Sarah Ludford MEP writes…Being “In” Europe crucial for jobs and living standards

When the Liberal Democrats say we’re the party of ‘In’, it’s not because we worship symbolically at the altar of EU institutions. It’s because being In Europe is vital to achieve real policy goals, of which the most immediately important is jobs in Britain. This is the clear message coming from major employers, like FordNissanSiemens and BAE Systems, which have all warned against pulling Britain out of Europe.

According to a recent YouGov poll 6% of British companies said they would go out of business if we left the EU. This translates into almost 10,000 firms closing and 300,000 people being out of a job in London alone; the starkest possible reminder that we’re ‘In Europe, In Work’.

But it’s not just people’s jobs that are protected (and created) due to our EU membership. Being part of the European Single Market also benefits British consumers by keeping prices and the cost of living down.

Indeed, EU rules that opened up Europe-wide competition in the aviation market are partly responsible for the popularity of budget holidays to European destinations. Thanks to this reform, the average cost of holiday and business flights to other European capital cities has gone down by £50 – more than a third – over the last 10 years. Holidaymakers have also benefited from the EU drive to cut by 70% the roaming charges for using mobile phones abroad and from free emergency healthcare in other EU countries through the European Health Insurance Card.

Brits also benefit from cheaper prices at home thanks to the European Single Market, and the competition it promotes. One study has estimated that the average consumer is £450 a year better off thanks to lower prices caused by greater competition across Europe. Being outside not just the EU but the European single market – as UKIP want – would put these gains at risk. (Many Tories say they want to stay in the single market, but that would be like Norway, with no say on its rules).

Outside the single market, businesses in Britain would also be subject to tariffs on their exports to the EU, hitting the car, dairy and clothing industries particularly hard. Citigroup has warned that the British public would face a drop in living standards under these circumstances, as it would force companies to pay lower wages to British workers to maintain current export levels or lead to a weaker pound.

Instead of putting jobs & living standards – and influence – at risk by leaving the EU, as UKIP and plenty of Conservatives want to do, Liberal Democrats as the party of ‘In’ want to open up the single market further in the service and digital sectors to help create more jobs and encourage greater competition to bring prices down further.

Ahead of the crucial European elections on 22nd May, we need to take the fight to Tory Eurosceptics and UKIP, as their calls to leave the EU or even the wider European single market are putting British livelihoods at risk. And Labour’s cowardice on Europe and failure to stand up for the national interest means that Liberal Democrats need to shout even louder about the importance of keeping Britain ‘In Europe, In Work’.

* Sarah Ludford is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and was MEP for London from 1999-2014.

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  • Sadly, the Tories in an overt way and Labour more “sneakily” have decided to become more euro sceptic to avoid leaking votes to UKIP. I wish you, and all pro European candidates well in the upcoming elections but fear that they will be won not on facts or reasoned argument but by anti Europe / anti foreigner rhetoric.

  • Steve Coltman 24th Jan '14 - 1:58pm

    The scare stories about what might happen if we left the EU are based on the assumption that (at least) there would be tariff barriers erected to trade with the continental EU or even a loss of trade completely. But are these scenarios really likely? The UK is said to be the continental EU ‘s biggest export market – can you imagine how upset the German car-makers would be if tariffs were put on their BMWs and Audis going to the UK? If the UK were to leave the EU it would not be long before some kind of free trade agreement was put together. What then would the effect of leaving the EU be? Hardly any at all I suspect.
    The Euro-enthusiasts are seriously out of touch with public opinion. Even out of touch with the opinions of Lib Dem voters. Look at the graph on Mark Pack’s web-site showing that only 14% of Lib Dem voters want closer union, 15% want to leave things as they are, 43% want to reduce the EU’s powers and 22% want to leave the EU altogether. Yes, let me repeat, 22% of LIB DEM voters want out of the EU! Politicians who are so out of touch with the voters, and in some cases so contemptuous of the voters, will face a reckoning.

