Region better off remaining within the EU

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Everyone’s vote will count equally in the referendum on June 23 on whether we remain in or leave the European Union.

The vote different from parliamentary elections where swing votes in a small number of constituencies make all the difference.

First of all, therefore, I urge everyone to register to vote, regardless of their views. It is 41 years since the last such referendum on Europe and this may be the only opportunity you have to decide on an issue that profoundly affects us all.

The debate will be long and passionate and I suspect some will become bored by it. But it is one of the most important decisions facing our country and our region.

The deal made by the prime minister with our partners is a device to woo his own party. Labour’s Harold Wilson did much the same when we had the first referendum in 1975.

Reform of a generally successful and positive union is not just a one-off event but a constant process and one in which workers’ and consumers’ rights are my priority.

The detail of Cameron’s deal will fade. The decision will be mostly about our gut instinct as to what, on the balance of probability, is better for us.

I will be making the positive case for staying, and promoting the argument that the north east’s people and companies gain from EU membership. But my vote is equal to everyone else’s. It’s your choice.