Cameron’s discomfort offers chance for European restraint

Toby Perkins MP writes for the Derbyshire Times…

Last week saw the CONDEM Government defeated as they attempted to argue against a cut to the EU budget with Labour MPs, who believe that Europe must demonstrate fiscal restraint, voting alongside Europhobic Tories who don’t really believe in Europe at all.

Toby Perkins MP: "a constructive relationship with Europe shouldn't be based on member states coughing up ever larger wodges of cash"

Toby Perkins MP: "a constructive relationship with Europe shouldn't be based on member states coughing up ever larger wodges of cash"

Whilst these unusual bedfellows may have had different motivations, it now provides an opportunity for the Prime Minister to show that Britain believes in a constructive relationship with Europe that isn’t simply based on member states coughing up ever larger wodges of cash.

The PM certainly suffered an embarrassing defeat for insisting on an increase to the EU budget after the huge cuts he has presided over to our schools, transport and Police.

Yet saying that Europe must live within its means is not the same as decrying the value we get from our position as a central force in the world’s largest trading block.  As a Shadow Business Minister I meet exporting and manufacturing businesses every week who stress the value and business that Britain gets from the single market and their unease that the hostile rhetoric from our politicians and the press could lead to us severing those links with catastrophic consequences for UK plc. They also bemoan the negative impact this approach has on their ability to attract custom from overseas.

So I see nothing contradictory in saying that it should be our role as critical friends of Europe to insist that European institutions demonstrate that they can live within more straightened times as those in our public services, private businesses and indeed most households are having to.

Recent figures suggest that the Olympics contributed to growth in the last quarter, but the underlying prospects still show that we are growing more slowly than almost any of our competitors and that the recovery from this recession is the slowest on record.

Cuts to Housing Benefit, which will particularly target those working on low incomes and the young, will have a negative impact on consumer spending and the government’s strategy of making it easier for firms to fire people is hardly likely to boost consumer confidence. That’s why a one nation Labour Party’s alternative strategy calls for a reduction in VAT and an NI holiday for small firms to put more money into the real economy and ease the burden on hard- pressed households.

Even the government, who told us that austerity was the only way forward, now seem to be accepting that without growth we will not reduce the deficit. Indeed the deficit has grown this year, and government borrowing continues to soar as tax revenues fall and the number of long term unemployed rises.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has explained that a One Nation Labour government will expect responsibility from those at the top and bottom of our society, but we can only expect responsibility from others if we are willing to demonstrate it ourselves, this week’s message to Europe is a small but important step along that road.

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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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