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Have you decided who you will vote for in the European Elections on Thursday? We asked five top MEPs in London why you should vote for their party.
(In alphabetical order)
Marina Yannakoudakis MEP, Conservative Party
You should vote in these European Elections because we are at a critical juncture in our relationship with the EU. With some calling for ever closer union, others are rightfully hesitant and wary of a federation. The Conservatives are the only party seeking to reform the EU and give you the chance to have your say on our relationship with the EU. David Cameron is committed to fighting for a better deal—a deal that puts your interests first and ensures the United Kingdom gets the most out of its relationship with its European neighbours.
While some in the EU are committed to forming a United States of Europe, with a one size fits all approach to government and society, the Conservatives along with their European allies, have proposed a new path—a path of reform and greater freedom. It seeks to radically overhaul the EU by giving a stronger voice to nation states and promoting individual freedom and aspiration. The EU works best when states get together and cooperate on issues out of their own choosing and desire—supranational regulations and slap-dash directives impose burdens and create nothing but widespread apathy. What’s the point in having an EU if it simply ignores the will of member state citizens and steams ahead unchecked? If we continue down this path we risk eroding the very democratic foundation of Europe. The Conservatives however are fighting for a real alternative.
Our MEPs work tirelessly to block restrictive regulations or careless spending —from female boardroom quotas and maternity directives to the financial transaction tax and Common agricultural policy we run a tight ship and fight for a cost-effective EU. We don’t always win the fights but through David Cameron’s renegotiation strategy we will defend our interests and ensure our society no longer has to put up with ill-thought through and disproportionate legislation.
In 2017, if we have a Conservative majority government, you WILL have a referendum—you will be able to decide on whether we stay in the EU or withdraw. We are the only party putting you at the forefront of national decision-making; we believe that in a democracy the electorate knows best! Labour and the Lib Dems won’t give you a say on the EU and Ukip simply can’t. Your Conservative MEPs are the only MEPs sticking up for you. So on Thursday the 22nd of May I urge you to go to your local polling station and vote for the Conservative party.
Jean Lambert MEP, Green Party
This Thursday, Londoners go to polls in one of the closest-fought, and important, European election campaigns in years.
With the European Parliament about 200 miles away from London, it can seem a little distant – but the laws it passes and the rules it adopts affect all of us, every single day: and usually for the better.
Whether it’s setting air quality rules, international climate change policy, business regulations, job creation priorities, or energy generation methods, the European Parliament has a say – and who Londoners vote to represent them in the EU’s only democratically-elected institution makes a real difference.
This is why the vote on Thursday matters – it’s a chance for Londoners to choose the kind of future they want for their city and the people they want sitting around the table when the rules are made.
For the last decade-and-a-half, I have been one of London’s MEPs – it’s been hard work but a great privilege. I sit as part of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in Brussels – the fourth largest in the European Parliament – and we have been able to deliver a number of positive changes for Londoners. We have capped bankers’ bonuses and called for reforms of the banking system to ensure it works for all of us – not just a few bankers at the top.
We have delivered a ‘youth guarantee’ – a promise of a job or training place for every unemployed young person that wants one – and I have won support for a new ‘carers leave’ to ensure that those of us caring for older or disabled relatives aren’t penalised at work.
Green MEPs have shaped the EU’s farming and fisheries policies – banning the cruel and wasteful practise of ‘dumping’ dead fish at sea, and won key votes on climate change policy to ensure that the UK adopts a target on delivering new renewable energy projects – and the jobs that go with them.
But crucially, EU policy is about a long-term vision: and ours is a vision of a London economy that puts people first, a more equal city – one where discrimination is never tolerated – and one in which our environment is protected.
Encouragingly, when people hear this vision, and examine our policies and legislative priorities for achieving it, they like what they hear. For example, recent polling shows that three in five Londoners support our policy of capping bankers’ bonuses. Two- thirds support our policy to increase the minimum wage to a living wage. More than four-fifths of Londoners support our policy aim to make getting around the city on foot or by bike easier.
Claude Moraes MEP, Labour Party
The first and most important thing is that the European Parliament has become a law making body, so whatever your views, particularly if you’re in business, whether you’re apathetic or whether your business is fully engaged in the export market, the fact is that we’re now legislating.
Secondly, it’s a democratic responsibility which most British people take seriously.
It’s understandable that Euroscepticism has spread for a variety of reasons, but it’s really imperative that people understand that it’s not merely an advisory parliament.
It’s been denigrated for many years and I believe that on the whole that the people and businesses who have benefitted from association with Europe have not really stood up for it. It can benefit and affect businesses, regulating in a whole range of areas.
If you don’t vote, you risk being an informed person – taking part in business, taking part in society – but withdrawing your informed opinion. And that’s regrettable in a democracy. If you don’t want to vote, then that’s a democratic right.
Every party has a European manifesto and a domestic one. Understandably the two of them become conflated, which is regrettable. This is a European election, and we should be putting forward a set of policies that MEPs going back to the European Parliament are implementing and working on, on behalf of citizens back in the UK.
