With the European elections imminent it is interesting to reflect on some of the key issues facing voters in deciding who to vote for.
Regardless of political perspective and whether the UK was in or out of the EC, Europe has a fundamental impact on all our lives and the economy of the UK. Europe accounts for some 50 per cent of UK trade which supports over 3m UK jobs.
It is the world’s largest single trading block which countries have clamoured to seek to join, the latest being Ukraine; to the chagrin of Mr Putin’s Russia. Its world influence is second only to that of the USA.
Even European countries that are not EC members such as Norway and Switzerland recognise they have to trade with Europe. But to do so they have to be bound by EU regulations, but as non members have no influence over such regulations.
Indeed both are signatories to the SCHENGEN open borders agreement which allows unrestricted, passport-less cross border travel between signatory nations. They understand the real benefits that positive immigration policies bring to their nations and economies. The UK and Eire remain the only EC member countries not signed up to SCHENGEN.
Against that background it is essential that the MEPs the UK elect represent the interests of its people and maximise the opportunities for the UK economy and society. Their engagement with Europe is crucial for the UK.
In an interview on BBC Andrew Marr programme on the 2nd of March, Nigel Farage of UKIP admitted that his MEPs and candidates are only interested in controlling immigration and remitting powers to Westminster; a situation he also recognised his MEPs had no control over. He said nothing about maximising opportunity from Europe for the UK economy, jobs or social cohesion.
He went on to admit that UKIP Policies are still being written and implied his 2010 Election policy was a farce! He also agreed with Andrew Marr that it would be tough getting UKIP candidates elected to Parliament due to our antiquated voting system and that Parliament was the only way to change UK position on Europe!
An opinion poll survey in the Daily Mail, hardly a bastion of left wing ideology, confirmed that as compared with other political parties, the majority of UKIP members are white and retired (see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2572187/The-secrets-ballot-box-Tories-earn-Labour-voters-rent-home-Lib-Dems-better-educated-Ukip-voters-white-retired.html).
As such they will be less interested in employment opportunities. But they should be interested in overall economic activity to secure their pensions; which ironically will only be maximised by UK continued engagement and trade with Europe form the inside as a full member.
The only UK Party fully committed to Europe and sustaining the peace and prosperity that it has given us and working from within to change its policies and regulations for the good of the UK are the Liberal Democrats.
Liberal Democrats are seeking real effective change and reform by hard work as committed and active MEPs; unlike the disappointing attendance and activity record of UKIP MEPs, despite continuing to draw their full salaries and allowances!
A policy of carping about Europe from the sidelines as advocated by UKIP brings no influence and will only marginalise UK proud record in the eyes of the world.
We all have a choice in May; the only Party that is fully committed to Europe and all the benefits it gives to the UK are the Liberal Democrats.
(LDem) Horsham district councillor for Forest ward, North Street, Horsham