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EU key to North East prosperity says Alan Johnson, during visit to Gestamp

Thousands of North East jobs would be under threat if Britain severs ties with the EU, warned Alan Johnson, former home secretary and chair of the Labour IN campaign, during his visit to the Gestamp plant in Newton Aycliffe.

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Thousands of North East jobs would be under threat if Britain severs ties with the EU, warned Alan Johnson, former home secretary and chair of the Labour IN campaign, during his visit to the Gestamp plant in Newton Aycliffe.

Mr Johnson, accompanied by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson and North East MEP Jude Kirton-Darling, was given a tour of the expansive Gestamp plant before sitting down with workers for a question and answer session on all matters EU.

During the tour Plant Director Clive Wheeler and Gestamp’s UK Director Peter Gallone discussed the importance of EU membership to the Newton Aycliffe plant, which exports more than two thirds of their products to Europe.

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The second biggest employer in the North East, Gestamp a Spanish owned firm, employs 1300 people directly, and hundreds more indirectly through the supply chain.

Mr Johnson said “There is no doubt in my mind that continued membership of the European Union is the best way of helping companies like Gestamp succeed and to improve this region’s economic prosperity.”

Mr Wilson firmly agreed, commenting “UK membership of the EU is vital in attracting businesses and jobs to the region. Our membership played a key role in bringing Hitachi into Newton Aycliffe, and is fundamental in ensuring companies like Gestamp remain competitive, enabling them to grow their workforce and provide jobs for my constituents.”

Following the tour, Alan, Phil and Jude, sat down with 40 workers to discuss their views on EU membership.

Workers asked Mr Johnson questions on a range of issues from sovereignty, cost of EU membership, and how staying in the EU would be a benefit to smaller businesses.

In addition to answering questions, Mr Johnson explained how the EU not only brings jobs and prosperity, but protects workers’ rights, entitlement to annual leave, maternity and paternity leave, and equal rights for agency workers.

Speaking to one worker Mr Johnson said “Reforming Europe is a process not an event and I believe that David Cameron has gone about it in the wrong way.”

MEP Jude Kirton-Darling informed workers how the North East in particular benefits from UK membership. Being a net beneficiary of the EU, means pound for pound the North East gets more out of the EU than we put in.

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Speaking after the event Mr Johnson told the Northern Echo “We strongly believe that leaving will damage our security, prosperity, and influence in the word. It would be a retrograde step that would have a negative impact right here in the North East.”

“I am confident of our argument but the referendum is a democratic process and could go either way. We will do what we can to defend the rights or working people.”

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