This week, as part of our ongoing EU debate, we talk to two South East MEPs who represent your views at the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. There are ten MEPs in total collectively speaking for the region. None of them represents an individual ‘constituency’
ANNELIESE DODDS – Labour MEP who lives in Oxford. Born and raised in Scotland, Anneliese worked as a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Aston University before becoming an MEP in 2014. Her main focus is on creating jobs and areas of sustainable economic growth, and campaigning for a higher level of investment from the EU for the South East
David Cameron’s recent announcement confirmed what many had suspected: The referendum on whether the UK should stay a part of the EU will be held on 23rd June. This referendum is a once-in-a-lifetime event – a chance to determine the future of the UK, and decide how we, as a nation, want to act towards the rest of the world. As an MEP for the South East of England, I’ve travelled across Kent, speaking to families, business owners and workers, and seen again and again how being in the EU benefits the whole South East. I’m going to be voting to remain in the EU on 23rd June, because our membership of the EU creates jobs in Kent, helps our economy grow and keeps Kent an attractive tourist destination.
Being a part of the EU means that small businesses in Tunbridge Wells can export goods to the largest single market in the world, made up of 500 million customers. Nearly half of all UK exports are sold into the EU, with the figure even higher for small and medium businesses which sell overseas – 88 per cent of exports to go to the EU! Over 3,000 businesses in the South East export goods to the EU, and if we were to leave, these businesses could be hit by tariffs and taxes, driving prices up and profits down. With so many businesses benefitting from the Single Market, it’s not surprising that the vast majority of British businesses want us to stay in the EU.
It’s not just business owners in Kent who would be hurt if we turned our back on the EU. One in
ten jobs in the UK depend on our membership of the EU, and the Office of National Statistics figures suggest that over 5,400 jobs in the Tunbridge Wells constituency alone are dependent on trade from the EU. These jobs would all be at risk if we left. This is because the UK’s membership of the EU makes
it an attractive location for European businesses to expand and invest in. Foreign Direct Investment into the UK from Europe is worth over £500billion – a colossal amount of money. By leaving the EU, the UK would become a far less appealing place for business, and companies might consider going elsewhere, leading to loss of investment in the UK, and damage to our economy.
Kent is famous for its natural beauty, and it’s often described as the garden of England – so no wonder it was voted Europe’s top family holiday destination by Lonely Planet in 2015. Tourism makes up a large part of Kent’s economy, with tourists from the EU contributing £1billion to the South East’s local economy last year. We need to keep Kent open for tourism – and that means keeping it open to the EU.
A vote to stay in the EU is a vote for a growing economy, trade and prosperity, not just in Kent, but across the UK.
Our annual tribute to Brussels now stands at £19bilion a year. If we kept that money at home, we could give the entire country a two-thirds cut in council tax.
Or we could build and equip 200 state-of-the-art hospitals.
To put it another way, during the last Parliament, we saved £36billion through the entire domestic cuts programme.
Yet, over the same period, we gave Brussels £85billion.
The EU, in other words, wiped out our austerity savings twice over.
It’s true that some of the £19billion is spent in Britain. Around half of what we hand over dribbles back to us.
But a chunk of that goes on advertising the EU, or on hiring pro-Brussels consultants and contractors.
Some goes to professional associations, charities and non governmental organisations in the hope that it’ll make them more pro-EU. Oxfam, for example, got more than £35million last year.
And what does Britain get for its £19billion?Amazingly, that vast sum buys us membership of the world’s only stagnant trade bloc.
North America will grow by three per cent this year, Africa by four and a half per cent, Asia by five per cent. But the Eurozone, after six years of flatlining, will grow by less than one per cent: Its economy today is no bigger than it was in 2008.
As long as we’re in the EU, we can’t sign independent trade deals with booming countries like India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand which are among our oldest friends.
Remember those Mercator maps of the world we had on our classroom walls at school, which showed Europe in the middle?
Well, times have changed.
Just as the 18th century saw an economic shift from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, so our own age is witnessing a shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Back in 1973, when we joined, Europe looked like the future. Since then, the EU has shrunk from 36 per cent of the world economy to 17 per cent.
No one is suggesting that we give up on our trade with Europe; only that we also lift our eyes to more distant horizons.
You don’t have to be in the EU to be part of the Common Market.
The European free trade area stretches right across the continent, from non-EU Iceland to non-EU Turkey. No one – no one I’ve ever met, at any rate – is suggesting that we will leave that Common Market when we leave the EU.
We will, though, regain our voice at the World Trade Organisation and our right to sign trade deals with non-EU states.
Iceland and Switzerland, for example, while retaining full access to the European market, have signed free trade agreements with China.
We can’t do that: We lost control of our trade policy when we joined.
That wasn’t all we lost. We lost our fishing grounds, which should be a great renewable resource. We lost our farming policy, and are now paying more into the Common Agricultural Policy, and getting less out of it, than any other EU state.
We lost our special relationship with other English-speaking peoples. Many Britons from Commonwealth backgrounds find that they can’t bring auntie over for a wedding because we’ve had to crack down on non-EU visas so as to free up unlimited space for EU nationals with no connection to Britain.
It has become clear that the EU is losing control. Losing control of the economic crisis. Losing control of its borders. Losing control of its security. It’s time for Britain to take back control: To strike a new deal with the EU based on trade and co-operation, not political union.
That’s why we should vote to leave. It’s the safer choice.