With the voices calling for Britain to leave the European Union getting louder, it’s time to nail my colours firmly to the mast. I strongly support EU membership. The EU is good for British jobs and good for British influence in the world.
Does that mean I think the EU is perfect? Of course not. There’s still a lot we need to do to make the EU more accountable and ensure it only acts where it really adds value. But it’s important to recognise the huge benefits that being part of the EU brings to the UK and to the region.
Only this week, MEPs signed off the EU’s long-term budget which will pump millions of pounds worth of funding into Lincolnshire, create thousands of jobs and help the local economy to recover and fulfil its potential.
Lincolnshire has already received over £15 million which has been designated to extremely worthwhile projects such as Sustain Lincolnshire, which is a programme of activities led by Lincolnshire County Council to help Lincolnshire’s business become more competitive while reducing their carbon footprints and safeguarding the environment.
The Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire also received funds to improve the high street in Boston. Across the UK, this funding has helped 403,000 disadvantaged young people enter employment over the past five years. Lincolnshire is now set to receive another €133.5 million to help fund apprenticeships and training schemes and get thousands more young people in the region back into work.
Liberal Democrats also helped secure £60 billion worth of EU research spending of which UK universities are set to take the biggest share. Here in Lincolnshire over £5.6 million has already been allocated to the University of Lincoln to fund projects for productivity and competitiveness, the Lincoln Engineering Hub, as well as other projects for research.
This funding will boost local jobs, ensuring that businesses in the region can stay one step ahead in cutting edge-sectors which are crucial to our future economic prosperity. It will also support international efforts to tackle major challenges like global warming, and find new cures to killer diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. And all this is being achieved while securing a historic cut of £30 billion from the EU budget which will help make EU spending more efficient and targeted towards growth and jobs.
The truth is, if we do what UKIP and what many Conservatives want to do and pull out of Europe all together, millions of jobs across the country will be put at risk.
We heard from the boss of Nissan last week that if the UK left the EU, Nissan would undoubtedly leave too resulting in thousands of job losses, and with the Toyota UK and Rolls Royce engineering plant both in the East Midlands, this is something we just cannot risk. Just recently, a poll found 6% of businesses would close if we left the EU.
That would mean up thousands of job losses in the East Midlands. And with each person in the UK estimated to be an average of £1,225 better off each year because we are in the EU, compared to an annual contribution to the EU budget of just £116, the end result would be that we would all lose out.
It’s also important to remember the huge opportunities we have to boost jobs and growth in the region if we stay in and continue to shape our biggest market from the inside. A trade deal with the US is in the pipeline that would be worth £10 billion to the UK economy and create an estimated 2.2 million jobs across Europe, e.g. car exports to the US would increase by a quarter, increasing jobs in the sector by 7%.
Completing the single market, making it easier for businesses to export freely in areas like services and the digital economy, could add a staggering £110 billion, or almost £6,000 per household. We should be grabbing this prize with both hands, not retreating to the sidelines.
Bill Newton Dunn represents the East Midlands for Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament. Bill was first elected as MEP in 1979 as Conservative representing Lincolnshire in the UK but crossed the floor to join the Liberal Democrat Party in November 2000 because of the increasing anti-European move of the Conservative Party in Britain. He was elected for a sixth five-year term in July 2009 to be Liberal Democrat MEP in the European Parliament.