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Travel and tourism make a compelling case to ‘remain’

3 min read

Culture, Media and Sport Committee member Nigel Huddleston MP writes why he will be voting to 'remain' on 23rd June and that the UK travel & tourism sector's success is crucial to our EU membership.

On 23rd June, the British people will be given the opportunity to vote on whether to remain in or leave the European Union. I voted in Parliament for the referendum to take place knowing that I was representing the wishes of the vast majority of my constituents.

But I have also made clear that I will use my single vote on 23rd June to remain in the EU.

Coming to this view was not easy, though a key deciding factor for me was the arguments being put forward by businesses in my constituency and across the country, large and small, who have argued that staying in the EU provides the best opportunities for jobs, growth, and prosperity.
 
An industry close to my heart – which I believe is a great example of where full and unfettered access to the single market has done immense good – is the UK’s travel and tourism industry.  
 
The UK’s mix of inbound, outbound, and domestic travel and tourism businesses – generating £130 billion in annual economic activity – relies heavily on the seamless flow of goods, services, and people across EU borders. I do believe that the UK leaving the EU could jeopardise this flow, initially in a period of uncertainty immediately following a leave vote, but also in the longer term.  
                
For an industry that has created one in three of new UK jobs since 2010, the repercussions of a leave vote could be severe.
 
It is widely acknowledged that EU membership has played a key part in bringing about lower air fares and lower mobile roaming charges right across Europe.  I believe that exchange rate uncertainty and business confidence are other convincing reasons to stay in the EU.
 
The possibility of Brexit has already weakened the pound and this could make the cost of holidaying abroad more expensive, and add to the costs for UK business when buying abroad.  Inbound travel could admittedly benefit a little, but no sensible government has a collapsing exchange rate as a deliberate policy goal and a prolonged period of exchange rate uncertainty would be extremely damaging.
 
Brexit would also directly impact businesses’ confidence in investing in the UK travel sector. Investment would be jeopardised from EU countries as well as countries further afield such as the US and China who are actively investing in the UK’s travel and tourism industry. It is unclear whether investor confidence would hold up - given the uncertainty over regulatory frameworks and future trade relationships - but going on the previous experience of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, the implications are stark.
 
When I stated my view that Britain is stronger in Europe, I also emphasised that I wanted this debate to be had on a well-informed and courteous footing.
 
ABTA, the travel association, and Deloitte, have recently approached the question of what Brexit might mean for UK travel in just this way. The report offers significant food for thought for the businesses and people reliant on travel and tourism for their prosperity.
 
In my view, for travel and tourism, there is a compelling case to ‘remain’.

Nigel Huddlestone is the Conservative MP for Member for Mid Worcestershire & is a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

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