‘The choice is not exit or surrender but how we transform Europe’ | Letters

Two men, one wearing an 'I'm in' T-shirt

A Britain Stronger in Europe campaigner in south London on 17 April 2016.
Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex/Shutterstock

We are going to vote for Europe, to change Europe. We are tired of the companies that abuse their global status to avoid their tax responsibilities or to play one nation’s workers or governments off against others. We want international rules to clamp down on climate change. And we demand humane ways to deal with the growing numbers of migrants and a rebalancing of wealth, income and opportunity across the whole of Europe through new solidarity funds that move as people move.

We know we must stay in Europe if we are ever to get a financial transaction tax; if we are to develop a progressive alternative to TTIP that levels social and environmental protections up, not down; and if we are to build the public platforms for renewable energy, and even new media platforms that are publicly owned and accountable.

We know too that none of this will be easy. But there is no choice. Sovereignty has long escaped national borders and is never coming back. As tough as it is, we have to create a trans-national democratic political and economic union. It is the only hope the left has. If the EU didn’t exist we would build it now – different and better, yes – but we would still build it.

This is not Cameron’s or the Tories’ Europe. This is a Europe inspired by the social and democratic values of Labour. This is a unique moment in which the fate of Britain and Europe will be sealed. The Labour party, Labour members and supporters will be critical. The choice is not exit or surrender but how we transform Europe. Working with social democrats across the continent, victory on 23 June, if we achieve it, is just the starting point for the Europe we want.
John McDonnell MP
Margaret Beckett MP
Clive Lewis MP
Lisa Nandy MP
Emily Thornberry MP
Cat Smith MP
Steve Rotheram MP
Jonathan Reynolds MP
Chris Bryant MP
Rachael Maskell MP
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
Jo Stevens MP
Louise Haigh MP
Angela Rayner MP
Dave Anderson MP
Richard Burden MP
Peter Dowd MP
Chris Matteson MP
Justin Madders MP
Richard Howitt MEP
Lucy Anderson MEP
Baroness Oona King
Baroness Joan Bakewell
Baroness Massey
Baroness Lister
Baroness Hilton
Baroness Warwick
Lord Rea
Lord Wills
Lord Judd
Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland

John Longworth (‘I quit so I could tell the truth about Brexit and business’, 11 April) is wrong to say that the business community is split 50-50 over Britain’s membership of the EU.

Twelve surveys conducted in 2015 and 2016 show that all major UK business organisations and trade associations show a majority favouring remaining in the EU.

And it’s not only multinationals that are “anti-Brexit”. The British Chamber of Commerce’s poll of 2,133 companies, of which 1,852 were small or medium-sized entreprises, showed 60% in favour of the EU. Last month, Tech UK polled our fastest-growing tech companies, three-quarters of which are SMEs, and found 70% support for Britain remaining in Europe. Even the Federation of Small Business poll found 47% to 41% in favour of remaining. The divide isn’t large or small. It is exporters or not. And at a time of trade gaps for the UK surely, we need to listen extremely closely to them.

Continued access to the single market and the free movement of talent across borders, are not only critical drivers of economic growth but vital to the attractiveness of the UK and London as an international business capital.
Naomi Smith
Europe Director, London First

John Longworth says the majority of UK businesses neither import nor export, so merely suffer the burden of EU regulation. Most EU regulation consists of stronger consumer rights, employment law, and environmental protection. After Brexit, a future rightwing government could dismantle much of this in an ideological pursuit of free markets. A bonfire of EU regulations will damage far more than SMEs.

He contrasts the UK’s trade deficit with the EU with its surplus with the rest of the world. But even if we ceased trading with the EU altogether, we would still import similar goods from elsewhere, probably at higher cost, so the deficit would remain or rise.

Regarding corporate tax avoidance, yes, the EU needs to do more. But it can only do what member states allow. The UK record on tax is appalling, so how will Brexit improve matters?

The claim that leaving the EU will deliver certainty in an uncertain world is pure fantasy. The consequences of being out are no more certain than any economic forecasting in volatile and dangerous times, but in three months the pound has declined by 13% against a weak euro. Markets are clearly nervous about the risks from Brexit. Sweden’s Handelsbank predicts the pound may fall to $1.22. None of this bothers the leavers, but it could provoke a new recession with devastating impact on employment.
Simon Sweeney
York Management School, University of York

We frequently hear that the UK economy needs rebalancing in favour of manufacturing. The news that “Brexit could cost 100,000 jobs in finance” (15 April) should therefore be welcomed. A bloated finance sector means an overvalued currency, and a reduction in the sector will see sterling reduce in value, perhaps by 20%. This will make our exports cheaper even allowing a margin to pay any EU tariffs.

A bonus from a reduced finance sector is that there is also less chance of the banks going bust again. Though probably not much less.
Michael Gold
London

Jeremy Corbyn’s case for remaining in the EU is strong (Report, 15 April). Who can doubt that the IDS-Gove-Boris axis would use Brexit to declare open season on minimum pay, maternity leave, the benefit “system” and equal pay – under a veneer of disingenuous, half-baked patriotism, of course.

But does anyone believe that Corbyn’s larger reason for remaining – to reform the EU and recalibrate it as a more financially equal, just and caring society – would happen? Could he shift US and EU positions on the TTIP, an item strangely unmentioned in the government postal handout of the “full facts”? So could we end up staying in under the stewardship of Osborne and Cameron with more of the same – renewed austerity and free-market inequity? What are the alternatives? A reluctant yes vote, abstention or finding a bridge to jump off?
Graham Aspinall
Sheffield

Your editorial and Martin Kettle’s comments on Jeremy Corbyn’s pro-EU speech (both 15 April) fastidiously avoided addressing its failure to adequately meet the concerns of the majority of Labour voters over the EU’s inability to control the flow of people across its borders. To really keep us in Europe Corbyn needs to persuade voters that he will work with other socialist governments, themselves losing support across Europe because of this issue, to address the democratic concerns of the majority about migration.
Colin Hines
Twickenham, Middlesex

MEPs and trade unionists who maintain that it is possible to have an EU-US trade deal (TTIP) that would exclude the NHS and other public services from its reach (Letters, 12 April) are either being disingenuous or do not understand what they are dealing with. TTIP, CETA (EU-Canada) and TISA (Trade in Services Agreement) are all being negotiated in secret by the European commission and in reality have little or nothing to do with trade. They are all binding supranational treaties that will give transnational corporations unprecedented powers to shape domestic legislation for the maximisation of corporate profit without hindrance from elected governments at local, regional or national level. So-called standstill and ratchet clauses will make it impossible for EU member states to re-nationalise any parts of their economy currently undertaken by private capital, lest they run the risk of being sued for tens of millions of euros under investor state mechanisms allowing foreign companies to sue sovereign countries.

David Miliband’s outdated, cold-war view of the EU (12 April) cannot disguise that it too is an instrument for corporate hegemony at the expense of local democracy. Nevertheless, in common with the other large UK unions, GMB has opted to support the UK’s continued membership of the European single market and try to change it from within. Only time will tell whether that is a prudent strategy but, in the meantime, we are firmly in line with the TUC policy of outright opposition to trade deals that will be of no benefit to our members or, indeed, the public.
Bert Schouwenburg
International officer, GMB

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