The value of being part of Europe

EU Exports are worth £227 billion to the UK economyPossibly as early as mid-2016, the British electorate will make its most significant decision in a generation: whether or not the UK should remain in the EU. The Labour Party, firm in its conviction that Britain is best served by continued EU membership, has launched its ‘Labour in for Britain’ campaign. EU membership is good for Britain’s economy.

It means that the UK is an active participant in the single market, making the UK a more attractive place to invest and establish business, affording as it does access without barriers to an export market of over 500 million people. In 2014, the EU accounted for 45% of Britain’s exports. Investment and exports mean jobs: millions of jobs. Crewe & Nantwich has in recent years benefitted from investment and job creation, particularly in the vehicle manufacturing industry.

A 2014 independent report commissioned by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders concluded that the “attractiveness of the UK as a place to invest and do automotive business is clearly underpinned by the UK’s influential membership of the EU”, with 92% of automotive companies stating that it was in their interests for the UK to remain in the EU. The EU has also played a major role in the securing of workers’ rights. The Treaty of Rome first established the right for women to be paid on an equal basis to men.

EU law recognises a right to strike in its Charter of Fundamental Rights, a right the current Conservative government is bent on undermining through its despicable Trade Union Bill. The EU is an important source of funding in the UK and in Cheshire specifically: the Cheshire and Warrington LEP was allocated £103.1 million in EU funding for the period 2014-2020 to be invested in innovation, social inclusion, skills and employment activities.

Britons as EU citizens enjoy rights of free movement. British workers are free to seek and take up employment opportunities in other member states. Self-sufficient Britons may choose to start a new life in another member state without the need for a visa. Millions of Britons have chosen to exercise these freedoms (in fact, it is estimated that there are as many British citizens living in other EU Member States as non-British EU citizens living in the UK). A non-EU British passport would, therefore, be a diminished one. Of course, it must be acknowledged that free movement is a reciprocal arrangement: citizens of fellow member states enjoy the same rights in the UK. This has raised concerns about EU immigration. However, contrary to assertions by Eurosceptics about uncontrolled EU migration, free movement rights are not absolute: they apply to those who are economically active or self-sufficient only, as well as their family members, and not to those who are or become an unreasonable burden on the host state.

Evidence demonstrates that EU immigration benefits Britain: a 2014 report by UCL economists calculated that in the years up to 2011 EU migrants from central and eastern Europe made a net contribution of close to £5 billion to the UK economy. Finally, in an era when Europe is experiencing the threat of terrorism and a refugee crisis, it is cooperation with our European partners that is required to tackle these problems and ensure Britain’s security. The institutions of the EU represent the best fora for pan-European solutions to what are pan-European issues: isolationism and denial will not do.