Asks Brian Simpson, MEP
One of the things that has always fascinated me about British politics is how European Elections are fought on national issues, but when it comes to our own General Election, Europe is always a big issue. I suspect the same will be true next time around, not least because the Conservative Party has become so anti-European that pro-European Conservatives have been an endangered species as this party has moved violently to the right in recent years. Whether you are pro- or anti-Europe, what has been missing in recent months as the economic crisis deepens is an educated discussion on the pros and cons of Britain’s membership of the EU.
As a pro-European, I readily admit that the EU makes mistakes just as national governments do. But I think we have to be honest and totally clear in explaining to the British public that when Euro-sceptic Tories talk of repatriation of powers back to Britain, they are talking about the social legislation that has given part time workers and women workers rights; that has enabled environmental protection measures; has introduced consumer rights including food labeling and travel compensation. They are talking solely about repatriation of these rights given to you as an individual in which Britain, prior to the Social Chapter, was particularly poor at. We are back to the old argument:‘Do we want Europe to be a citizen’s Europe or merely a business-man’s club?’
The CBI (very quiet over Cameron’s veto) estimates that 3 million jobs are tied up to our membership of the EU. Our biggest trading partner, including agriculture, is the European Union, and all these facts need to be laid out to the British people.
The British Prime Minister rightly called on Eurozone countries to get their act together, but then, when they did, vetoed the deal to protect his chums in the city and to placate his own Conservative Party. I believe that was a big mistake that has not only isolated Britain as a nation, but which has started a ticking time bomb that could bring down the coalition government and have other repercussions. In short, Cameron’s veto was not in Britain’s interest, it wasn’t even in the coalition Government’s interest. It was purely party political to appease the Conservative Party and that cannot be good. Britain does need to debate the European Union, but it needs to do it in a more mature and balanced way , with facts, not myths and , being the items for discussion. No doubt the debate I seek will be started on publication of this piece by the anti brigade who will write to me in their usual “reasoned” way, but for me the Guardian Editorial of 13th December sums it all up beautifully: “Mr Cameron’s walkout went down a storm with his Party, but the recognition that he is marching Britain towards Never Never Land seems to be gaining ground now!” The editor will warmly welcome any contributions to the debate Brian asks for in our letters column.