The Liverpool Arena would not have been built without support from the EU, neither would the L1 shopping Centre or the new Exhibition Centre
Last night I attended the first meeting of strongerin in South Liverpool. This is the campiagn to keep the UK in the EU.
This is what I said.
“We face, probably sometime this year, a referendum on our membership of the European Union it is important that we reflect on what the EU has done for us and what it will do for us in future.
When I was little my classroom still had a map on it with the big heading at the top “The Empire on which the sun never sets”. It was already untrue but only partly so. In the late 50’s we had only just begun the process of decolonisation as we graciously allowed our colonies to elect their own governments and shape their own destinies.
The “white” colonies of New Zealand, Australia and Canada had already gone. They were independent since the start of the 20th century but, as we saw in the two World Wars, still maintained massive attraction to the Mother Country. Indeed that is not dead. A leading Australian politician told me recently that he thought Australia would once again, “answer the call” if the UK ever made that call.
But for New Zealand and Australia it was is what happens in the Pacific and China that is more important than trade with us. Canada looks to the USA with which it shares a huge land border. The African Countries that I visit are proud of their Commonwealth links and opportunities but do not look to us for leadership. Countries like Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa have their own developing economies and are working their own way out of poverty.
So that map only now exists in people’s minds. Unfortunately it massively colours their judgement. Too many of our politicians pine for a ‘Golden Age’ which hasn’t really existed since the end of the 19th Century. They see the UK as far more important than it really is. Perhaps that is why so many people who want out are elderly and the keenest to stay in are young people. I am proud of my Country. I want it to be a force for good in the World but believe that this can best be done by being part of the European Union.
Let’s start with the myths:
• The EU is not a vast bureaucracy. It employs less people than Lancashire County Council
• It does not force laws on Countries. Each Country has a Commissioner and a seat at the Commission as well as in the Parliament where it can shape European wide responses. Each Country then can take and modify, within parameters, Brussels decisions and enshrine them in national law.
• The EU does not push Humans Rights laws down our throats. In fact the European Court of Human Rights is not part of the EU but part of the Congress of Europe which was started by Winston Churchill.
• It does not want us to have straight bananas and square tomatoes. Almost all stories like this come from the fertile minds of the Daily Wail.
What does it do?
• It has provided us with more than £1 billion through Objective One and successor programmes which have helped transform our industrial and commercial landscape.
• It provides a market for the goods which we hope will increasingly pour through our Port and onto other parts of the UK and continental Europe.
• It provides cross border security
• It helps our Universities with research and other grants.
• it gave us the Capital of Culture crown which has changed the World’s perceptions of our City and brought 15,750,000 people from across Europe to our City in 2008
All these positive benefits would be put at risk.
• We would have to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU. Our concerns would not be a priority
• We would need to renegotiate 50+ trade deals with other Countries. The most important of these is the USA which has already indicated to us that they feel we are of more use to the USA and more likely to get US investment if we remain in the EU.
• The free flow of labour would be challenged which mostly works to our advantage
• Foreign and UK companies would not risk investment here but will put new plant and factories in Continental Europe.
Ironically most of the things which we apparently find most irksome we would have to do anyway if we want to trade our goods and service into Europe. Ask Norway and Switzerland who accept as many regulations as we do without having any chance to influence them and pay a hefty fee into the EU for the right to continue to do so.
Whenever the EU referendum takes place the Liberal Democrats will be prepared to work with people who want to stay in from any party or background. As the most committed internationalist party in the UK our position is as clear today as it was when the UK decided not to join the EC when it was first formed in the 50s. The UK and the Liverpool City Region in particular will benefit from continued membership of the EU. We will pull out all the stops between now and the referendum to convince people that this is the only realistic way forward.