The Labour party want to fight Britain’s corner in the European union. London is an area where we need to ensure that the budget is spent wisely. We have some of the poorest wards and regions in London next to some of the richest. That’s an important and unreported area that we need to work really hard on.
There are also environmental issues. Clean air hit peak problem even in the last month in London and we’re coming to a critical point there.
For the business community there are a huge number of regulations abroad, some of which London businesses want, and others which they don’t want. I think it’s really important to emphasise that we want to get the best deals for business.
We’re at a critical
stage in terms of our relationship with Europe. We may be moving towards a referendum in one form or another, and for that reason my message would be that however you vote, it’s important to do so. Obviously I’d hope you’d vote Labour, but the most important thing is to try and engage with the real issues in Europe rather than the more lurid messages you see around at the moment.
Sarah Ludford MEP, Liberal Democrats
This year’s European elections are the most important for a generation. The rise of UKIP has led to a resurgence of Euroscepticism within the Conservative party and a deafening silence from Labour on Europe, which together put jobs and businesses in London at risk. Only the Liberal Democrats are actively campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union to protect and boost London’s economy.
The importance for the capital of being in the EU has been underlined recently in a report by top business group London First. They said that EU membership is crucial to Britain’s success, and that we must remain at the heart of Europe if London is to flourish in the future. Without access to the European Single Market, London would not benefit from the liberalisation of the services and digital sectors across Europe. The same applies to new EU trade agreements with non-European countries. As vice-chair of the European Parliament delegation to the United States, I’ve been working closely with American politicians to help secure an EU-US trade agreement that could boost London’s economy by nearly £2 billion a year.
London would lose a great deal in the event of a so-called ‘Brexit’, which UKIP want and the Conservatives are flirting with. According to a YouGov poll last year, 6 per cent of business leaders said their companies would close altogether if Britain left the EU. This means that if UKIP and Tory Eurosceptics get their way, around 10,000 businesses could close in the capital leading to hundreds of thousands of job losses.
A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated that the number of jobs in London supported by exports to the EU now stands at nearly 550,000, or 1 in 9. This was the first survey of its kind in more than a decade, in which time London gained the most jobs linked to the EU for any region in the UK. This is largely due to the rise of the business, ICT, scientific and financial services sectors in the capital. This evidence shows the real damage that leaving the EU could do to London’s economy and jobs.
Liberal Democrats don’t think the EU is perfect. That’s why we’re working to reform it from within to boost trade, increase European investment in London businesses, universities and research, and to cut red tape. But our continued EU membership is what’s best for London. Even if we had some kind of trading relationship from outside, like Norway, we would have no say in EU rules.
The problem is the other parties are not standing up for London. UKIP wants to leave the EU. The Conservatives are flirting with the exit door, with their London MEP Syed Kamall admitting he could vote to leave the EU in 2017. Meanwhile Labour’s Ed Miliband is saying nothing about Europe. So if you want Britain to stay in a reformed EU, make sure you vote for the Liberal Democrats on 22nd May.
Gerard Batten MEP, UKIP
Britain is no longer a truly free or democratic country. The British government, of any political colour, has lost freedom of action in most areas of domestic policy. We no longer have control over: trade, industry, employment, agriculture, fisheries, health and safety, tourism, sport and space, to name just a few. Since joining the European Economic Community in 1973 these powers have been gradually surrendered with each successive treaty.
The European Union is, and always has been, about the creation of a centralised political state. The old established political parties, the Lib-Lab-Con, may pretend otherwise, but a majority of the general public now clearly understand that we are governed by the European Union and not our own democratically elected Parliament at Westminster.
The question of should Britain leave the European Union or stay in is a simple one. Do we want to live in a democratic country governed by our own democratically elected parliament with a government that is accountable to the people, or do we want our country be a mere region of an undemocratic (and economically declining) ‘United States of Europe’?
In 2006 a study by the German parliament estimated that 84% of new laws come from the EU. Recently EU Commission Viviane Reding stated that the figure was 70%; whatever the actual rate in any given year the simple truth is that most of our new laws now come from Brussels and not Westminster. And our parliament cannot make a law which contradicts EU law.
We are told that if we left the EU three million jobs would be at risk. This is nonsense. Of course many jobs are linked with trade to European Countries. But Europe sells us far more than we sell them, and many more jobs in Europe are linked to trade with the UK than the other way around.
When we leave the EU all of these jobs will be safe. Trade will continue as normal for two reasons: firstly because it is in both our mutual interests to keep trading with each other; and secondly because it would be against internationally binding Word Trade Organisation rules for the EU to put up discriminatory trade barriers against Britain.
The issue that has brought home to people our loss of control is that of the EU’s policy of open borders, which has meant uncontrolled and unlimited immigration into the UK. Under these laws we don’t just get the nice, hardworking, decent people we might choose to invite, we also get any vagrant, benefit-tourist, alcoholic, drug addict or criminal that cares to turn up.
If the voters approve of all this then they can continue to vote for the Lib-Lab-Con, (not forgetting the Greens of course), their MEPs always support and vote for more EU legislation. On the other hand, if the voters don’t want it then they should vote UKIP. UKIP MEPs will campaign for Britain to leave the European Union and for the restoration of Britain as a self-governing, democratic nation.