Europe, strident Eurosceptic voices shriek, is costing us a fortune. Billions are being swallowed up by the bloated Brussels behemoth! (Actually, our net contribution is 0.9% of total public spending). The EU takes our money, erodes our power and bans bendy bananas! What, in short, has Europe ever done for us?
As far as the economy is concerned, actually quite a lot. 1 in 10 UK jobs rely on the EU. 50% of our trade is with EU members. In fact, it’s been calculated that we benefit from our membership of the ‘club’ to the tune of £90 billion annually. That’s £3,300 per household- a very big deal. This is why the entire business community, from Aston Martin through Richard Branson to Johnnie Walker, supports Britain’s EU membership; an exit, they know, would be economic suicide.
The EU operates a single market involving 500 million people in 27 member states. This gives you, as consumers, more choice and protection while bringing down prices in many sectors. It is now 73% cheaper to use a mobile phone in Europe then it was in 2005. The European Health Insurance Card gives holders access to public healthcare when on holiday. The European Arrest Warrant has helped track down 7000 criminals. I could, of course, go on.
If we are to keep our place at the top table of leading world economic and political powers, then pulling up the drawbridge and drifting lazily off into the mid-Atlantic is clearly not an option. Our ‘special relationship’ with the USA is not an alternative; rather, it complements Britain’s EU membership. As former US Ambassador Ray Seitz noted, "If Britain's voice is less influential in Paris or [Berlin], it is likely to be less influential in Washington." And the idea that Britain would be better off taking the ‘Norway’ option (forcing us to apply the EU’s rules without a single British vote in the Council of Ministers or the European Parliament) is equally fallacious. Just ask the Norwegian business community themselves what they think of ‘government by fax’. Cameron’s European policy plays Russian roulette with his country’s future for the short term political objective of satisfying slavering Tory backbenchers and UKIP extremists. Not only has this tactic failed (UKIP are very much still alive and kicking), but it has damaged, and will continue to damage, Britain’s international position.
We abandoned ‘splendid isolation’ in 1904, and would do well not to return to it. Our place is at the heart of Europe, fighting for our national interest. And as your MEP, that is what I will continue to do.