EU elections are chance for Project Hope. We must seize it

by Nick Kent | 30.04.2019

It’s no surprise that the Brexiters don’t want to contest the European Parliament elections. They have nothing to say. Pro-Europeans should seize this opportunity to set out a positive agenda for the UK in Europe.

These elections are an opportunity to address many of the concerns raised by the voters in 2016, concerns which have all too often gone unanswered since. We can move on from the anger and divisions of 2016 and set out a new agenda that offers hope not fear, unity and not division, opportunities for all and not just the few.

We know that we will not get this vision from Brexiters. All they offered in 2016 were ugly immigration scares and absurd claims of a rosy future outside the EU. They never explained how cutting ourselves off from our nearest and largest trading partner would improve economic growth, increase social mobility, maintain our security and enable the UK to maintain its standing in the world.

We’re now beginning to see the emergence of a new policy agenda for the UK in Europe. It can be seen in the tentative discussions between government and the Labour party about guaranteeing employment rights after Brexit. Tories would once have seen this as an opportunity for deregulation but there is now an emerging consensus that changes in the global economy require the maintenance of a robust regime of employment protection.

As a new policy paper from the Senior European Experts shows, there is much that needs to be done to adapt to the so-called fourth industrial revolution that threatens the livelihoods of millions of British families but will also create huge opportunities. Unless we raise our performance in education and skills training, British workers will be ill-equipped to take advantage. This is particularly important to women, who currently hold no less than 70% of the jobs most at risk from automation.

So much of what needs to be done to adapt to economic change can only be done by working in partnership with other countries. None of the countries in the EU, for example, is big enough to regulate on their own the global tech giants whose callous disregard for the safety and wellbeing of their users has been so shockingly exposed.

While the UK has been absorbed by Brexit, the EU has negotiated new trade deals with the world’s third largest and tenth largest economies – Japan and Canada. More talks are under way with other countries. Yet the Brexiters witter about the World Trade Organisation, as if trading under its less comprehensive rules would be a substitute for being in the single market, and ignore Donald Trump’s efforts to disrupt the WTO.

Whether it is the search for new antibiotics, developing new modes of low-carbon transport, ensuring the ethical use of artificial intelligence or balancing the economic opportunities of big data with the need to protect privacy, it is cross-border organisations like the EU that can bring the economies of scale, the pooling of expertise and the regulatory frameworks that will enable progress.

Past generations of British politicians and officials were central to the creation of the single market, the development of a shared EU foreign and security policy and the introduction of vital justice and security measures. We need a similar burst of policy activism today to address problems both old and new. Such an agenda could help us to rebuild support for EU membership in the UK.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

Tags: Categories: EU Politics

2 Responses to “EU elections are chance for Project Hope. We must seize it”

  • A very well argued piece in my estimation. We need to remember that our genuine engagement with our EU colleagues has always been questionable. If we are successful in our endeavours to remain we must be ready willing and able to engage fully to avoid any further insincere objections being allowed to gain traction again.