If Labour wants to fend off attacks from UKIP and the Conservatives at the next election, it has to make the case for Europe: both in the media, and on the doorsteps. In order to win the argument, Labour needs more than one answer to the question: “why should Britain stay in the EU?” Here are ten reasons why we’re better off in:
1. Free trade
As part of the single market, the EU has free trade between all its member states. This is great for UK businesses, who don’t have to worry about quotas or import taxes. As such, almost 50% of our exports go to the EU. (The EU also has an iron tariff wall against non-members, which we don’t want to be on the wrong side of.)
2. The EU encourages investment in Britain
The EU has attracted millions of pounds in foreign investment. Large manufacturers and commercial service providers invest in the UK because it is a bridge to the single market. If the UK walked away, it would become a bridge to nowhere. If you’re a multinational company, with a choice between building a factory in cast-adrift Britain or single-market France, the right business decision is obvious.
3. Police coordination
How did we get the Spanish police to capture Andrew Moran, the escaped armed robber? Through the European Arrest Warrant. Thanks to the EU, the Costa del Crime is no longer a hiding place for UK criminals, and nor is anywhere else in the EU.
4. EU Structural Funds
Structural Funds are the large pot of money that gets distributed among the most deprived areas in the EU. For many years they have contributed to investment and infrastructure across the UK: especially in Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and Cornwall. Over the next five years, England alone will receive over £6 billion in Structural Funds, Wales £2 billion, Scotland £795 million, and Northern Ireland £457 million.
5. Influence within Europe
If we want the EU to work in Britain’s interests, then we need to be involved in EU decision-making. France and Germany will have no incentive to listen to Britain if we’re not playing on the same team. If Britain leaves the EU, there will be no one to stand up for British interests when decisions are made that affect us, such as changes to trade or investment laws.
6. Influence outside Europe
Strength in numbers is more than just a saying. At the global negotiating table, the UK could be an insignificant little country with an insignificant loner economy. Or, it could be the leading partner in the biggest combined economy in the world (with a GDP of just under €13 trillion). Which is the more influential position to be in? If the UK is competing in the ‘global race’, as David Cameron claims, then we’re better off on the relay team.
7. Immigration- good for Britain
Immigration, when unchecked, can obviously have a lot of downsides. But immigration generally has been very good for Britain, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say it. The EU’s immigration policy makes it easier for tourists to come and spend money, and it makes it easier to attract highly skilled workers like doctors or engineers when we suffer from skill shortages.
8. Emigration- good for the British
The other side of the immigration coin is emigration: British people are free to live, work and go on holiday wherever they want in the EU, without having to get an expensive visa or go through time-consuming bureaucracy. The Conservatives should love this, really: instead of getting on your bike, now you can get on a ferry!
9. Market fairness.
This one is a bit more technical: through its extensive competition law, the EU ensures that capitalism actually works. For example, when a government department contracts out a service, it has to ‘put it to tender’ i.e. ensure that several companies bid competitively for the contract. The contract can’t simply be handed over to the company that took the Minister out for a nice dinner; and that’s because of EU competition law.
10. The EU safeguards workers’ rights.
This might just be the most important reason to stay in the EU. Four weeks paid holiday a year, the 48 hour working week, anti-discrimination law, guaranteed rights for agency workers, guaranteed worker consultation- all of these protections exist because of the EU. If we took away the steel shield of EU employment law, workers’ rights would be at the mercy of a Tory government. Anyone who thinks they would in safe hands is, quite frankly, having a laugh.
Article originally posted at LabourList 16/5/13