  • So what are you saying, Steve Coltman? That you achieve little or nothing by leaving the EU? What are your views on this, then? That we become another Norway, being nominally independent of the EU, but in practice, adhering to all the rules of the Union with no say? Or do you think we should become even more of the 51st US state than we are now?

  • That you achieve little or nothing by leaving the EU

    Isn’t Britain a net contributor to the EU budget, even after the rebate? So for a start we would regain that cash, which would be useful for paying down the deficit or even lessening necessary cuts.

    That sounds like a good achievement to me.

  • @Steve

    Yes, tariffs would be applied were the UK to leave. The EU member states aren’t going to get fined by the ECJ to facilitate the UK. The EU has rules, they would be applied as usual.

    Yes, a trade agreement might be achievable provided each and every other member agrees to do so. If Slovenia, for instance, wants to veto it, tariffs would remain in place.

    As such exit is a gamble with the UK economy with lots of downside and litte upside.

  • I think at the end of the day the British public are conserative with a small ‘c’. I dont think they’ll vote for such a monumental change from the status quo when it comes down to it if offered a referendum. For the same reason I think the Scottish independence referendum will be a ‘no’ too, as was the AV vote.

  • Peter Hayes 24th Jan '14 - 4:12pm

    Do a web search and you see Norway accepts all the EU regulations except farming (do they have any farming exports) and fishing. They also pay more into EU funds per head of population than we do.
    We are so like Norway -NOT
    1) A small population density
    2) Fishing areas with no other countries bordering it
    3) A Sovereign Wealth Fund from profits from oil exploitation.

  • I can think of a few financial centres in the EU that would like a bigger slice of what the City of London has got; witht the UK out, I can only see any rule changes going in one direction.

  • What Sarah conspicuously omits to mention is any sort of vision about where Lib Dems would like to take the EU. It’s as if in UK politics the Party was committed to ever- greater powers for Westminster but beyond that had no actual policies, no idea how it was going to improve national governance or lives or anything else that matters to voters; just a commitment to plough on along the established path no matter what.

    The only exception I can think of offhand is from a few years back when Chris Davies started a campaign against corruption in MEP expense claims ( something that a little later was to cause a spot of bother nearer home!!!) which suddenly went quiet. Was he muzzled? And if so, how? It was exactly what liberals should be campaigning on and, by repute, would have been extremely damaging for some UKIP MEPs.

    If there is no alternative vision (other than UKIP’s) then, as Steve Coltman says, it only goes to show how out of touch politicians have become – and how undeserving of our support.

  • jedibeeftrix 24th Jan '14 - 8:18pm

    it would be nice if the great lib-dem strategic thinkers addressed the real issues behind the coming eurozone consolidation:

    how about it?

  • Being IN, is the binary half of being OUT. And that is where the democratic illusion begins and ends. Because being IN assumes we have the choice of being OUT. But of course, we don’t have a choice, and are in fact denied a choice. And why is it that we don’t have a choice, and are denied a choice?
    Because Liberal (Democrats …???) say so.

  • jedibeeftrix 24th Jan ’14 – 8:18pm

    I am hoping nobody will give you the satisfaction.

  • jedibeeftrix 24th Jan '14 - 10:00pm

    why, does the EU boil down to dry economics?

  • “dry economics” is the default minimal argument, which indicates how pervasive Europhobe attitudes are in the UK. The argument for building a cooperative and strong Europe seems taboo these days in the UK, which rather hampers the constructive reform argument.

    There is certainly a case for an elected president and foreign affairs representative, whose roles would be to coordinate and represent the Council of national Ministers, but such suggestions would send much of the UK media and political commentators apoplectic.

    Somewhere along the line a referendum may well be required to ‘lance the boil’, as part of a further treaty negotiation rather than an artificially concocted and inevitably self-defeating (gun to your own head) UK ‘renegotiation’. A clear vote for the EU would reset the argument and open up constructive rather than destructive debate. Apart from a No vote, which would reset the argument in another way, the danger is that a referendum would produce an inconclusive outcome (e.g. close to 50/50 on a poor turnout) that would be more inflammatory, that would only serve to feed toxic attitudes in the UK.

