WINNING THE EUROPEAN DEBATE

 

On  immigration

EU migrant workers make a significant net contribution to the UK exchequer. EU migrants are estimated by UCL to contribute 34% more in taxes than they receive in benefits.  If we did not have them we would have to cut spending or increase taxes.

 

Freedom of movement within the EU is a fundamental right of the people of Europe.  This works both ways - more than 2m Brits now live and work in the EU. 

 

Many migrants are highly skilled and make very important contributions to our economy, health services and enrich our academic institutions.  Without them we are all the poorer in so many ways.

 

Many EU migrants provide valuable flexibility for agricultural work, without them we would see a significant reduction in home grown food. Before the accession of Poland 30% of the strawberries we eat were grown in Britain, now it is 70%.  There are important local agricultural businesses that depend upon such labour.  Our local hotels, hospitals and care homes for the elderly also all rely on immigrant labour. 

 

Temporary unskilled labour from the EU is NOT the same as permanent immigration from Africa and Asia by illegal means.  Europe as a whole has a problem of too many unskilled migrants arriving illegally in their determination to find a better life in Europe than they can hope for in their own countries which suffer so badly from wars, civil unrest and the grinding poverty of the third world. We will be more successful in stemming this flow if we work together with our European partners to solve the problems of policing the Mediterranean and other EU borders.

 

People come here for the benefits

There is simply NO EVIDENCE that people travel WITHIN THE EU for the purposes of claiming benefits.  EU citizens travel to work, for holidays or to live somewhere warmer or closer to relatives in retirement.  They keep their roots in their home country to which they usually return frequently.

 

Benefits for EU citizens are a two way street - approximately 25,000 EU foreign nationals  are estimated to claim jobseekers allowance in the UK whilst  an estimated 40,000 Brits are claiming unemployment benefits in other EU countries.

Liberal Democrats will support future changes to the benefit system to ensure only those who have made contributions can receive UK welfare benefits. We supported measures to extend the time before payments are made in the UK to three months, which is in line with existing EU rules. EU rules are to be reviewed and we support an extension of the 3 month qualifying period to say 6 months.

 

Economic Benefit

The  CBI estimates the economic benefit of EU membership to be £60bn-£70bn and 3million jobs depend on our continued membership. Every family is richer by £3,000 every year because we are IN Europe.

All the major international businesses operating in the UK agree. The  EEF, Nissan, Jaguar, Land Rover, BT, Vodafone, Diageo, Unilever and even Richard Branson agree. Easyjet go so far as to say that without the EU their business would not exist.

If we leave the EU we will suffer an economic disaster, more serious than the financial crisis of 2008, unemployment could DOUBLE. 

It is estimated that in the South East of England (excluding London) more than 9,000 businesses would close and total job losses would be over 200,000.

Our global trade depends upon our membership of the EU.  We are major gateway to/from the EU and our businesses and industries benefit from EU trade dealsBig new trade deals and agreements are in the pipeline with the EU-USA, China and India.

 

On Cost

Britain's net contribution to the EU was £8.5bn in 2012. 

The cost is only 1.2% of UK Government spending.  The annual budget of the UK Government is £700bn per year - in contrast the total EU budget for 28 countries is just over £100bn. In return it creates around £1trn of additional wealth in the economies of Europe every year. The EU is a very good deal by anyone’s standards   

 

On fraud

The Court of Auditors said it "has signed off the 2012 accounts of the European Union, as it has done each year since the 2007 financial year".

There are some technical errors but these are from a tiny minority of spending by national governments including the UK, which has been fined hundreds of millions for mismanaging EU funds!

There is more fraud in the budget of the DWP than in the whole of the EU – including the CAP and Regional Aid funds.

It was unacceptable for EU accounts not to be audited so the problem has been fixed.

It should be noted that the EU has an auditing regime far tougher than the UK, where we have not been free of fraud and scandals – one only has to think of MP’s expenses. At the same time (2006) as the fuss was being made about the EU accounts the UK's comptroller and auditor-general confirmed that if the UK had the same system as the EU, he would have had to qualify ALL 500 UK expenditure accounts rather than just those where he thought there was a problem (13 in 2005).  The accounts of the DWP are still being qualified.

On Bureaucracy

This is simply a MYTH!  The total number of staff in the European Commission is only 32,666 administering a continent of 500 million people - less than Hampshire County Council who have 38,000 on their payroll.  Less than a third of the 104,330 civil servants in the Department for Work and Pensions, a single Department at Whitehall!  


On Regulation

EU regulations are not optional - if we want to remain in the Single Market we must abide by the rules and regulations of the market.  Regulations are needed to make the market work.  We all want safe reliable products. We all want healthy food and protection from shoddy goods and dangerous practices.  

British businesses say that EU regulations are beneficial and help them trade competitively all round the world.

If EU regulation is so crippling, why are the UK, Finland, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands ranked in the top ten most competitive countries in the world?

Clearly EU regulation isn't holding us back.  The EU can and should do better job of minimising red tape. Lib Dems are working to make the EU even more competitive.  The Smarter Regulation Initiative will make regulations more flexible and lift the regulatory burden on Small and Medium sized businesses. Just as the audit problem has been fixed so can this be.

On democracy

UKIP & Tory MPs wrongly claim that 75% of the UK's laws are "imposed by the EU".

