Jobs & Growth
In recent polls the biggest issue affecting the lives of most people today is the state of the economy, their jobs, homes and livelihoods are at risk due to a problem they had little part in creating. As a priority the EU is the least significant issue people care about in Britain today, we need to bring the debate on Europe around to how it can positively effect peoples lives and promote increased jobs and growth. As a scientist and finance worker I would aim to make available more funds to small businesses to grow the European economy in the short term, but also to make funds available for scientific research for aerospace, for biotech, for green industries so we can build a sustainable economy for the future.
Finding a solution to the economic crisis is still a major concern both in Europe and at home. While we are still looking at reducing the deficit in the UK we need to look at growing the economy to both provide jobs and to restore confidence in our economy. Europe is still at risk of falling deeper into recession with the consequences of rising unemployment and decreasing living standards. We have the ability to do something about this now by working together for the collective interests across Europe.
In Europe small businesses provide employment for nearly two thirds of the public sector, these small businesses are truly the lifeblood of our economy. To help businesses thrive we must cut some of the red tape that stands in the way of small businesses and start ups. If we are going to grow our way out of this economic quagmire it will be on the back of small businesses.
Vince Cable recently announced the Investment Bank in the UK for providing long term loans to small businesses. But few people know that there is a similar institution in the EU, the European Investment Bank which as well as providing capital also provides technical advise and guarantees. We need to do more to improve knowledge of the European Investment Bank for businesses in London.
The Investment Bank and other measures provide short term growth to the economy, but we can use Europe to help build an economy for the future. As an MEP I would help grow the economy now, but also use EU funds for scientific research into aerospace, biotechs and green businesses so together we can build an economy for the future.
Crime & Liberty
At the same time we must be careful that we protect the liberties of the people in the UK. We must fight to end overbearing state surveillance, databases, ID cards. We must stop the intervention of the state in people’s lives and ensure we protect their privacy and freedom.
As Lib Dems we have already done a lot within the EU to protect Britain’s interests, such as the European Arrest Warrant which allows someone to be arrested and sent back to the country they are accused of committing a crime in. This was famously used to catch and return to London the 7/7 bomber Osman Hussein who fled to Italy.
European Lib Dems have also fought to protect those who are the victims of a crime, or even Brits abroad accused of crimes so that in foreign countries they are afforded a minimum standard of justice across the entire EU.
Environmental issues are one of the truly multinational concerns that affects our lives. Borders are man made, and even for countries which do have a natural border such as the UK natural phenomena just don’t appreciate them! The air we breathe and the water we drink are not just affected by our actions, but by the actions of those countries around us. It is only by working proactively with our neighbours that we can seek to protect our own natural resources.
Within the EU the Lib Dems are committed to extending the EU emission trading system to include aviation, setting the carbon emission reduction targets to include light commercial vehicles. And by 2040 we aim to have zero carbon emissions for all cars. These are real, achievable targets we as Lib Dems are already achieving in the EU.
However, we should not just look to our own neighbours, we should also look further afield and by working with the entire of Europe we can promote and push environmental policies across the world! This can then be used to grow the economy of the future, in Europe we should lead in promoting a low carbon economy and invest in developing the technologies this would require. This would have the added advantage of promoting jobs and growth and building an economy for the future. If we do not do this now we will be left behind as China and other Asian economies exploit the opportunities for growth in this sector.
I am also committed to the environmental campaigns at a local level and am fully against a third runway at Heathrow. But at the same time, just saying “no” does not go far enough. Heathrow is over capacity and that means that planes are often held in flight patters longer than they need to be, increasing air pollution across London. We need to develop a strategic airport transport plan across London to utilise the under capacity airports, continue to promote jobs and growth in London, but do so in a way which reduces harmful emissions in our air.
By working together as the EU we have been able to achieve better trade agreements, for example at the moment we are currently working towards a larger free trade with US, Canada, Hong Kong and South Korea. But also working with the EU in the UN and NATO we can promote Britain’s interests abroad such as promoting democracy, human rights and international development.
International development is a huge policy area here. In the UK we are committed to implementing the UN target of 0.7% of GNP for overseas aid. As your MEP I would encourage our European allies to also set and stick to this target as we are doing at a time of such economic turmoil so we can build a better future together.
In December 2011 David Cameron used a veto when other European leaders were discussing the best way to deal with the financial crisis. As a result the UK has been sidelined in Europe, we no longer have a voice on a number of important issues. We need to make a stance and let it be known that it is only by proactively engaging with our European neighbours that we can achieve the best deal for the UK.
There is, however, a negative feeling in the EU largely brought about by the anti-EU rhetoric in the UK press, but also as a result of the democratic deficit inherent in the EU. People do not feel like they have a voice in Europe, and this is made worse when the MEPs they elect spend more time and money campaigning within their own parties than telling the larger electorate what they are doing.
As a first step as an MEP I would support the decision taken at Lib Dem conference in 2012 to have the president selected based on the democratic vote across the EU.
But we need to go further and improve our communication to all people who elect us as MEPs to show them where the EU has made a positive influence on their lives, but also where we can make changes. We need to open up a dialogue, to communicate with people to find out what they want and represent their views in Europe.
As a last point, there is a lot of waste within Europe and a lack of accountability. I would seek to increase the level of transparency in MEPs offices so the public can see how and where their money is being spent in Europe. I also support the campaign to close the Strasbourg Parliament, a parliament building which is kept running but is rarely used. This is simply a wasteful use of public resources and needs to close. As MEP I would fight to make this happen.