Across Europe nationalist parties of the right, including UKIP in Britain, and for that matter most of the Conservative Party, are agitating for exit from the union. The Labour Party is committed to Europe and is the only pro-European party that has a realistic chance of returning to power next May to defend British interests within Europe.
Something UKIP and other anti-European parties fail to mention is that the cost in jobs of leaving the EU has been estimated at up to three million. An estimate not by the Labour Party, but by British Businesses including Virgin boss Richard Branson and British Telecom Chairman, Mike Rake (http://www.channel4.com/news/opting-out-of-eu-talks-could-risk-3m-jobs ) – 43,000 of these jobs would be in Buckinghamshire alone.
David Cameron, in a desperate attempt to ‘out-KIP’ UKIP and shore up backbench support has promised an ‘in-out’ referendum in the next parliament, and this is already having a destabilizing effect on the UK economy – as weak leadership often does. For example, many major car companies such as Nissan have announced that their ongoing commitment to car manufacture in the UK is dependent on the easy access to European markets that only membership of the EU can provide. Foreign investment in the UK is under threat because of the Tory-led government’s unwillingness to commit to Europe– only Labour can deliver that commitment and defend the millions of jobs both nationally and locally that depend on it.
In an era of globalisation many of the challenges we face are transnational in character. Climate change, pollution, international crime and terrorism as well as our increasingly interdependent financial systems are no respecters of borders. Transnational challenges require the type of transnational solutions that can only be framed with international institutions such as the EU. The EU has led the way on issues which affect all of us on a daily basis but which don’t grab the headlines; like equal pay, pensions, health and safety at work and international family law.
Yes there are problems with the EU, as there would be with any institution which spans an entire continent and half a billion people.
Disparate levels of economic development across the union inevitably mean that some people will migrate to other countries to seek work and a better life. This needs to be better managed until these economies are brought up to parity with their neighbours.
But let’s not forget that without immigration, including EU immigration, the NHS and our social care system would be in crisis. Some 20% of carers within the UK are immigrants for example, including from the EU; and despite the nonsense peddled by UKIP, the Conservative Party and large sections of the press the vast majority of immigrants come here to work, contribute to the economy and pay their taxes. Between 2001 and 2011 recent EU immigrants contributed 34 per cent more to the UK than they took out, a net contribution of £25bn. (UCL's Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration.) Paradoxically the countries of origin of these workers see them as a loss to their economy; it is the most economically active who emigrate. Where UK workers suffer as a result of immigration, this is almost always as a result of lax labour market regulation and the problems of domestic labour mobility created by the social housing shortage and the costs of housing. Labour is the only party willing to address labour market regulation within the EU and to tackle the housing shortage.
Granted, there is a ‘democratic deficit’ in Europe. Decision making is too much concentrated in the hands of bureaucrats. Witness the policies of austerity being imposed on the people of Greece (and other countries) by a triumvirate of the ECB, the IMF and Angela Merkel – where is the accountability in the decision making process here?
Yes the EU needs reform but the way to achieve this is in negotiation with our European partners from within the Union. Not ranting impotently from the side-lines as UKIP and the Tories would have us do.
Labour is the only party who can win power next May, and are committed to the constructive reform of the European Union, to secure the economic future of Britain at the heart of a reformed Europe.