In the European election voters face a simple choice
On the 22nd of May electors will vote in the European elections. With over 50 per cent of UK legislation emanating from the European Union, these elections are very important for businesses and individuals in the UK.
In the weeks running up to these important elections, Endeavour Public Affairs will be publishing a series of exclusive articles from the leaders of the UK groups setting out their vision for the future of the EU and what specific policies they and their colleagues are fighting for in the European elections. The third article is from Fiona Hall MEP, Liberal Democrat Party MEP for the North East and Leader of the UK Liberal Democrat MEP Group in the European Parliament.
To follow Fiona Hall on Twitter – @FionaHallMEP
In the past European elections have tended to be about anything but Europe. But that is about to change. In the last few weeks we have finally begun to see a proper debate taking place about Britain’s relationship with the EU. Nick Clegg has taken on Nigel Farage and exposed UKIP’s arguments for what they are, all bluster but no substance. Because let us be honest, when pressed on the facts UKIP have no realistic alternative to EU membership. Indeed, their long-term planning does not seem to stretch much further than checking what time the pub shuts. Crucially, Farage has no clear answers on how Britain could thrive in the 21st century, both economically and politically, if we were to pull out of the world’s most important trading bloc.
The truth is that UKIP would happily throw away Britain’s economic recovery and millions of people’s livelihoods for the sake of fulfilling their one and only policy – leaving the EU. Stark new figures have highlighted just what the cost of that policy would be and how much damage withdrawing from our biggest market could do. A new, updated study has estimated that it is not 3 million, but 4.2 million jobs in the UK that depend on our exports to the rest of the EU, a total of one in seven jobs in Britain. Contrary to popular wisdom, we are now more dependent on our economic relationship with Europe, not less.
Firms like Nissan, Siemens, and Airbus that have led a resurgence of manufacturing across Britain have already made it clear that they would have to think twice before making any further investments if we were to leave the EU. Other multinational companies looking for a platform to export into Europe would rapidly look elsewhere. And small export businesses, 9 out of 10 of which trade with the EU, would suddenly find themselves shut out of their biggest market. This is not just about facts and figures, it is about protecting families and communities across the country whose livelihoods would be at risk if UKIP had their way.
With the Conservative Party bitterly divided over Europe, and Labour not daring to speak out, it falls to the Liberal Democrats to take on UKIP and highlight why their policies would be a disaster for Britain. Only we are campaigning about the need to stay in the EU in order to keep our country strong, prosperous, safe, and green.
Of course that does not mean we are content with the status quo. Liberal Democrats are a party of reform at all levels of government – from Westminster to your local council – and the EU is no exception. We would like to see an EU that focuses more on the big issues: boosting trade, creating jobs, and tackling global issues like organised crime, and climate change. That means removing the remaining barriers to trade in Europe in areas like services and the digital industries, so British companies can take full advantage of the single market. It means more trade deals with major economies around the world including the USA, Japan, and India. And it means radically reforming the EU budget so that it is better spent on areas where it can create jobs and growth, such as cutting edge research and development and cross-border infrastructure projects.
In addition, Liberal Democrats will push for ambitious EU environmental targets that will benefit the UK by bringing more green growth and green jobs. The renewable sector now employs three times as many people as the UK coal industry and there is the potential to create around 200,000 new jobs over the next decade. We also want the EU to use its negotiating clout to forge a binding international treaty to fight climate change.
Crime does not stop at national borders. That is why the Liberal Democrats have championed the use of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), despite opposition from the Conservatives and UKIP. The EAW allows us to bring criminals back swiftly from abroad to face justice in British courts; it also means we can deport criminals to face trial in their home country. Being outside the EU would mean our police would be faced with masses of paper work instead of being able to quickly catch law breakers who have fled elsewhere in Europe.
These European elections are different, because voters now face a simple choice: either to secure millions of British jobs and protect our economic recovery, or to put all that at risk by pulling up the draw bridge. Unlike other parties, Liberal Democrats will not fudge the issue: we will fight to keep Britain stronger, greener, and safer – in Europe.
Published: Wednesday 30 April 2014
© Copyright of Endeavour Public Affairs 2014
Photograph: © Copyright of Fiona Hall MEP
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone.