Lord John Shipley: A stronger economy means being at the heart of the EU

Today in the House of Lords John Shipley leads a major debate on the economic impact of the UK’s membership of the European Union. As he writes here, we can only strengthen our economy by being at the heart of the EU, not by thinking about an exit

Lord Shipley
Lord Shipley

Over the summer and early autumn a number of companies and professional bodies have been making their voices heard in support of our continued membership of the EU.

The Engineering Employers’ Federation, EEF – which is the trade body for UK manufacturing – has very recently reported that in a survey 85% of manufacturers say Britain must stay in the EU, leading from within.

A CBI survey published last month of more than 400 businesses showed almost four out of five firms favouring staying in the EU, including 77% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The City of London Corporation has made it clear this week that the financial sector based in the UK cannot be treated as distinct from Europe. Non-European firms come to London because it is both international and within the single market at the same time.  

And the key question we should ask those who believe we should withdraw from the EU is this – what problem are you trying to solve?

Is the UK being held back by the EU? A million extra jobs have been created here since 2010 – inside the EU. The idea that leaving the EU would boost jobs more lacks evidence and credibility.

We hear it increasingly claimed that the future for Britain lies in the emerging economies. But what those who pursue this line of reasoning fail to explain is why we cannot build trade with emerging economies – particularly the BRIC countries – as well as increasing trade within the EU.

Look at Germany. Germany exports four times more to China by value than we do. They do it as members of the EU.

Norway is often cited as an exemplar for the UK. Inside the European Economic Area, it has no direct power in the EU, no seat at the table, but it still has to abide by directives and bills.

A single market of 500m people means that we benefit from a common set of rules which enables businesses to generate wealth without having to comply with many different sets of regulations.

If we left the EU, we would lose access to every EU trade agreement with a third party. Each would have to be renegotiated – a long, time-consuming process which would damage exports in the interim.

We want our economy to be stronger. We can’t be stronger outside the EU. Yes, we should be ambitious for reform of the EU. But there is a world of difference between reform and exit.

Exit would mean no extra funding for the poorer parts of the UK –worth £6.2bn in 2014-20 for ERDF and ESF.

Regulatory problems within the EU can be addressed. It is not essential to be in a single currency to be part of a single market as we have successfully demonstrated over many years.

In a recent speech at Chatham House, the Deputy Prime Minister said that “the idea that we can float off into the mid-Atlantic, bobbing around in a new network of relationships without a strong anchor in Europe, while countries around the world… are working more and more in regional blocks, is clearly not a sound strategy in a fast-moving, fluid and insecure world”.

He is right. We must strengthen our economy not weaken it and we can only do that through continued membership of the EU with the UK at the heart of EU decision-making.

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.


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