Today in Tokyo I will deliver a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan. Business leaders here have questions about the future of the UK.
And this matters. UK exports to Japan are just under £10 billion; Japanese investment in the UK is the highest in the EU; and 1300 Japanese firms employ 140,000 people in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A new EU/Japan trade deal could grow this even more.
All weekend, the UK/Japan 21st Century Group has been grappling with the challenges facing our two countries. And a strong theme from Japanese participants was concerned about political instability in Scotland and the UK. Investors want stable integrated markets in the UK and Europe.
In September we face a huge decision about Scotland’s future and our relationship with the others who share these islands. However, that daily debate is overshadowing another important vote.
Later this week, Europeans vote for Members of the European Parliament 2014-2019. That Parliament will agree budgets, hold EU institutions to account and pass laws affecting us all. But around 200 of the new MEPs could be from parties like UKIP determined to break up European co-operation.
In Japan and elsewhere, companies and leaders are horrified that the UK might leave the EU. It would reduce the attraction of the UK for investment, and it would remove our influence from the rest of the continent.
In the big challenges of our age – economic, environmental, security – sensible leaders and commentators recognise that sharing sovereignty and co-operating are essential to influence and shape the world we live in.
In Southeast Asia and Africa, countries look to the EU model for neighbourhood peace, for economic integration, and for environmental protection.
Are there things about the EU that need to change? You bet there are! Is managing 28 states into an effective Union easy? Of course it is not. But over the past 60 years, the EU balance sheet shows stable peace and economic growth.
Now voters in the UK, Holland, France and other states might risk all this by backing the racism and prejudice of UKIP and their pals.
Scots I meet around the world do not want us to become more insular. They believe we are at our best when we engage, building open and integrated economies, and making our contribution in the UK and EU.
Leaders across Europe must stand up to this nonsense. And I hope Scots and our friends around the world will speak out about the importance of the EU to us and to others.
Low turnout in the UK and elsewhere could allow these extreme parties to create havoc. So I hope decent people will vote on Thursday. Don’t leave it to others, vote for parties that will use the European Parliament to scrutinise, legislate and spend in the interests of people, and not just wreck it for partisan, prejudiced reasons. It is time to turn out.
Lord Jack McConnell was First Minister of Scotland 2001-2007 and is a Board Member of the UK/Japan 21st Century Group.