afford to put men and women into space to push the boundaries of discovery.

British scientists have spoken out – they are overwhelmingly in favour of Remain.

What’s true of space is true of the whole of science and engineering.

Which is why Stephen Hawking joined with more than 150 fellows of the Royal Society in a letter warning that quitting the European Union would be a “disaster for UK science”.

They argue that Britain’s membership brings increased funding and huge benefits from collaboration between British and continental scientists.

The European Union accounts for more than a third of world scientific output – outstripping the mighty United States —and that gap is growing. Our universities receive around the £580m in research funding, more than the whole of Germany.

Collaboration between scientists across the European Union produces advances that might not happen if these brilliant minds are separated by national boundaries. By bringing together a critical mass of intellectual talent the European Union creates the conditions for scientific discovery to flourish.

Scientists say that pulling out of the European Union would cause immediate and potentially irrevocable disruption to critical UK research.

We are part of plans to create a Digital Single Market in Europe. It will be an area of huge opportunity for Britain’s Tech Industry. The Digital Single Market could contribute more than €400 billion per year to the European economy and create the best part of four million jobs.

Young people who have grown up in a connected world understand this. They are convinced that their futures lie in Europe. There’s a three-to-one majority amongst under 30s in favour of staying in, according to a recent YouGov poll.

Meanwhile, among the over-60 the leavers outnumber the stayers — 63 per cent to 37 per cent in favour of Brexit.

The Punch and Judy show at the top of the Tory party is turning off a lot of people. They are looking for people that can trust for a guide to what to do on 23 June.

In our campaigning we should highlight these twin messages — Listen to the Scientists and Listen to Young People.

Seema Malhotra MP, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will speak at Progress annual conference tomorrow in the session ‘Prosperity for All, Can Britain Afford to Leave Europe?’

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