Leaving the EU could put 50,000 UK manufacturing apprenticeships at risk, warns Alan Johnson.
Johnson, leader of Labour Remain, will deliver a major speech on the forthcoming ballot at Airbus in Bristol, and argue that the decision to leave the EU would mean “letting down” young British workers.
The former Home Secretary will respond to days of Tory infighting by setting out the economic case for staying in the 28-member bloc and highlighting its support for manufacturing and high-tech jobs.
He is expected to say: “For UK manufacturing jobs, our EU membership is absolutely critical. Two thirds of British jobs in manufacturing are dependent on demand from Europe.
“That’s two thirds of our manufacturing base reliant on that single market access and Britain’s membership of the EU.
“That’s over one and a half million manufacturing jobs here in Britain.
“And turning specifically to apprentices in the manufacturing industry, and I’m pleased to see some of you here today, around 50,000 apprentices work today in manufacturing apprenticeships that depend on trade linked to our EU membership.
“That’s 50,000 apprenticeships which depend on our EU membership and leaving the EU could put those at risk.
“For each one of those apprentices, gaining skills, earning a good wage and working towards a career, we can’t let them down, turn our back on the world and cut British manufacturing and industry off from their largest export market.”
Leaders of some of Britain’s biggest companies have also expressed similar concerns that leaving the European Union would threaten jobs and put the UK’s economy at risk.
Bosses, including those of BT, Marks & Spencer and Vodafone, signed a letter published in the Times newspaper, saying an EU exit would hinder investment in the UK.
It read: “Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs.
“We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk.
“Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.”
A referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU will be held on 23 June.