  • I do not know if it has been noticed in Lib Dem circles that in the key division on the European Referendum Bill in the House of Lords yesterday only 147 (149 if one includes the two tellers) of the 220 or so peers who currently take the Conservative whip voted for the wording of the referendum question suggested in the Bill. If the Conservative leadership in the Lords cannot manage to persuade a significant minority of their own peers to support the Referendum Bill in the division lobby, David Cameron and his colleagues cannot properly berate Liberal Democrat and Labour peers for voting in the division in the way they did.

  • I cannot understand why anyone can be so simplistic with “where do you want your decision-making to spring from?” Or is it used to obfuscate issues? There is so much that national governments cannot control, some of which, such as depleting resources, that we are encouraged to believe is as beyond control as the weather. Clearly there are issues relating to the environment and the single market for example that is beyond national governments but where the EU can be effective. Other issues are even wider. If we do not approach these issues through the EU, the large power blocks and global interests will take control.

    Ironically even the weather may be affected.

    The question assumes that Westminster with its defective representation and unelected chamber, is the obvious answer. But it is not: such blinkered thinking says that Scottish representatives determine issues that only affect England and there are plenty of issues that Liberals have long argued should be made closer to where these issues have their effect. For many it seems too much to suggest that different issues need to be controlled at different levels.

    Whilst debates of this kind are automatically pushed aside, of course all that is left is “dry economics”; after all ‘it’s the economy stupid’.

  • So basically you would trade British sovereignty for jobs.

    I would like to see you debate this issue with Nigell Farage.

  • jedibeeftrix 25th Jan '14 - 12:10pm

    “Clearly there are issues relating to the environment and the single market for example that is beyond national governments but where the EU can be effective.”

    Absolutely correct, but we are not talking about that unless we are so limited in outlook that we refuse to recognise the impact on euro-outs from the post-crisis eurozone convergence that WILL happen if the currency is to survive.

    You have a Julian Lindley-French linked above, a person of some note* and consulted extensively on the SDSR.
    You also have the likes of openeurope that have been warning about the potential consequence of caucused eurozone decision making on euro-outs here:

    So yes, it really does boil down to the question of: “Where do you think the principle source of governance should reside?”

    This isn’t rocket-science, and it is patently obvious that the Lib-Dem’s are suffering a veritable deer-in-headlights moment, for they will not answer that simple question.


  • Alex Macfie 25th Jan '14 - 3:21pm

    @Rebecca Taylor:

    “The L ibDems are not simply calling for “more Europe” but a better Europe.”

    Yes, I kn ow, but we don’t articulate this in our Euro election campaign. And our vision of a “better Europe” should not just be about where powers reside in the EU, but what would we do, as Liberals, with the powers that reside at the EU level. This forum has examples of MEPs advancing our distinctive positions on specific EU issues on this forum: two I remember were Chris Davies (again) opposing the UK government position on tar sands and our support for light-touch regulation on e-cigs (also opposing the government position in the Council). We need to talk more about our distinctive Liberal position on EU issues, making it clear that there are political, ideological disagreements on ordinary issues at EU level the same as there are at the national level. I think Martin is right: so often, with issues discussed at the EU level it’s the European Parliament that stands up for the interests of people and against vested interests, while it’s the national governments that are in hock to these vested interests and unelected bureaucrats with unchecked power.
    On free-trade agreements, I shall only say this: our MEPs should be prepared to vote against them if they contain language that would tie us to bad laws or excessive corporate power. For instance, there is concern that CETA (the EU-Canada agreements) contains similar language to ACTA on intellectual property rights; ACTA having been rightly rejected by MEPs (including all but one of ours) 2 years ago. There is currently an EU Commission consultation on copyright law; we should not be allowing trade agreements to close our options for this. Beware of policy laundering, where bureaucrats write into trade agreements laws to protect vested interests; not so much to force their negotiating partners to adopt these laws, as to tie their own country/bloc to them, knowing that otherwise they would not pass. We should also not agree to any trade agreements that include investor-state dispute resolution, which effectively puts foreign investors above the law by allowing them to challenge any law in a private tribunal (and they do not even have to exhaust local legal remedies before doing so, as one has to if appealing to the ECHR). For instance, Tobacco companies are using an investor-state provision in an Australian trade agreement ot challenge Australia’s plain-packaging law. Level playing fields are fine, but this provision gives foreign companies MORE rights than local ones. And that is wrong.

