Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Tories are putting jobs and investment at risk

It seems commonplace nowadays to claim that Europe will be a big feature of the next election. I do not disagree.
But it is not because Nigel Farage says it will be. Or even because David Cameron’s backbenchers want it to be.
It will be significant in the next election because of the impact it will have on Britain’s prosperity as a nation, now and in the future.
The Conservative party’s approach to Europe poses the biggest risk to British national prosperity in a generation.
In the 23 months since his Bloomberg speech on Europe, instead of becoming a beacon of reform in Europe, David Cameron has become a more marginal figure in Brussels.
The effect has been a downgrading of Britain’s influence in other European capitals thanks to a prime minister more interested in burning bridges than building alliances.
During my time as Europe minister I worked with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and represented the United Kingdom in Brussels
I know that the influence you have in the room is dependent on the credibility you maintain with allies outside the room, and the capacity to understand the interests of other nations is fundamental to being able to advance the interests of your own.
The tragedy for Britain is that I do believe that today there is a coalition within the European Union to deliver real reform, but Cameron simply cannot take this agenda forward because he lacks credibility in Brussels and lacks strength in Westminster.
The real question is not what does this mean for Cameron, but what does this mean for Britain and our prosperity?
The single market of 500 million people produces and sells one-third of the world’s goods and services. It is where British businesses do at least 50 per cent of their trade.
According to CBI estimates, the net benefit to United Kingdom GDP of membership is around 4-5 per cent – between £62bn and £78bn. Which suggests a household benefit of around £3,000 a year – and individual benefit of around £1,125.
Leaving the EU would threaten one of the foundations of our nation’s economic prosperity. It would mean actively choosing an economy with weaker investment, less external trade, poorer productivity and worse living standards.
Despite that, a week after his appointment as foreign secretary this year Philip Hammond said he was ready to vote to take Britain out of Europe.
For a foreign secretary who is reported to have a background in business this appears to be a remarkably irresponsible gamble with Britain’s national interests – putting jobs and investment in the UK at risk.
And the real tragedy is that I believe Cameron, George Osborne, and Hammond know that.
They know that leaving the world’s most successful single market for our goods and one of most important drivers of investment in British businesses will only harm our productivity and worsen the cost-of-living crisis.
But they are still willing to contemplate it.
A prime minister willing to gamble with Britain’s prosperity for the sake of horse-trading with his own backbenchers simply cannot claim to be committed to building a better Britain and a more prosperous country.
Cameron may speak warm words to business on the one hand, but he is dealing away the prospects of a stable economic future with the other.
And the prospect of a second-term Conservative government which would be dominated by a divisive and deeply damaging debate on leaving the EU represents a clear and present danger for British business.
That is why Labour will continue to make the case for reform of Europe and not exit from Europe.
Millions of people across the country know that we simply cannot afford to let Cameron set Britain on the conveyor belt to exit.
This will be a campaign that unites all of us who share an interest in Britain’s future within Europe.
That is why today I am making a direct appeal to the quiet majority of concerned British businesses across the country.
The starting gun on the campaign to keep Britain in Europe has already been fired, and Britain now needs you to join in the race.
I know that Labour and the business community will not always agree about everything.
But this is an issue that should transcend party politics. It is about patriotic duty and good business sense.
The risk of exit is real. And so too is the responsibility on business, alongside Labour, to find its voice and make the case with authority and passion, that the right road for Britain is not exit from Europe but reform within Europe.


Douglas Alexander MP is shadow foreign secretary. He tweets @DAlexanderMP


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Douglas Alexander MP

is shadow foreign secretary


  • Labour needs to shout this loudly. But it needs to shout ALL its policies loudly. Come on Douglas & co, SHOUT. We have much to shout about & we MUST get past the Tory PR machine which has been & still is very effective.

  • In a nutshell the Tories and Kippers are appealing to the hard-wired xenophobic, hidden fears in [many of] us in UK of johnnie-foreigner – which may include ‘ travellers ‘ and Roma Gypsy groups, Polaks to Eskimos. As an Island nation surrounded by Herrings we have a very long history of being invaded by Romans, Vikings and two relatively recent World Wars, so who can blame ‘us’ being a little wary of ‘foreigners that don’t even speak our languagege’? – the lynch parties are always lying in wait. Its Human nature to be afraid of what we don’t understand, its up to Labour to show the way forward. Tories don’t want to be told to conform to any set of rules which may malign their Sovereign Dignity and somehow upset the whole shambolic applecart.
    Just saying that Tories are more rabid racists than Ukip won’t work. Labour will have to take off the kid gloves and give some real case histories to the public. Hard Talk and then HardFacts ill do the trick. But who up at Labour HQ has enough armour to take the inevitable flak which will come their way from the sniping media when Truth is out? Interesting to see …
    Pride comes before a fall. I am sure this is plain to many: Working as a Team – Britain is unbeatable. But fractured and splintered pulling against itself the UK will [and is] tear itself apart. Labour can save Britain for posterity by showing by example and deed a UNITED front.
    Unity is strength.

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