Thursday, January 23, 2014

Benefits to the UK of the European Union - Letter to Sittingbourne News Extra

The Eurosceptic cause has been well argued for lately, but has anyone considered the other viewpoint? There are two sides to every argument. No-one says the European Union is perfect, but there are considerable benefits to the UK's membership.

Any British business has access to a market across 28 states of 500 million people, plenty of scope for growth. Businesses from outside the EU will locate in Britain to enjoy this access - resulting in investment and jobs. This trade has no tariffs or barriers, sets out an equal paying field of rules and regulations, and enables free trade to an area larger than the USA. Competition opens up markets for UK companies to expand into. And we get far more beneficial terms trading as part of the EU with China, Brazil, the USA etc than we would on our own with a begging bowl.

Of course, we could have access to the free market from outside the EU, which is what Norway does. What you don't hear is that Norway pays a substantial price for this access - far more to the EU per head than the UK - and with no say in its organisation.

We always hear about the free movement of peoples, but it is easy to forget it works both ways. Any British citizen can live, work, travel or study in any EU country without the need for any permit. Two million British already do so - there are British students in Holland, British residents in Germany, and British retired in Spain. All have access to free emergency healthcare. Holiday makers are free to shop without being charged excise duties. Remember having to pay a hefty sum when you came back to Britain through customs!

We cannot work against dangers such as terrorism, drugs, the environment and organised crime in the UK alone - but by co-operation across the content, we can work together on a multinational basis. Remember when British villains would live in comfort on Spain's beaches!

Of course the European Union has many faults - it is over-bureaucratic, inefficient and expensive - and these are the things we should be campaigning to change - but a UK departure will not change this, and would deny us the benefits mentioned, as well as harm the fragile recovery, which still has a long way to go.

I hope soon we can see a national referendum, so that those of us who believe our membership is a great asset to the UK, can put our case, and we can have a national debate upon this very important subject. Once the people of the UK confirm our commitment, as I hope and believe they will, we can then fight for the type of Europe that we want to see.

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