Standing up for fairness for all in Europe

world war 1 cemetery2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

It was the slaughter and devastation of that conflict, and the Second World War that followed within a generation, which were a major catalyst in producing the organisation of European nation states, which has become the European Union of today.

But, for many people, that motivation – a fierce determination to prevent war in Europe – is no longer enough to justify the existence of the European Union.

Last year saw the deaths of the last of those who actually fought in the First World War, and those who experienced the Second World War are increasingly elderly.

For people making today’s world, war in Europe is something from the history books.

So the reasons for working together to face common problems have to be argued through again.

We have to re-make the case that we achieve more together than we do separately, and that in an increasingly globalised world, where capital, goods, and labour increasingly cut across national boundaries, we need governance which can make effective rules to ensure fairness and freedom.

But it cannot be any old Europe. I have never believed that the EU is a good in itself. Europe must be pro-jobs, pro-growth, and pro-prosperity, where ordinary people, in Lincoln and elsewhere, get rights, justice and a fair share.

That is why, throughout last year, I led Labour’s MEPs in standing up for the interests of British voters, against the rich and powerful, from banks to tobacco companies.

In the final week before the Christmas break, we voted to take action on tax evasion.

In Britain alone, £9bn is lost every year to public finances due to tax fraud and avoidance. That would pay for more than 600 new schools or 50 hospitals.

On consumer rights, financial regulation, your rights at work, food safety, public health, jobs, equality and reform, it has always been perfectly clear to me that Europe has to be about supporting the interests of ordinary people.

That is what I have voted for in the last four and a half years, and what I’m more than happy to be judged on in the Euro elections in May.

(Column published in Lincolnshire Echo 09.01.14)




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