10 million people a year travel between Britain and the Continent using the Eurostar channel tunnel: we are in Europe and, despite the anti-Europe rhetoric, we benefit from it. We contribute £8bn to the EU budget but we benefit by as much as £90bn a year from levy-free cross border trade in the 27 country area, or between £1,100 and £3,300 per household.
But our Prime Minister is not interested in these figures. His only concern is in reaching out to eurosceptics; it does not matter if this ends up undermining British interests.
But what to expect from someone who did not even comment on the Nobel Prize to Europe for having provided peace for sixty years? An achievement to which Britain contributed enormously.
Someone who, while cutting the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p, thereby effectively ‘writing a cheque’ worth £40,000 to every millionaire in the UK, threatens to water down European employment legislation, which protects workers’ rights that people have fought hard for.
Someone who is looking at withdrawing from Europol, an unconceivable move in my opinion, as it would simply create a safe haven for criminals in Britain.
All this means putting ideology and short term tactics ahead of Britain’s interests.
Figures predict that within three years, 90% of the world’s industrial production will come from outside Europe. I do wonder how we think we might face this massive global change without working together with our neighbours. And, most importantly, I wonder how Britain can be prepared for future challenges with a Prime Minister who is more concerned about UKIP than Britain’s future in the world.
Europe’s difficult situation should not, of course, be understated. However, the Europe we are seeing now is the outcome of years of Conservative governments in power almost everywhere in the continent. It is not by chance that the ideology of austerity has prevailed almost everywhere as the only way forward to tackle the crisis. This has had the effect of making citizens feel that Europe cannot provide any social protection, thus disenfranchising them; this belief is leading towards nationalism and protectionism. This is what we are seeing in Greece and elsewhere: an erosion of social protection, an increase in extremisms. It is democracy which is a stake in Europe, and the Nobel Prize is there to remind us that democracy is precious and is not guaranteed for always.
The Prime Minister cannot see all this. He is too busy implementing austerity at home, at a time where even the International Monetary Fund, led by his Conservative friend Christine Lagarde, is suggesting he should ease off on austerity.
As part of his plan to create a divided country, he is now saying he wants fewer employment rights. This is shameful. For this reason I will be marching behind the European Socialist party banner this Saturday: workers should not suffer the consequences of a Prime Minister who betrays their rights simply to appease his Eurosceptic party. Europe is not perfect, but employment rights are not for sale.
Ivana Bartoletti is editor of Fabiana and Vice-Chair of the Fabian’s Women’s Network