Stephen Hawking, former St Albans resident, backs campaign to stay in EU

Stephen Hawking discusses the EU Referendum. Photo courtesy of ITV's Good Morning

Stephen Hawking discusses the EU Referendum. Photo courtesy of ITV's Good Morning - Credit: ITV

St Albans’ famous former resident Stephen Hawking has appeared on national TV, urging voters to back the Remain campaign in the EU Referendum on June 23.

Harpenden MP Peter Lilley

Harpenden MP Peter Lilley - Credit: Archant

On ITV’s Good Morning Britain show, the physicist said: “Gone are the days when we could stand on our own, against the world.

“We need to be part of a larger group of nations, both for our security and our trade. The possibility of our leaving the EU has already led to a sharp fall in the pound, because the markets judge that it will damage our economy.”

His views on the impact of a possible Brexit have been echoed by St Albans businessman Lawrence Levy who warned: “It may mean that the sterling will weaken and we will also become an expensive place to visit, and therefore reduce tourism, and income to the country.”

While stressing that he was “not part of any campaign to remain in the EU” Lawrence said that having operated a business which provided UK-based IT resources to companies based in mainland Europe, “I would worry about the end of free movement of labour to and from other members of the EU.

Lisa Bates-Wallis, St Albans

Lisa Bates-Wallis, St Albans - Credit: Archant

“To do business in the EU in the event of Brexit, it will still have to conform to all the trade regulations within the EU – the only difference being we will have no influence in any decisions made.”

Lawrence, speaking on the back of decades of experience in the business sector, went on: “The small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) market represents at least 60 per cent of commerce within the UK, and as someone who ran an SME for many years, I paid a considerable amount of tax to the HMRC from income derived solely from doing business.”

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But his views are contrary to those of Harpenden MP Peter Lilley, who has been vocal on his support for the Vote Leave campaign.

He told the Herts Advertiser: “As the only serving MP who has negotiated a trade agreement, and who implemented the Single Market programme when I was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, I am confident that we can negotiate a good deal with the rest of Europe, trade deals with the likes of China, India and Brazil, and prosper outside the EU.”

Peter said that, from his experience, “the more countries involved in a trade deal the harder, slower and worse the result. All 28 EU members have a veto on their negotiations which is why EU deals take so long and exclude so much.”

Asked whether EU membership helped the UK negotiate free trade deals with the rest of the world, Peter replied: “Tariff free access to the fast growing, protected markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America would be worthwhile. Unfortunately EU membership prevents us negotiating free trade deals, and the EU has negotiated few deals for us: none with China, India or Brazil.”

Lisa Bates-Wallis, executive director for the St Albans District Chamber of Commerce, said the organisation held a breakfast meeting recently with speakers presenting their views on how remaining or leaving Europe would affect the sector.

She added: “It was clear from the event that many business owners locally are still undecided. I think it will be very close, and likely that many won’t vote as they just don’t understand the campaigns, or the long term implications this referendum will have on us all.

“It is such an important vote, that people are nervous about getting it wrong.”

• An EU debate at 8pm on Thursday, June 9, at Batford Memorial Hall, Tallents Crescent, in Harpenden will give local people the chance to hear arguments on both sides of the debate. Members of the panel include Peter Lilley, Stuart Agnew, MEP, Cllr Chris White, Mark Holdsworth (Remain), Alex Mayer (Remain) and Rachel Joyce, a local doctor who is helping to lead the Leave campaign locally. Doors open at 7.15pm. Although the event is free to attend, you can buy an advance ticket (£1) for a VIP seat by emailing