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Analysis

Macron shows EU will reform. UK should be part of it

by Luke Lythgoe | 05.03.2019

A series of ambitious proposals from Emmanuel Macron has exploded the Brexiter myth that the EU is stagnant and destined to fall behind. The French president is kicking off a debate which embraces Europe’s desire to meet the trials and opportunities of the 21st century.

In a world of tech giants, malign foreign influence and an embattled environment, the UK is stronger inside the EU club. We can help build the bloc for the future, defend our shared values and together tackle the problems which made people vote for Brexit in the first place.

A better deal for workers

Despite a lack of strong evidence, it is undeniable that fears of unscrupulous employers undercutting British wages with cheaper EU workers had a big impact on voters in 2016. Macron has already helped push through reforms addressing this issue since the referendum. Now he is proposing a more extensive “social shield for all workers” which guarantees the same pay for the same work.

Jobs of the future

Macron suggests a new “European Innovation Council” to help finance EU firms working on technological breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence. It’s a forward-looking approach to job creation across the bloc. And the expertise which already exists in the UK could put us at the vanguard of a European tech revolution.

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Repairing our environment

This is one the UK simply cannot do alone. And with climate change sceptics now in power in the US and Brazil, we need to work together with our EU allies to push for a greener future on the global stage. Macron suggests EU targets of zero carbon by 2050 and pesticides halved by 2025, with a “European Climate Bank” to finance our transition to a greener economy and “European food safety force” to improve food controls and counter the influence of powerful international lobbyists.

Defence in a dangerous world

Macron stresses the need for a better-coordinated European defence capability, including a specific defence treaty, increased spending and a new “European security council”. Eurosceptics will scream “EU Army”. But the reality is that the UK is a European country – Brexit or not, we must be involved in our continent’s defence in a dangerous world. This goes beyond just defence, requiring a powerful joined-up European foreign policy which helps project our values and – hopefully – avoids any defensive measures needing to be used. The UK has been a world leader in diplomacy and security, and we’re far better placed to do so in future if we’re at the EU’s top table.

A level playing field for our companies

The French president calls for reform of competition policy, penalising corporations whose behaviour harms EU companies. That means if US tech giants adopt unfair tax practices or Chinese manufacturers pollute their environment, our firms won’t wind up at a disadvantage. The UK is much less able to stand up to huge global corporations on its own rather than as part of a European marketplace of half a billion people. “Who can claim to be sovereign, on their own, in the face of the digital giants?” Macron asks.

UK can take control of its future

The French president’s vision – published in 28 newspapers across the EU – is just the beginning of a conversation on reform and advancement across Europe. The UK can be part of this conversation if it chooses to stay inside the EU.

As a leading European nation – and one with painful experience of what public perceptions of a failing EU can cause – we can push our own agenda, as Macron is doing now. That might include more accountable or democratic EU institutions, better management of free movement, or striking high-quality trade deals with the US and China. Surely that is better than Brexit, with a future as a junior trading partner being force fed chlorinated chicken by Trump’s America?

Now we know what Brexit looks like, and the opportunities a future inside the EU can bring, it would be unreasonable – and unfair – to push through Brexit without first putting it to the people.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Macron shows EU will reform. UK should be part of it”

  • A correspondent to an English speaking newspaper in Spain who voted leave constantly talks about the ‘gravy train’ of the EU, corruption and an alleged democratic deficit. Well, if these are problems they are about to be addressed. I would argue that no system or institution is perfect. Democracy, for example, has several guises and can be manipulated (more so in a digital age). Corruption goes on all over the world; it is only a question of the degree. The same with a gravy train! Becoming an MP in the UK can be the gateway for getting other lucrative posts for a few hours work per month. And don’t mention the expenses scandal.
    It is also argued in The Guardian today that the U.K. government (and many people in the U.K.) do not understand the way the EU works. For example, negotiating directly with 27 governments is distinctly not the way to do it. This is the exact reason why Cameron failed to get anywhere prior to the referendum . Had he understood how to negotiate then we might well not be in this quagmire now. So, chapeau to Macron and we need to spread the word.

  • Good one William!
    How very true that many people do not know the workings of the European Union. This came home to me when my brother spoke to me about ‘unelected’ politicians and an undemocratically elected parliament.
    I directed him to the several web-sites, including the EU website, which all explained to him consistently how the EU works, politically. He was surprised by his own ignorance and immediately changed his mind.
    As we all know from our experience of life, so many people willingly form an opinion about an issue without having a grain of evidence to support it. Nevertheless, this is not a new phenomenon. We know that many people used to believe that the earth was flat and even now many that we shouldn’t worry about climate change and pollution of our environment!
    In terms of EU reform, I would like to see that the UK stays and takes part in this process.
    Starting now though, even before the extension to article 50 is invoked, I would very much like to see an initiative to get Citizens Assemblies started at grass routes level. By whom? I don’t know, but clearly there are the smaller political parties who could help to facilitate this with their links to regional groups who have an interest in this happening.
    These assemblies would then start off the long-awaited process of allowing ordinary people to discuss difficulty issues themselves, cutting out politicians, the unbalanced press and those who try to undermine the truth via Facebook et al.
    To see this happening would be great!

  • I agree with what has been said above by the previous commentators, except that I would not like to see politicians cut out of a process of development of new democratic levels of citizens participation in government. Representative parliamentary government must surely be the best available system there is but the present system in the UK is as much in need of reform as the EU institutions ever were.
    On the latter point, the persistent denigration of the ‘ European Project ‘ by the national press in the UK, particularly the Tabloids and the Daily Telegraph, over the last 40 or so years accounts to a large extent for the prejudice and ignorance of the general population in the UK on the subject. The Press Office of the EU Commission in London spent most of its time trying to correct the lies and disinformation being put out every day by the National Press. No wonder NJ’s brother was misled by all he read in the daily press