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The East Midlands would suffer without Europe

March 24, 2014 5:30 PM
By Issan Ghazni is Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and former National Diversity Adviser for the Liberal Democrats
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

If we needed reminding how vital Europe is to British jobs in regions like the East Midlands, the bosses of car giants Hyundai and Toyota spelt it out.

Issan GhazniAs a European candidate in May's elections I was alarmed to read that Hyundai, who have a base in Corby, warned against leaving the EU saying that if the UK were no longer in the single market it would throw up 'barriers' to doing business. There was a similar message from the boss of Toyota, who run a plant just outside Derby.

Months of shrill anti-Europe rhetoric from UKIP are already frightening some of Britain's biggest manufacturers who employ tens of thousands. Even fund manager George Soros is predicting disaster if Britain pull up the drawbridge.

It is increasingly clear to voters that only the Liberal Democrats are standing up for European investment and British jobs. This is in stark contrast to the Little Englander mentality of the Right who, for a few voters, are willing to play Russian Roulette with up to three million jobs that depend on trade with the EU.

Our future does not lay on living an isolated existence on the fringe of Europe, a country without vital rules to guarantee millions of workers rights such as holiday entitlement. We would instantly lack the collective bargaining power of the EU with trade agreements.

Our farmers would lose £3 billion in subsidies, we would junk common food standards and, as parts of the country are battered by storms, Britain would become the King Canute of the West, in denial as environmental disasters lap around our feet.

As Barack Obama has indicated, Britain's fabled 'special relationship' is based in large part on our influence in Europe. Without this we would no longer be a big player on the world stage. To give just one example, the local cheese industry which would face huge dairy tariffs, hitting several East Midlands towns and villages hard.

In the East Midlands we have an excellent hardworking MEP in Bill Newton-Dunn who is fighting for our interests on business investment and regeneration. Under UKIP the region would see a steep rise in unemployment as factories close their gates.

The European Regional Development Fund has invested £224 million in the East Midlands in the last five years to support businesses and help the most disadvantaged in society. This is just one strand of EU investment that has helped local people. Without it we would be poorer, literally.

The UK already has arguably the most flexible labour market in the Western world so the claim that we are tied up with red tape from Brussels is a myth.

Talk of leaving Europe does nothing to help EU countries that are struggling, nor those, like Germany, who are doing well. And it won't help Britain either, so it's a classic lose-lose.

David Cameron's commitment to a referendum in which most of his party would campaign to be 'out' indicates he remains firmly in the pocket of Tory Eurosceptics.

Meanwhile Ed Miliband's promise of a referendum if there are any new treaties is slamming the breaks on progress. Labour don't seem to realise Europe is a developing project that cannot be frozen in time. If we want to reform the eurozone or decision-making in Brussels no one will take us seriously if Britain threatens an in-out referendum every time reform is on the table.

So the choice at the Euro elections is clear; do we want a party that will fight for jobs from Europe or do we want an isolationist party that would take Britain back to the state we were in in the days before we joined the EEA?

Forward or backwards, that's the choice voters have in May. Only the Liberal Democrats have a vision of Britain in Europe that is socially and culturally rich and economically prosperous. I urge all Lib Dem candidates to go out and sell our positive message, because there is everything to play for this May.

* Issan Ghazni is Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and former National Diversity Adviser for the Liberal Democrats. Issan blogs here

Issan Ghazni

Chair, City of Nottingham Liberal Democrats

Website :

Twitter : @issanghazni