The British economy faces a decade of uncertainty and the UK risks being torn apart if voters support an exit from the European Union, Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has told a meeting of business and civic leaders at Londoneast-uk Business and Technical Park.Mr Burnham, who was speaking during a tour of the innovative new facility in Dagenham today, argued that Britain’s youth faced “massively increased” life chances by the country remaining in the EU.
And he warned that voters risked cutting off their nose to spite their face if they let immigration concerns steer them towards exiting the world’s most successful market.
Mr Burnham, a former Labour Cabinet Minister and the MP for Leigh since 2001, carried out a tour of Londoneast-uk, which is currently establishing specialist laboratory, manufacturing and office facilities on a former manufacturing site operated by pharmaceutical company Sanofi.
His visit enabled the high-profile and popular MP to meet the teams behind The Cube, a high-tech scientific research and development centre being created at Londoneast-uk, and to chat to staff and pupils at Elutec College of Design and Engineering, which recently established a base on the park.
Addressing an invited audience after his tour, Mr Burnham issued a rallying cry for business and civic leaders to campaign for the UK to remain inside the European Union.
He said: “If we wake up on Friday 24th June with the news that Britain has voted to turn its back on its partners in Europe, immediately you will feel the uncertainty. It will be there. What happens now? What next? Where are we going? And I think businessmen in this room will be facing not just a few days or weeks but a decade of uncertainty – a decade of uncertainty hanging over the British economy. It’s a risk that we simply cannot afford to take.”
He also warned of the impact on both the European Union and the UK itself. “If we vote to leave, it won’t just be Europe that starts to fragment – and it will because we won’t be the only ones. Others will start to go down the same path,” he said.
“I think it will lead to the break-up of Britain as well, because if a majority of people in England carry Scotland out of the European Union, I think as night follows day we will be looking at a second independence referendum in Scotland within a matter or months or years, and the result of that referendum, I believe, will then be different and Scotland will vote to leave the UK.”
Mr Burnham said the British public demanded a more rounded discussion on EU membership than was currently being offered by the contrasting referendum campaigns, in particular in relation to concerns on immigration. “Yes there are real concerns there but don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” he warned. “Don’t let those concerns about immigration take your view away from the bigger picture – the much bigger picture – of what being part of the largest market in the world, the most successful market in the world, means for our job prospects and for our economy.”
He urged the audience to think about Britain’s young people, who didn’t have a vote but whose “life chances are massively increased by staying in”.
He added that a UK exit from the EU would also have serious implications for British scientific research and development.
Andy Burnham also took the opportunity to praise Londoneast-uk for its rapid turnaround of the former Sanofi site in Dagenham. “I have never seen regeneration take place that quickly,” he said.
The Cube, which is due to be formally opened over the coming weeks, will create a post-incubator science facility at Londoneast-uk – offering access to specialist laboratories for small or growing science-related businesses. The facility is being established by SOG Group, the owner and operator of Londoneast-uk, with an additional £500,000 of funding being provided by the London Enterprise Panel’s Growing Places Fund.
With £2.5 million of private investment by SOG Group, plus additional funding worth £826,000 from the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, The Cube’s financing will total more than £3.8 million. The facility will ultimately accommodate up to 15 businesses employing more than 90 people.
The Cube is currently being refurbished by students from Barking and Dagenham College under an apprentices’ construction skills scheme set up between Londoneast-uk and the college. All companies based there will have access to a wide range of specialist technical support, provided by SOG Group, which other science parks cannot offer.
Meanwhile, Elutec College of Design and Engineering recently moved to refurbished premises at London-east-uk while a purpose-built campus is being built on site. The new multi-million-pound facility is expected to house more than 600 students by 2017 and forms one of a new breed of University Technical Colleges focused on delivering high-quality technical education alongside more traditional academic subjects.
With its motto of ‘Engineering. Education. Employment.’, Elutec hopes to inspire young people in East London and Essex to become the next generation of engineers and designers.
During his tour, Andy Burnham chatted to Elutec students and saw their electronics, engineering and science skills being put into action – with year-10 students Ali Ahmed and Leighanne Copeland offering an insight into projects currently being tackled.
The Shadow Home Secretary also met VIP guests, together with SOG Group Managing Director John Lewis (pictured), who welcomed him on site and explained SOG’s reasons for taking over the former Sanofi site. “It’s very important that we position sites of this nature back into the marketplace and it’s our job to ensure we do that well,” Mr Lewis said. “This is going to be a major employment centre, right here where we are standing right now. It’s going to attract a broad range of business sectors.”
Londoneast-uk Business and Technical Park is situated in Dagenham, east London, and is located in state-of-the-art scientific buildings and land which was once a major manufacturing plant of global pharmaceutical company Sanofi.
Now under the ownership of SOG Group – owner and operator of the award-winning Heath Business and Technical Park in Cheshire – the highly specialised research & development and manufacturing buildings, which would cost tens of millions of pounds to replicate in today’s market, have been rebranded under the banner of Londoneast-uk and are being transformed into a business and technical park to service London and the Home Counties. Londoneast-uk operates as a sister park to The Heath in Runcorn which is regarded as one of the UK’s leading independently-owned technology parks. For more information visit: www.londoneast-uk.com