  • Alex Macfie 25th Jan '14 - 4:08pm

    We are calling for ambitious EU targets on climate change, recognising that Europe leads the world on this and that the UK cannot do this alone.

    Also the Tories voted against this in the European Parliament, so this is an example of how we are Liberals have a distinctive policy on a specific EU issue, different from the Tories (and presumably UKIP as well).

    We also fought like hell to keep vital EU crime fighting tools

    Fine but we should also mention Sarah Ludford’s work in reforming the European Arrest Warrant system. Again the Liberal approach should to say that EU crime-fighting measures must be consistent with liberal principles, and we shall work to make sure that they are.

  • This blog contains erudite submissions from both sides. It would help though if the terms ‘europhobes’ & ‘euroenthisiasts’ were ‘EUphobes’ & EUenthusiasts. We aren’t debating the Euro at the moment!!

  • Graham Lippiatt 25th Jan '14 - 5:15pm

    Are we looking at ways of campaigning for the ex-pat votes of UK citizens resident in other EU countries? These voters have a lot to lose if the UK leaves the EU. Their status will be queried and they are likely to lose access to benefits or become subject to discriminatory laws. As the party of in, we should be targeting them for what will be vital votes on 22 May.

  • Steve Coltman 27th Jan '14 - 12:06pm

    The point I made above is simple. It is not that I think there is any great financial reward in getting out of the EU, it is just that I think the dire threats issued by the EU-enthusiasts are empty threats. There will be no great penalty in leaving. The reasons for leaving are not about money, they are about democracy, the right of a people to be governed by a government of their choosing. The various populations across the EU do not have the sense of common identity to form a ‘demos’. The politicians in Brussels have hidden their real agenda – a United States of Europe – for years. Only now does Viviane Reding openly propose such a thing.
    Last year I chaired a fringe meeting at the West Midlands Region conference, a meeting about defence (I was on the party’s defence policy committee). I posed the question to the two dozen activists present: ‘what about a single European army etc, how would you feel about that?’ Silence, finally one person spoke: “That’s going too far”. That was the consensus view of the whole group, not a single one expressed any favour for such a development.
    This party is in a state of denial about the real problem. Most of the population, even most Lib Dem voters, think we are in Europe too deep already and want ‘less Europe’. Brussels however cannot back-pedal, they can only go onwards to ever closer union. We are being torn away from the European Project whether we like it or not, the British people never signed up to it in the first place. The European Project is not about just getting a little bit richer is it? It was always more than that.
    I can well believe that the British people are reluctant to take the drastic step of leaving the EU but when they are told the only choice is a stark one of leave, or be subsumed into a Federal Europe, I think they will conclude that leaving is the lesser of two evils, which it is.

  • David Allen 27th Jan '14 - 1:09pm

    “I think the dire threats issued by the EU-enthusiasts are empty threats. There will be no great penalty in leaving. The reasons for leaving are not about money, they are about democracy, the right of a people to be governed by a government of their choosing.”

    Hmm. A rational Eurosceptic might alternatively conclude that (a) the threats are not empty, and we should be very fearful of leaving, but (b) nevertheless, there is a lot about Europe not to like. How might such a person see the Lib Dem campaign?

    They might see it as follows: “Look, Mr Joe Public, there are two reasons why we Lib Dems think you should vote for us. First, we personally like being in Europe, we rather fancy ourselves as sophisticated cosmopolitan Europeans, and we want to take the rest of you along with us. Secondly, if you don’t like that, well, we’ve got you by the short-and-curlies, anyway. If you dare pull out, you’ll get economically screwed.”

    Is this the best way to win hearts and minds?

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