Opinion: Britain needs jobs, not UKIP/Tory insults

Workers bankers london bridge - some rights reserved by zoonabar

Over 4 million British jobs depend on exports to the Single Market.

Those are the words of the Centre for Economic and Business Research regarding their recent report into British Jobs and the Single Market.

When we talk about this issue UKIP and the Tory Right throw around words like “liar”. When people do that it usually means they have lost the argument.

UKIP appear to be temperamentally unable of  reasoned debate grounded in the evidence. Their leaders are like children who cover their ears and say “I can’t hear you”.

Their game is to bully and intimidate with insults. They underestimate the care we have for our neighbours and our country. This care compels us to make the case for being in Europe.

The many millions of jobs linked to our EU membership are not only those in firms that sell goods and services into the Single Market. More jobs are in firms that have their operations here because we are part of the EU. There are more jobs in sectors, like science and research that are funded by the EU (€80bn of EU funds will go into science in the next 5 years); if we leave the EU researchers in the UK won’t be able to apply; many will leave.

There are, of course, many further jobs that are supported by the spending of wages by people working in these three categories.

The additional benefit of the Single Market is for consumers. It means we can buy goods that they want to buy, wherever in Europe they are manufactured. Choice improves quality of life (people can choose goods that better meet their needs) and reduces the cost of living (access to cheaper goods).

These are elementary principles of free trade that every liberal understands.

By way of practical example, last week the Investment Management Association, whose members look after £4.5 trillion of our pensions and savings, said that being in the EU get us a better return.

UKIP and Tories claim that if we left the EU we could still enjoy full access to the Single Market and would not have to comply with expensive “red tape”.  They say that if Europe did not give us market access, we could prevent our consumers buying their goods – a ludicrous threat of mutual self-harm.

If we left it is easy to imagine competitors to UK companies lobbying their governments to place restrictions on UK Single Market access in their sector.  Staying in guarantees permanent Single Market access, with ever closer business opportunities.

Being out would mean that if, like Norway, we had access to the Single Market we would still have to comply with most rules of the Single Market but with no say in the making those rules.  UKIP and the Conservatives have not answered the democratic deficit they would create.

What would happen to British famers who, outside the CAP, would face tariffs to export to other parts of Europe?

There is the expert evidence of a long list of British companies who conclude we get real benefits from being in Europe and should stay in.

The weight of evidence is persuasive that we are better off in the EU.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Zoonabar

* Antony Hook was a Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England (2019) and has practised as a barrister since 2003. He is currently Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Kent County Council.

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  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Apr '14 - 9:13am

    This article makes the mistake of being ashamed in its true message. If you want to write a pro EU article then write a pro EU article and put it in the headline. If you want to write an article about jobs then write an article about jobs.

    Labour are definitely at least as much of a threat to jobs to the Conservatives, so the message doesn’t really flow, unless the focus point becomes the EU then it all becomes authentic and it would resonate better.

    Best wishes

  • Hasn’t Nick Clegg already tried this “millions of jobs are going to disappear” argument to dismal effect in the EU debates?

    People just don’t buy this argument based on the threat of a trade war, given that we export far less to the EU than we import from it. It has failed once, so why try using it again?

    The fact is, the only conceivable appeal we can have as a pro-EU party is one where we demand radical change and reform, rather than pretending everything is OK as it is. As far as most people are concerned, even those among the 40% who still support membership, it’s all gone horribly wrong and needs sorting out. It seems, from our opinion poll ratings, that voters are not looking to the Lib Dems to do this.

    None of what Anthony Hook says answers any of the voters’ concerns about the EU.

  • I think the party should just accept that this strategy of picking a high-profile fight with UKIP isn’t working, and adopt a more intelligent approach.

  • Chris: On reading your comment in the ‘Recent Comments’ section, I clicked, hoping to read further about what that “more intelligent approach” is (in your opinion). I was disappointed to find the comment just end there.

    RC: Unlike the article which backs up its argument with evidence and sources, your “all gone horribly wrong” is unsupported. You mention “radical change” with scarcely a hint of what that might be. I heard Nick Clegg say that 3 million jobs are linked to the EU; Antony Hook has a quotation from the Centre for Economic and Business Research that claims 4 million. I heard Nick Clegg say these jobs would be affected not lost as you claim. However if you can explain why these arguments are wrong you need to elaborate. If you are mentioning the trade balance, you will need to explain why the balance might not worsen and also take into account affects on the financial services sector. Furthermore you cite “voters concerns” without stating what you think these concerns are.

    Eddie Sammon: I do not think this article in in the least ashamed of its message. In fact, I think its brazen defence of the EU and the Single Market is just what RC finds so objectionable; he would like Lib Dem support for the EU to be shame faced.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Apr '14 - 11:19am

    Martin, it is an interesting one because I am an EU federalist, but I don’t like the party of IN campaign. The issue for me is being soft on the EU – we can be federalists, but not federalist at any cost. If we think it is the job of other parties to fight for the UK and hold the EU to account then we will lose. It’s about preventing exploitation.

    When it comes to the article, I think it should have been more honest, even voicing doubts and concerns where necessary. I want honest, respectful, principled and pragmatic politics, not propaganda and smear campaigns.

  • chris j smart 23rd Apr '14 - 11:25am

    I am surprised that the one argument that would have sufficient power to stop exit from the EU in its tracks has not been used. Many years ago the City of London was most discomforted by the thought that Frankfurt might become a centre of finance comparable in size to London. I cannot see the City enthusiastically supporting their long departed brother if there is a chance of the EU removing its substantial financial interests out of London.

