Catherine Bearder MEP: Lets not take the benefits of the EU for granted
Guest Blogger, 31 March 2016
Let’s not take the benefits of the EU for granted
It’s easy to take the benefits of the EU for granted. So it’s worth taking a step back and thinking of everything that has been achieved so far. Together in Europe we have delivered decades of peace and the world’s largest ever trading area. That has led to myriad practical benefits, including cheaper flights, lower roaming charges and the freedom to live and travel easily across the continent. This referendum is a chance to reverse decades of negative stories and set the record straight about how being in the EU contributes to opportunity, security and protecting the environment.
Being part of the EU is hugely beneficial for students at university. EU research funding, allows researchers to work together across borders on some of society’s most pressing problems, from the development of new cures for deadly diseases to clean energy. Modern science requires international collaboration to thrive. Being at the heart of Europe ensures scientists in the UK can benefit fully from the EU’s research programmes and the opportunities they create.
Thousands of students each year have their lives enriched by the EU’s Erasmus scheme, the largest student exchange programme in the world, which offers grants to study and learn a language abroad. After students graduate they have full access to job opportunities across Europe, a huge advantage in the highly competitive job market of today.
Being in the EU has given our police the tools to capture some of the world’s most dangerous criminals. In 2012 the European Arrest Warrant was used to bring to justice a drug-dealer who murdered a man in Southampton and then fled to Italy. He was tracked down and extradited in just four weeks, whereas in the past this process could have taken years. EU police cooperation was also used to track down a sex offender from Southampton who was one of Britain’s top ten most-wanted criminals, until he was apprehended in Portugal and jailed for ten years. Serious criminals in the 21st century do not respect borders, so we need to work closely with our European partners to bring them to justice.
Since joining Europe the UK has adopted EU environmental protections which are the highest in the world. These prevent overdevelopment from damaging local natural habitats such as the ancient woodland in the New Forest, and protect some of Britain’s best-loved species such as otters and puffins from extinction. We cannot protect our shared environment alone. Strong EU laws are needed to preserve biodiversity, tackle pollution, protect our seas and beaches and prevent a race to the bottom among national governments.
The Liberal Democrats are the most internationalist and outward-looking of all the UK parties – it’s in our DNA. So it’s no surprise to hear that, while the Conservatives are busy tearing lumps out of each other, we’re making the patriotic case for why Britain is stronger, more prosperous and more secure at the heart of Europe. But that’s not to say we think Europe is perfect. As liberals we’re naturally sceptical of power and want to work to improve the institutions that govern us, whether that is your local council or the European Commission. We want to see red tape for small businesses reduced, greater transparency in decision-making and the single market fully completed to allow all businesses access to tariff-free trade.
Now is not the time to leave Europe, it’s time to lead in Europe. Together we can build on what we have achieved already, and secure a safe, prosperous and green future for our children and grandchildren. So if you agree, join our campaign for the UK to remain in together and secure Britain’s role as an open, outward-facing country we can all be proud of.
Catherine Bearder is an MEP for the South East of England and the sole Liberal Democrat in the current European Parliament. She was first elected in 1999. Her website can be viewed here.