With the European Union budget under fresh attack this week – from both the usual suspects on the Tory right and the Labour front bench – the arguments in favour of Europe appear to have disappeared from view.
Ahead of tonight’s vote in Parliament, however, and thanks to the EPLP, here’s a timely reminder of five key areas in which Britain benefits from membership of the EU:
With the EU: Britain’s EU membership gives us direct access to the world’s largest single market, with more than 500 million consumers and more than half of British exports going to European Union countries. Britain’s trade in this market means nearly 3.5 million British jobs depend on our EU membership, that’s around 10% of our workforce who rely on Britain’s role in Europe for their jobs.
Without the EU: If Britain were to leave the EU, the UK would have to renegotiate many trade deals with our major trading partners. Without being part of the powerful bloc of European countries, there is no guarantee we would get the same deals for British businesses and jobs could suffer. Norway is not an EU member and has no seat at the table when the laws for this single market are made and yet it still has to comply with those laws in order to trade in the European market. Being in the EU means we can defend our interests and help shape European laws to benefit our interests, keeping British business strong.
With the EU: Britain’s role in Europe means we can tackle cross border crime and defend our security. Working with our neighbours and allies we can co-ordinate efforts to tackle cross border criminals and keep Britain safe and secure.
Without the EU: If we were to pull out of the EU we could lose our ability to tackle cross border crime and bring terrorists to justice or have them deported. The July 7th London bombers fled to Italy but under EU laws we could extradite them back here and put them on trial for murdering innocent citizens. From standing up for victims to tackling organised crime and serious terrorism we need a co-ordinated approach across Europe to keep our country safe and secure.
With the EU: In a globalised world and with the rise of other global powers, Britain’s EU membership means we have a stronger voice on the world stage. When responding to international threats and crisis and when tackling international issues such as global poverty, Britain is better placed acting as an influential part of a strong group of nations.
Without the EU: Britain’s ability to defend our interests is best served by being at the table when huge issues of national and international interest are discussed. Being part of the EU gives us a stronger say in responding to rising global powers like China and India and ensures British interests are defended by acting with our nearest allies, acting together rather than in isolation. Our major allies also rely on Britain to play a leading role in the EU to amplify Britain’s influence in global negotiations and to keep our voice strong on the world stage.
Environment and energy:
With the EU: Britain’s membership of the European Union means we benefit from laws negotiated with other countries which give you stronger consumer protection, health and safety protection at work and the right to the same level of treatment all across Europe as you would expect at home.
Without the EU: If Britain withdrew from the EU, British citizens could find themselves losing a host of rights. Withdrawing from the EU could mean we lose out on 20 days guaranteed paid leave, strong maternity and paternity rights and strong consumer guarantees and protections. Working with other EU states we can co-ordinate a good set of rights for working people. This helps guarantee better protection for British workers, consumers and makes sure the rights you enjoy at home extend all across Europe.
With the EU: Britain’s ability to protect our environment and tackle climate change depends on our ability to co-ordinate with our European neighbours. Being part of the European Union means we can rely on secure sources of energy, tackle climate change and protect our environment for our children.
Without the EU: Environmental changes will not stop at our borders and it is only by working with other allies in Europe that we can set common standards and targets to tackle climate change. If Britain were to withdraw from the EU we would put at risk agreed targets to reduce carbon emissions and dependable access to a secure energy supply.
Tony Blair is right to warn David Cameron against playing “short term politics” over the EU budget and instead of handbag-wielding, adopt a “constructive role in shaping this new union”. Amidst the debates over the budget, it’s important the positives we get from Europe aren’t ignored.
Together we stand stronger than we do alone.