  • Jayne Mansfield 23rd Apr '14 - 11:35am

    I have rad this post twice and still nothing sticks out. I would argue that to fight UKIP on its own round pro- europeans ( I am not sure whether I am one) should take a less intelligent approach.

    For example, when UKIP argue that being in the EU only benefits the rich or those wanting to employ nannies, the arguments made in the post could be simplified and more concrete examples could be given.
    e,g What effect does being in the EU have on my personal pensions and savings? What would be the effect on y pension and savings if we left the common market?
    Couldn’t people be told that itis not just the rich and people who employ nannies who benefit from EU membership because the quality of life is improved fro everyone through cheaper goods etc.

    Red Tape seems to me to have negative connotations so couldn’t someone explain the bad effects of the removal of ‘red tape’ for ordinary people, e.g employees.

    I am not wishing to be rude but trying to be helpful. I just find language, although not the argument, of democratic deficits makes my eyes glaze over. Whilst I understand why the language and approach might have been tailored to the sort of readership one finds on here, I don’t think it is adequately adapted when trying to reach out to a different audience.

  • Jayne Mansfield 23rd Apr '14 - 11:38am

    Oh dear, I meant to type ‘read’ and ‘own ground ‘ in my first paragraph and I have made other typing errors. My eyes really did glaze over.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Apr '14 - 11:53am

    @Jayne Mansfield
    I agree. I doubt that any of Anthony Hook’s arguments would get through to an existing or potential UKIP voter. The “millions of jobs linked to Europe” could translate to the “millions of jobs threated by Europe”. “If we left it is easy to imagine” gets firmly rebutted by “why not come down to earth and try reality?”. The “long list of British companies” translates into the “long list of misdirected companies and/or unscrupulous owners”.

  • @ Martin

    “Unlike the article which backs up its argument with evidence and sources, your “all gone horribly wrong” is unsupported.”

    Er, apart from a massive European crisis caused in large part by the adoption of the Euro and huge unemployment in Southern Europe which is having a huge impact on the UK jobs market. I think that counts as “all gone horribly wrong” in many people’s books.

    As for your quibble over jobs being “affected” rather than “lost”, how exactly are they going to be “affected” then if we’re not implying people will become unemployed?

    “In fact, I think its brazen defence of the EU and the Single Market is just what RC finds so objectionable; he would like Lib Dem support for the EU to be shame faced.”

    No, I would like it to be realistic and address voters’ concerns about importing unemployment, the effects on our democracy, legal system etc. So far your suggested approach has backfired horribly, halving our voting intention.

    Is that not the definition of failure in a political campaign? Your approach has been utterly discredited. When are you going to admit that UK voters don’t like it and that the Lib Dems need a major change of approach to avoid being annihilated next month?

  • RC: You really should not fall for all the hype (were you one of those who routinely predicted the end of the Euro by Christmas?). I get to meet people from various parts of the EU and never hear any complaints about the Euro, though I do hear complaints about how national governments have messed up. There has been a severe financial depression caused by excessive and uncontrolled borrowing in particular countries, with the US and UK particularly at fault. The countries of the EU are sorting themselves out and no government is contemplating an exit. Do you really think the concerns for Mediterranean countries figure so highly for UK voters? Those that have connections to these countries will be likely to have a more informed view and will not take the more lurid claims in UK media seriously.

    As for “jobs affected”, it means just that. The companies involved would be destabilised. Impact would be on diversification, profitability and yes I would expect some jobs to go, though I have never seen an estimate of what this might be and would not like to guess as it would depend on over-riding factors such as how much the overall economy would suffer from an exit.

    There is a point about explaining the benefits of the EU. “Importing unemployment”? On the contrary, bringing in people from other EU countries has helped the UK to increase employment through exploiting the development of the newer EU members, a development that has been promoted and subsidised by our contributions to the EU. Why do you think Switzerland and Norway contribute so heavily to the EU’s development fund, if not to also benefit from these expanding economies? Democratic concerns? I a not sure what you are getting at, but certainly in this campaign it is important to impress on people how vital it is to elect MEPs who will engage in the work of the EU parliament and contribute to shaping the agenda. Legal system? Again I am not sure what you are getting at (I hope not the non EU ECHR), but people need to know that if another country is acting unfairly there is recourse to the EU Court of Justice.

  • @ Martin
    “I get to meet people from various parts of the EU and never hear any complaints about the Euro”

    Well I’m writing to you from Italy in an area dependent on exports for its living and it is suffering seriously, with closed factories and shops everywhere. Everyone is moaning about the strength of the Euro and how much they dislike the current setup in Europe, being dictated to by the Germans (as they see it). Merkel has become a hate figure.

    ” On the contrary, bringing in people from other EU countries has helped the UK to increase employment”

    But not for UK citizens it hasn’t. We’ve imported lots of workers who have displaced UK workers and held down wage rises because employers can get all the labour they want at the going rate without increasing pay.

    “There has been a severe financial depression caused by excessive and uncontrolled borrowing in particular countries, with the US and UK particularly at fault”

    Since when has the UK been to blame for the Greeks and the Italians failing to manage their public finances properly? Sorry but your point here is utterly bizarre.

    It sounds like you, rather than me are “falling for all the hype”. Please take off the rose-tinted spectacles and see the situation in many parts of Europe as it is: an economic disaster zone.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 26th Apr '14 - 6:26am

    Personally I agree with Antony, so I say well said.

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