The importance of Europe to Liverpool



Let me be clear from the start I am biased in my consideration of the importance of Europe to the City of Liverpool. At the time of the Heath Referendum 40 years ago I was a co-chair of the Yes campaign here and we won in Liverpool as we did nationwide.

I am clear that being an active player in Europe is important for our City and our Country. I implicitly believe in internationalism and the freedom of trade and the freedom of labour. I believe that the lessons of our colonial past should show us all that being a little Englander would have meant that we would have been a small and insignificant little island off the coast of mainland Europe. Whilst I have no wish to recreate the roistering and often abusive colonial times that element of global trading; that element of being bigger than ourselves was of vital importance to us.

Liverpool has seen many benefits from being part of Europe. For 10 years it was an Objective One area and has since seen transition status which has kept our money from Europe high. Some may argue that this is money that would have been given to us instead by the UK government and would not have needed to be repatriated. And pigs might fly! I have no doubt at all that we would have got a fraction from Whitehall of the money we received from Brussels.

Go into the City Centre and see the massive changes which were wrought around the docks, Arena, and L1. That would not have happened without EU money. EU money went into the infrastructure without which the private sector would not have invested and into training, research and facilities to make work the private sector and the third sector. The EU has helped individual companies; our 3 universities; much of our social infrastructure.

Look at the issues nationally and similar things apply. Much of the discussion is whether or not 3,000,000+ jobs depend on our membership of the EU. Those jobs will not disappear immediately if we voted to leave the EU but many of them would go over time. Take the investment made by companies like General Motors in Ellesmere Port. There can be no doubt that if we were not in the EU the investment would have gone to GM plants in Germany or elsewhere in mainland Europe. Many companies from places as diverse as Japan, Korea and the US have made the UK their launch pad into Europe. A launch pad that would not be repeated and would eventually be abandoned if we withdrew.

The free movement of labour is vital to us. Let’s take people coming from the Indian sub-continent. Those at Jaguar Land Rover must be delighted that TATA have moved in and brought some staff with them. They have turned round a declining company and converted into a shining success story and created and safeguarded thousands of jobs both directly and in supplier companies. Too many Africans perhaps? Let’s send them all home – except of course the ones in the Health Service who still provide so much of the labour force of consultants and doctors as well as rank and file workers.

Let me give you five facts in conclusion:

  1. At present Europe dominates the G7 leading industrialised countries. By 2035 there will be no single European Country in the G20 leading industrialised countries. We are being elbowed aside by the BRICs – the MINTs and others. Unless we hand together we will fall apart.
  2. There is no massive bureaucracy in Europe. The whole of the organisation including ‘Embassies’ around the World employs less staff than Derbyshire County Council does!
  3. 75% of UK law does not come from Brussels. Some law – especially environmental law- originates in Brussels but then has to be adapted and adopted by the Governments of the individual countries.
  4. Our ability to apprehend some of the worlds’ most dangerous criminals – especially those in the drugs trade – would be severely limited if we could not work through the European Arrest Warrant system.
  5. Countries like Norway and Switzerland do not succeed very well outside the EU and pay nothing. Both these Countries pay money into the EU but have no say in many laws which they have to enact anyway. A clear case of taxation without representation!

Most of the stuff that you see in some of the gutter press about Europe – the endless stories about straight bananas and square tomatoes is pure fiction. I travel regularly to mainland Europe and less frequently to the US. We have more in common with the French and Germans and Swedes including our attitudes to many issues and the depth of inter trading than we do with none-European countries.

I don’t go to Europe. I wake up in Europe! I am a Scouser, A Northerner, English, British and European. I can be all those things because they do not conflict. The European project is not about an absorption into a common mass whereby local and national characteristic will be consumed. Rather it is a platform of strength from which we can all use our national backgrounds and strengths to ensure a continued prosperity and a sytrengthened place in the World.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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