Last week I gave a speech to City UK who cite their goals as driving competitiveness, creating jobs and lasting economic growth. These objectives chime well with Labour’s key economic aim of shared prosperity for all. A strategic partnership with business and industry is at the heart of Labour’s economic policy.
We see working with business – large and small – as key to meeting our ambitions for delivering prosperity and security for all the people of Britain. Ours is a vision of shared prosperity through growth, growth based on investment in infrastructure and skills; spurring the set up and growth of new businesses; and recognising and sharing the opportunities of the digital age.
George Osborne is conspicuously failing on these economic fundamentals. And most concerning of all, we are now in a situation most thought unthinkable. Indeed most people in the financial sector regard the idea of Brexit as a nightmare – notwithstanding what it could mean for businesses and families in Britain.
We in the Labour party are strongly committed to remaining in the European Union. The majority of Labour members of parliament, led by Jeremy Corbyn and the shadow cabinet, will be campaigning for us to remain members of this union of 500 million people. It is a union based on democratic values and, of course, is very important market for British goods and services.
It is only by working through international organisations like the EU, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, that we can ensure that multi-national corporations pay their fair share of tax.
Of course, the EU is not perfect. The City of London has a particular interest in ensuring that there are fair rules governing the Eurozone and a level playing field between London and Frankfurt.
But what are the key reasons why people should vote for Britain to stay in the EU? It comes down to prosperity and security.
Labour’s goal of shared prosperity for British people is best served by remaining in the EU. Leaving would massively increase uncertainty for British business, leading to reduced investment and cuts in jobs and living standards. It is inevitable that trading would be more difficult for British businesses and costs would be higher.
At the moment we benefit hugely from all the existing pan-European agreements. These would have to be renegotiated on a country-by-country basis. A nightmare indeed.
My support for EU membership is a matter of the heart and the head. The European debate has often been played out as a battle of statistics – the number of jobs linked to the single market, how much we pay in and get out of EU budgets and the cost of ‘Brexit’ to Britain’s most deprived regions. These are all important elements of a cost-benefit analysis of our links with the EU – and all show that we are better off remaining in.
But the real question in the referendum is: What kind of country do we want to be?
We should celebrate the fact that we are a leading member of a union with 28 member states – an incredible achievement, bringing us together with the goal of shared prosperity based on democratic values. We should never forget that twice in the last century our continent was engulfed in bloody wars and we should credit working together with helping to keep the peace in Europe for over 70 years. When we look around the world, this is an achievement we should not take for granted. In the words of Joni Mitchell, sometimes ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’.
We should also celebrate the many EU agreements that have enhanced justice and dignity in the workplace. Guaranteed paid leave, equal treatment for part-time workers, workers’ rights during takeovers, fair treatment for agency workers and other anti-discrimination laws – to name just a few. Why would we want to put at risk all these rights for British workers by leaving the EU? Campaigners for Britain to leave the EU often hide behind the coded phrase ‘red tape’. I am all for getting rid of unnecessary red tape, but not when it is a cover for removing hard won employment rights.
A vote to remain is a vote for security and stability in an increasingly uncertain global world. It is a vote to remain a part of the world’s biggest trading bloc, with safeguards for the environment and protection for consumers. EU agreements empower the most vulnerable, creating the very foundations for a fairer economy in a globalised world.
The EU is more important than ever. From the ports in Calais, to the beaches of Lesbos, rising global tensions are creating new challenges – challenges that no single country can meet alone. Only collectively do we have a chance to address these issues. Walking away from the table will only mean our voice is no longer heard. It’s our responsibility to play our part and be true to the best of British values.
We should be leading, not leaving.
Seema Malhotra MP is shadow chief secretary to the Treasury