 

The House of Commons Library estimates only 15% or our laws derive from our obligations to the EU – and most of those are drafted by UK Civil servants to meet agreed EU Directives – and it is they who ‘gold plate’ them, making them unecessarily long and onerous.

The number of Directly imposed Regulations, which have to have been previously agreed by the UK Government in the Council of Ministers and approved by the European Parliament (with 73 UK MEPs), is very small – less than 2% of our laws.

 

In the EU, the European Commission proposes, the Council of Ministers negotiates and decides and the European Parliament refines and approves or rejects.  The European Parliament is the final decision body and has 73 UK MEPs to look after our interests.  The EU Parliament is completely democratic – as MEPs are elected by proportional representation so every vote counts.  As a result the European Parliament already has 10 UKIP MPs whereas Westminster has none! 

 

On sovereignty

UKIP and Tory MPs “want our country back”.  They say they want to regain full control of our Sovereignty but remain in the Single Market.  Two countries have tried to do that – Norway and Switzerland.  They trade with the EU in the Single market but are not signatories to the main EU Treaties.  Norway has taken on 75% of EU legislation without having any say and they still pay £106 per person each year to the EU budget!

 

Those are the conditions imposed by the EU on neighbouring countries that want access to the European Single market.  Norway and Switzerland have all the cost and regulations but no influence and no entitlement to recover any of their contributions through receipt of EU grants or rebates. It is not democratic, not cost effective and not consistent with a country that aspires to be a world leader.

 

Our current position as a Member of the EU is much stronger – we get the full economic benefit:  £60 - £70Bn pounds, £3,000 for every UK household, 3 million jobs - And

We are NOT powerless - we have NOT had to give up Sterling and join the Euro – we have NOT had to abandon border controls and join Schengen – we have NOT had to accept the working hours restrictions – AND we HAVE been able to retain our budget rebate. We are perfectly capable of looking after our own interests within the European Union.    

 

We are a significant and influential voice within the EU helping it to become & remain the largest and most important economy in the world.  We have been one of the leaders for 40 years!  

 

On many issues - we have been the driving force – e.g. its expansion to the east over the last 20 years. The UK has also had a huge influence on EU legislation.

 

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS (ECHR)

Many people say they want Britain to be free of the ECHR.    If we left the EU we would still have the ECHR.  The Court is independent of the EU, which has its own European Court of Justice based in Luxembourg. 

The European Court of Human Rights has its origins in the Treaty of London in 1949, eight years before the EU was founded in the Treaty of Rome in 1957. The EU cannot tell us what to do – we make our own laws. If you don’t like our laws, you don’t like what our civil servants & MPs in Westminster are doing. The EU has NO jurisdiction in UK criminal law.

 

Our position in the world

Britain has a long record of global leadership.  We pride ourselves on “punching well above our weight” in world affairs.  We do that through our willingness to engage in the great issues and enterprises of the day and we have done it through our representation at and involvement in all the major international organisations – the UN, NATO, G7, G8, G20, the Commonwealth, the IMF, the World Bank and the EU. We always work with our Allies.

 

Why would we want to change that, why make us weaker and reduce our influence?

 

The USA, Japan, Australia as well as Germany, Netherlands, Poland etc. want us to remain a member.  Even China wants us to remain in the EU. Only France has muttered that the EU may be better off letting the UK go. The US mantra 'a strong UK in a strong European Union' is repeated by most countries as the ideal. “If eurosceptics in the UK think that the Americans would applaud their exit from the union, they could not be more wrong."

 

Balance of Competences

The Government has so far published 14 reports on their consultation to determine which powers should be repatriated in any re-negotiation with the EU.  So far they have found NONE.  The conclusion to date is that the EU works well and the balance of powers is broadly correct. The final report published in December 2014 includes some recommendations on how to ensure that the rppiniples of subsidiarity and proportionality can be made to work better in future.  This is a specific area for future reform of he EU where there is broad agreement across the Member States.

 

Britain’s role is “Leading  not  Leaving” the EU!!

 

 

 

 

 

ALWAYS REMEMBER THE GOOD THE EU HAS ACHIEVED:-

 

70 years of Peace and Prosperity – the longest period ever known. 

 

Created the world’s Largest and most Prosperous Economy.

 

The modernising of the Eastern bloc countries, saving them from chaos after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

Greater freedoms and consumer rights for all EU citizens.

 

IN EUROPE

We are Richer, Safer, Greener and Stronger. 

IF WE LEFT THE EU:

1.      Potentially an economic crisis more severe than the Financial Crisis of 2008 as an exit will drive up interest rates and increase cost of our national debt. 

2.      3m jobs at risk – 10% of all the jobs in the UK – in the long term unemployment could more than double.

3.      We will still be accountable to the European Court of Human Rights.

4.      We will still have to adopt 75% of all EU legislation.

5.      We will still have to pay the EU to access the Single Market.

6.                  We will diminish our standing and lose our place at the heart of world affairs.

And all for WHAT?  What is it that we would actually gain?

We would be poorer and live in a more dangerous world . . . . if we leave the EU, the EU itself becomes  less effective as a force for peace and prosperity.

There is already a UK Law requiring there to be an In/Out Referendum next time a Treaty change is proposed. In this we are similar to several other EU countries. It is therefore most unlikely there will be any significant transfer of power by the Nation States to the EU in the future.