The European Union

My UKIP opponent has asked for my views on the European Union.

To start off with, I really envy people who are able lie awake at night worrying about Europe. For most of us, the daily grind of earning a living and paying the bills occupies most of our thoughts. It’s been a tough few years as many of us have seen our real incomes fall and the cost of living soar. For those of us priced out of the property market – and in many cases, priced out of affording to save for a private pension – the concept of enjoying financial security is alien to us.

At times like these in history, we look for  scapegoats – and those with power and money – the politicians and the bankers helped by their friends in the media – encourage us to deflect attention from their responsibility for our current circumstances onto the weak and the vulnerable: those claiming benefits and those who have come to this country in search of a better life. So the queue at the GP’s surgery isn’t the fault of Tory health policy but the fault of “too many immigrants”; the never-ending fall in real wages isn’t the fault of weak Employment Laws and greedy bosses paying themselves bonuses while offering their staff pay freezes but due to a surplus of labour resulting from the Free Movement of Labour; the housing crisis isn’t because of foreign oligarchs buying up property in central London and pricing people out to Hertfordshire but because too many Polish plumbers are moving to Hitchin.

This list goes on but the point is I REFUSE to blame the poor and the vulnerable for the problems caused by the rich and the powerful.

But back to the point:

  • Over three million British jobs are linked to trade with the European Union.
  • Almost half of the UK’s trade and foreign investment comes from the European Union.

LABOUR WILL

  • Guarantee no powers will be transferred to Brussels without an in/out referendum
  • Work with our partners to reform the EU to make it work better for Britain, reforming free movement so that people coming to the UK have to wait longer to receive benefits and making it easier to deport those who commit crimes.
  • Ensure an outward-facing Britain, using our assets to amplify our influence worldwide.
  • Lead by example on human rights, upholding them domestically through the Human Rights Act, and advocating them overseas.
  • Put reducing inequality, climate change, and promoting universal health care at the heart of international development, pushing for an ambitious agreement in 2015.

So, why no referendum on our continued membership of the European Union? Because I believe that leaving the EU would be economically disastrous for Britain when the EU is by far our largest trading partner. Governments should lead public opinion  - and be prepared to act in the national interests even when that makes them unpopular. I believe that preserving the prosperity of this country is important enough to lose an election over. Neither History nor public opinion over the longer term would forgive us otherwise.