Ashley Fox is an MEP for South West England, and is the leader of Britain’s Conservative MEPs.
We all remember the last Labour government’s record on the EU. The rhetoric was sometimes tough in Britain, but the action was weak in Brussels. They claimed to defend Britain’s interests, and then surrendered them on a daily basis.
Reading Labour’s manifesto, it seems clear that they plan to return to this duplicity if they are elected on 7th May. Labour is promising one thing in London, but examine the record of their MEPs and you see they are doing something else in Brussels.
Labour’s headline pledge to be “tougher on budget discipline” in the EU has no credibility from a party whose MEPs consistently vote in favour of granting discharge (signing off) to the EU budget, even though the EU’s auditors have been unable to give an unqualified statement of assurance (a clean bill of health) to the accounts for 19 years. Both Conservative MEPs and the Conservative government have refused to sign off accounts that suffer from error.
Only last week – after their manifesto was launched – Labour MEPs voted down a Conservative amendment calling for greater budgetary discipline. Regularly they vote for more spending on EU social policies such as asking for an increased budget for an EU Youth Guarantee Scheme that the EU’s own auditors say has yet to create a single job.
Labour’s manifesto adopts a Conservative proposal for a “red card” system that would allow national parliaments to block overzealous laws. Their MEPs have voted against such a proposal several times, most recently last month.
Their manifesto has pledged to seek “transitional controls” for new Member States joining the EU, so as to prevent large influxes of migrants. Yet Labour MEPs repeatedly voted against these controls in the cases of Bulgaria and Romania.
Labour pledge to “safeguard the future of the offshore oil and gas industry”, yet on the day that their manifesto was released Labour MEPs voted against measures that would do exactly that; instead supporting regulation that was not only unnecessary but would pile on extra costs to businesses, risking both energy and job security.
Labour pledge to drive reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, seemingly forgetting that they promised reform of the CAP in exchange for giving away £7 billion pounds of the British rebate. At the first meeting to discuss how that reform might look the Labour government did not even send a minister. And we may not want Labour to drive reform of the CAP if their idea of reform is to push up food prices, as Labour MEPs would have done by proposing amendments to the CAP that would take ten percent of land out of production.
On the economy, they say they will support small businesses yet repeatedly vote for business-destroying social legislation, such as requiring all businesses that have to make redundancies responsible for monitoring the psycho-social health of the redundant workers. In the coming months the EU will review the Working Time Directive and the UK’s opt-out of its provisions – so crucial to many small businesses – will be at risk. With almost all Labour MEPs selected thanks to trade union support, and with Ed Miliband’s union paymasters to mollify, we should be concerned about just how damaging a Labour government will be for the onslaught of new EU employment legislation that often just leads to more unemployment.
So when reading Labour’s manifesto, just think of these few examples of where their bluster does not match their record in recent months. If Labour are the largest party after the election, we will not just see chaos at home, but a return to a party that duplicitously promises one thing in Britain and then delivers the opposite abroad. That’s why we need a Conservative government working with a strong team of Conservative MEPs to fight for Britain’s interests every day, not just at election time.