Saturday marks a milestone for the travel industry and for business people and holidaymakers alike. Mobile phone roaming charges are being slashed by almost three quarters. From 15 June 2017, there will be no roaming charges in Europe at all. And it’s all thanks to the EU.
Those high data-roaming charges can spoil a holiday, and they have been too complex, for too long. Thousands of us have been hit by unexpected phone bills after a holiday. One report found that one in five British holidaymakers to the EU have returned from a trip in the past year to face a higher than usual bill. One in six paid an extra £100 on their normal bill, with the average extra cost put at £61.
This isn’t fair. Airwaves don’t recognise international borders. So charging extra for a phone call or data just because it crosses the border from one country another isn’t right. The same call within a single country’s boundaries may cover a longer distance but will still be much cheaper.
These changes have only been possible thanks to the EU. It takes coordination and work with our neighbours to achieve this scale of change for consumers at home in Britain. What’s more, it was the UK that led the calls for EU roaming charges to be removed. And it was driven by Labour’s MEPs fighting the case in the European Parliament for years.
Britain’s membership of the EU means that as holidaymakers we have cheaper flights, health insurance and cleaner beaches. Those campaigning to leave can’t tell us what Britain’s future would look like outside the EU. That means that jobs, low prices and funding for schools and hospitals are at risk. Leaving is a leap in the dark that we simply cannot afford to take.
What we do know is that the alternative to EU membership is sitting on the outside. No ability to lead reform from within. No seat at the decision-making table, meaning no influence over or veto of rules that would continue to affect British businesses and consumers. And higher prices at the checkout - or on holiday - as a result.
But don’t take my word for it. Even the outers acknowledge that families would be worse off. This week, one of the most senior Leave campaigners, Aaron Banks, admitted that Brexit would cause “pain”, price rises, and less money for British families. In echoes of Thatcher’s chancellor, Norman Lamont, Banks says it would be “a price worth paying”. Why would we want to relegate ourselves to the second division and volunteer for second-class membership of the EU while still paying the full costs of membership?
The extra savings being introduced on Saturday, and the abolition of roaming charges altogether next summer, is more evidence of how British consumers are better off as part of the EU.
Britain is a more powerful, prosperous and secure country as a member of the EU. I hope that you, like me, will vote ‘remain’ on 23 June.
This article was first published by The Huffington Post on 29 April 2016.