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  1. Election 2024
6 June 2016updated 09 Sep 2021 11:43am

I voted to leave in 1975. But in 2016, I’m voting to stay in Europe

Those who would be celebrating if we left the EU include such unsavoury characters as Putin, Trump, Farage and a bunch of climate-change deniers with no intention of working towards a better future for the most vulnerable in our society.

By Ann Clwyd

Back in 1979 when I was among the first elected members to the European Parliament, I supported withdrawal from the Common Market, although Wales had voted to remain, in the 1975 referendum.

Those were the days of wine lakes and butter mountains, of an out of control Common Agricultural Policy, subsidising over-production and dumping on world markets and it was years before the development of the Social Chapter, which brought with it legislation for workers’ rights and equality.

There was no European environment policy, but after several years of working with comrades from all the other countries in the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, I had come to a different conclusion. On 19 February 1982, I wrote an article in the New Statesman headed Why I changed my mind on the Common Market

The arguments I made then still hold true. Then, as now, our Socialist and Social Democratic comrades urged us to remain working with them for a better future, for jobs, security and workers’ rights.

One of the concerns I had then was about European action to save the steel industry.  Today we are still battling to save the steel industry, particularly in Wales.

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The EU could help, although recent further action against cheap steel imports from China – by imposing higher duties – was vetoed by, among others, the UK Tory Government.  

It is, however, important for workers in multinational companies to have information about management plans for closures or mergers and European legislation has helped improve these rights to information.

Whilst none would say the EU is perfect (and it is not unique in this), peace, jobs, workers’ and consumers’ rights, the European social model and the environment, are safer if we stand together as constructive members of the EU.

Labour has always been a party of internationalists.  The Tories would swiftly make a bonfire of hard-won rights if we left.

They consider four week’s holiday, maternity and paternity leave, equality and health and safety legislation, temporary workers’ rights and much more to be so much red tape, to be dispensed with. 

Standing up to globalisation alone is a pipe dream.  It requires nations to cooperate. Likewise the pressures of immigration will not fade away if we go it alone. We live in difficult times where many people are feeling disconnected.

But to help combat this, the way forward for Britain is to continue to work within the EU for more reforms.  Labour sees reforming and modernising the EU, in solidarity with continental socialists and social democrats, as an ongoing process.

Do those who advocate developing hundreds of individual trade deals with countries, large and small, really expect that we would achieve better than as part of the world’s largest trading block? 

Would the Tory government achieve better terms in the TTIP than the EU can with strong pressure from directly-elected MEPs in the European Parliament and strong member states to ensure protection from rampant multinationals? I doubt it.

We in Britain benefit enormously from European cooperation and funding for research, regional development, cultural projects, and, yes, agricultural support, as well as peace and free trade. The EU has also been at the forefront of working to protect human rights in the world.

There would be no access to this large single market without the social and employment legislation that goes with it.  Why would we sacrifice our say? It is simply no longer possible to create a social democratic society solely at the level of the nation state. 

It is an odd idea that we would like to reduce our influence with our neighbours. Solidarity is better than isolation.

I still believe in 2016 we are better together.  Those who would be celebrating if we left the EU include such unsavoury characters as Putin, Trump, Farage and a bunch of climate-change deniers with no intention of working towards a better future for the most vulnerable in our society.

 For prosperity and collective security, if we want an economy and a society that works for all, not just for a few, I stand by my belief that we are better off remaining in the EU.

Ann Clywd is Labour MP for Cynon Valley.

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