LEAVING Europe would be a ‘plunge into the unknown’ and would undermine peace and stability across the region, according to Sir Jack Stewart-Clark, the Scots baronet and former Member of the European Parliament.

“We absolutely have to stay,” he said. “It would be dreadful if we didn’t. It’s a plunge into the unknown. If we leave, people who have got big investments in the UK, for example the Japanese car industry, will see that their natural market is in Europe – and if there’s new investment, it’ll get placed on the continent.”

Sir Jack was an MEP for 20 years between 1979 and 1999, including five years as vice president of the European parliament and another eight years leading delegations to Canada and Japan.

“The reason I went into the European Parliament was that I felt it was extremely important that for the first time in history we had a democratically elected parliament for the European Union,” he said. “One of my greatest heroes, if not the greatest, is Winston Churchill, who made that very famous remark that ‘jaw jaw is better than war war’. I think we need to look at the other side of the coin and ask what would happen if the UK was to leave the EU? I think it would do a great deal of harm to the unity of Europe and with the current migration issue, I could easily see an increase in what I call nationalism. Britain is an extremely important factor in ensuring what I would call the balance and common sense in Europe. I’m not saying we will slip back to the bad old days of nationalism, but if you look at the big counties in Europe – Germany is the biggest, followed by Britain and France – I think Britain is a vital factor in maintaining peace and stability and prosperity in Europe.”

Before entering politics, Sir Jack spent 30 years in business managing European and international operations for Scottish thread business J& & P Coats, Dutch electronics group Philips and Pye of Cambridge, a Philips subsidiary. He speaks Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese and has a Dutch wife, Lydia. The couple now run Dundas Castle, the 19th century luxury wedding and events venue outside Edinburgh.

“As a European Union, we are a strong worldwide trading bloc and we can speak with one voice and equal strength with the United States of America, with China and with the Far East. I just don’t see ourselves outside the EU as having anything like the same strength of voice.”

Sir Jack, who also runs an arable farm, said European agricultural policy had been evened out and farmers ‘knew where they were’ with the single farm payment – the main agricultural subsidy scheme in the European Union.