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5 March 2015

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

By Tim Farron

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.

 

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