Victory at the ECJ shows Britain can still make its voice heard in the EU.
Show Hide image

Forget leaving - Britain does best at the heart of Europe

Victory at the European Court of Justice shows Britain's interests are best served fighting its corner in Europe, not sulking on the sidelines

This week, Britain won a historic legal battle in Europe when proposals that would have banned large-scale trading in euros from taking place outside the Eurozone were struck down by the EU's General Court. The proposals, put forward by the European Central Bank, would have forced UK firms handling large trades in euros to relocate to the eurozone, most likely to financial centres such as Paris or Frankfurt. With around 40 per cent of euro-denominated trading taking place in the UK, more than any other EU country, that would have had a dramatic impact on the British economy. Today's ruling will secure London's status as Europe's financial capital and uphold a level playing field for all countries in the EU's single market, whether they are inside or outside the eurozone.

It is also a powerful example of why the UK must remain in the EU if we are to properly defend our economic interests. Had the UK not been an EU member, we would not have been able to challenge this potentially damaging proposal and see it revoked. Those advocating EU exit have to explain how they would defend British interests by robbing the UK of its influence at Europe's top table. From the fight against climate change to financial regulation, decisions taken in Brussels will continue to profoundly affect the UK whether we remain in the EU or not. The truly patriotic approach is not to retreat to the side-lines, but to continue fighting our corner.

Some eurosceptics will point to deepening integration in the eurozone as a sign of why we must leave the EU. But if anything, today's ruling shows that the opposite is true. Now more than ever, the UK has to retain its influence in the EU and ensure that there is no discrimination in the single market between eurozone and non-eurozone members. More ambitiously, we have to make sure that the internal market is expanded and modernised to areas where the UK excels such as the digital economy, as outlined by Vince Cable last month. By setting a positive agenda for reform, Britain can lead in Europe and ensure the single market remains the EU's central and defining feature.

 

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Photo:Getty
Show Hide image

Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.