Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Danny Alexander: The European Elections Are Crucial For British Jobs And Prosperity

Writing for British Influence, a day before voters go to the polls, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander explains why the European elections are crucial for British jobs and prosperity.

Danny writes:

Tomorrow, voters across Britain will decide who will represent them in Europe over the next 5 years. For many, the European elections are a chance to sound off against the government of the day, or to flirt with fringe, anti-establishment parties. But this is not a choice to be taken lightly. As the European Parliament has grown in power and influence, the role of MEPs has become increasingly important.

The vital reforms that are needed to secure future economic prosperity both in Britain and the continent will be significantly affected by the outcome of tomorrow's vote. That is why it is vital that we elect as many hard-working, engaged MEPs as possible, people who we can trust to fight Britain's corner effectively and steer Europe towards the path of prosperity and growth.

UKIP MEPs have already shown that they are incapable of standing up for Britain in Brussels. Time and again, they have missed crucial votes or opposed key reforms that improve the lives of British citizens. UKIP themselves admit in their manifesto that "we don't go there to make the EU better".

In fact, they have a strong vested interest in making it worse. Their one and only aim is to pull Britain out of the EU once and for all, a move that would ruin the economic recovery and plunge Britain back into recession, putting the 3 million jobs that depend on our trade with Europe at risk.

Liberal Democrat MEPS on the other hand, recently ranked as the hardest-working British party in Europe, have fought tirelessly to reform the EU for the better and ensure that the UK's voice is heard. Whether it's putting in place stricter oversight of banks to help prevent another financial crisis, ending overfishing in Europe's seas or delivering the first ever cut to the EU budget while shifting spending towards research and innovation, Liberal Democrats have consistently defended British interests at Europe's top table.

They have shown that the most successful MEPs are not necessarily those that shout the loudest, but those who are willing to roll up their sleeves, build alliances and deliver vital reforms. As we look to crucial changes in Europe in the years ahead, we need more MEPs like this, not less. The Liberal Democrats are firmly the Party of IN, because being in Europe means being IN work.

First, we need to make sure that the UK benefits as much as possible from the billions of available EU infrastructure funding for projects of common European interest, such as the Eleclink project in the Channel Tunnel that will link France and the UK's electricity grids. Using funds to modernise Britain's infrastructure and improve energy links with the continent will increase investment, unlock economic growth and secure our future energy security.

Second, we need to ensure that the world's biggest ever trade deal between the EU and US goes ahead, giving a major boost to jobs and growth in Britain. This is set to be complemented by other major trade deals currently in the pipeline, including with Japan and India.

Third, we need to bring the single market into the 21st century by opening up the EU's digital, telecoms and services sectors, creating new opportunities for UK firms to expand into the continent. Crucially, all of these steps will require the support of the European Parliament and the hard work of British MEPs.

So when you cast your vote tomorrow, remember that this election is not just a sideshow before the general elections next year. The decision you make will have real repercussions for the lives of people across the UK. Ultimately, the choice is simple. Do you want your representatives to lead reform in Europe and fight for British jobs, or to sit on the side-lines with one foot out of the exit door. Liberal Democrats are clear where we stand. Only by playing an active role in Europe can we build a stronger economy and a greener, fairer society.