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Glenis Willmott

Glenis Willmott

Glenis Willmott is currently leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) and Labour member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands.

It is just over three months since the EU referendum and although some leading Brexiters like Nigel Farage, have stepped down (only to come back again, albeit “temporarily”), Labour must not run away from the aftermath.

However hard recent weeks have been for the Labour Party, Britain cannot afford for us to keep looking inwards – we need to get on with the job of scrutinising the government, holding it to account and fighting for our values. This applies on all issues but especially on Europe.

We are three months on from the referendum, and though leading Brexiters like Nigel Farage and Michael Gove may have vanished, Labour cannot.

So many questions remain unanswered, so many pledges lie ground into dust. Theresa May may not be able to tell us what Brexit means, but we must try, and work to keep hold of the jobs Britain gains from its membership of the single market and the workplace and consumer rights British people currently enjoy.

In the European Parliament, Labour MEPs have worked for years to bring better rights, better jobs, and better opportunities for British people. We cannot just sit back and watch all this progress reversed.

We may have lost the referendum, but we can’t lose the aftermath.

A fast, to-hell-with-the-consequences “Hard Brexit” – which UKIP and many of the Tory Euro-obsessives are pushing for – would be a disaster.

An ill-thought-out, hasty withdrawal could lead to huge tariff barriers and regulatory obstacles for our companies, resulting in higher prices and job losses – not something that Leave campaigners mentioned during the referendum.

It is vital that Labour keeps a gimlet-eyed focus on the actions of the Tory government at every stage of its negotiations with the EU, holding ministers to account in parliament, at the despatch box and in the new Brexit select committee. And, as Labour MEPs, we will continue to shine a light on the government’s actions in Brussels.

We need to be challenging the claims of Brexit secretary David Davis, foreign secretary Boris Johnson and international trade secretary Liam Fox that Britain will simply be able to storm out of the EU and immediately strike trade deals with India, America, Australia or indeed the EU itself, without disastrous consequences for jobs, rights and our economy.

And we must ensure that the likes of Lord Lawson and the Change Britain group of Brexit hardliners do not bend the prime minister’s ear with their bonfire of regulations spiel.

Make no mistake, what they call “intelligent deregulation” means the rolling back of workplace rights, workers forced to work longer hours with fewer protections.

Look at what could be at risk: the minimum of four weeks’ paid holiday; a right to parental leave; extended maternity leave; a new right to request flexible working; and the same protection for part-time workers as full-time workers. These are rights the Labour Party and our trade union colleagues have campaigned to bring about, fought for and delivered. We cannot and will not just sit back and let them be taken from us.

The Labour Party came into existence 116 years ago to give working people a voice in parliament, to make sure they were no longer ignored by the Tory and Liberal ruling classes. Britain is now facing its toughest test in peacetime. If we don’t get it right, the consequences will last a lifetime. Labour needs to look outwards, make our voices heard and ensure our country and our communities do not suffer. We haven’t fought all our history for a better Britain just to give up now.

Glenis Willmott is currently leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) and Labour member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands. She is campaigning for Britain to remain a member of the European Union. 

Today marks the start of June, the month in which readers will vote on the future of Britain’s place in the world. This decision, the biggest political decision for this generation, is crucial for the people of Lincolnshire.

As your Labour MEP, it will come as no surprise that protecting local jobs and workers’ rights are at the heart of why I am campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU.

In fact, 340,000 jobs in the East Midlands are linked to the EU and the highest reliance on EU exports has been found in the East Midlands. It is important that these local jobs are protected as well as the local businesses reliant on free trade with the EU.

Many of the rights that we have at work are thanks to the EU. Vital protections such as paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, protection for agency workers and health and safety in the workplace are all part of EU law.

It is clear to see why trade unions representing millions of workers back the UK staying in the EU.

If we leave, British workers could lose protections secured in EU law and a Tory government would be free to launch an assault on rights at work. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

The EU also protects consumers, which is good news for British shoppers.

Being part of the largest trading bloc in the world, with 500 million people, means lower prices whether it be for food or electronic goods. It is thanks to the EU that mobile roaming charges will be abolished next year, great news for anyone planning a summer holiday in Europe next year.

Global issues like the environment and security can only be dealt with across borders. We need to work together on key issues such as climate change and international terrorism that crosses borders. Leaving the EU would reduce Britain’s power on the world stage to tackle these issues.

Investing in research and development is key for the EU and the University of Lincoln has benefited from various EU funded projects. From a £3.2m EU funded project to train a new generation of scientists dealing with chronic medical conditions including diabetes to a £3.1m EU funded project on sustainable air transportation.

EU funding has also directly benefited hundreds of workers in Lincoln city, West Lindsey and North Kesteven through skills training.

It is not just workers, but employers too who have benefited from the millions of pounds in EU grants and funds to improve Lincolnshire’s broadband services.

The positive reasons to remain in the EU are endless. Defence heads, trade unionists, economists, builders, business leaders, a deep, broad coalition backing British membership of the European Union.

And how have Vote Leave responded? Not with civilised argument, evidence, facts and reasoned rebuttal, but with insults, smears, threats and paranoia.

It’s been the usual mix of personal attacks, scaremongering about immigration, and ridiculous myths about the EU banning things, this time kettles, toasters and hairdryers.

Britain’s EU membership supports jobs, investment and growth, helps keep us safe, provides protection for consumers and defends the rights of millions of workers.

That’s why I’m in for Britain.

For the latest Lincolnshire coverage in the run up to the referendum on June 23, follow the EU Referendum category on The Lincolnite.

Glenis Willmott is currently leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) and Labour member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands.