The founding rationale for the European Union was peace. Today it is power and influence. In the new world order, in which power is shifting from West to East, to have any real power we need to be part of a collective voice.
We need to tackle global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, migration and organised crime together. We need to work with our European partners on trade, defence and foreign policy. More than half of the UK’s trade is within Europe. As many as 3.5 million British jobs depend on EU exports.
The EU invested £1,185 million across Yorkshire and Humber between 2000 and 2006 and a further £471 million between 2007 and the end of 2013.
Across the world, nations are coming together in regional blocs. It would be madness for Britain to distance itself from the one on our doorstep. Instead of grumbling from the sidelines, I want to see us at the very centre of a vibrant EU, facing economic and social challenges together, whilst influencingthe reform of the institution.
The Labour Party is not supporting an ever closer political union. We support a ‘lock’ that guarantees no further transfer of powers without an in/out referendum. David Cameron’s leadership sees us sleepwalking towards an exit from the EU. And yet the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) recently stated, “It (EU membership) is overwhelmingly in our national interest... We are better off in a reformed EU than outside with no influence. Each year membership is worth £3,000 to every household in this country.” CBI Report
Labour shares the CBI’s recognition of the need for the EU to reform and modernise. There are three issues we will confront:
1 - Economic issues – The single market and EU regulations have to work for British business and British workers. We are calling for a balanced growth plan.
2 - Large-scale migration – People value the opportunity to move around Europe. An estimated two million Britons live in other EU countries. But there is genuine concern about the effect of large-scale migration, especially about a race to the bottom in wages and conditions. We are calling for transitional migration arrangements and a reform to family-related benefits for EU migrants.
3 - The way the EU works – There is a question of accountability. People want to know that power is only exercised at the EU level when it is absolutely necessary. We are calling for a real term cut in the EU budget, tough new budgetary discipline and more powers for national Parliaments.
Our EU membership has presented us with some challenges over recent years. The most obvious is the significant number of new immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe over a short period. I believe the challenges are far outweighed by the benefits. These include free trade, better workers’ and consumer rights, caps on bankers’ bonuses, access to healthcare across Europe, action on tax avoidance, protection of human rights.