I have been astonished to hear the preposterous argument from the Lib-Dems – Clegg in his speech yesterday, Martin Harwood on Daily Politics yesterday, Bill Newton Dunn on BBC Radio Derby last evening – that “We need to be in the EU for jobs”, and even (from Clegg) that “UKIP voted against EU programmes that create UK jobs”. Just which ones were they, Nick?
The €uro currency has rightly been described as “A Bankruptcy Machine”. But the EU itself is a Job-Destruction Machine. I have already deconstructed the Lib-Dem lie that “3½million jobs depend on our EU membership”. As they know perfectly well (or ought to know), the jobs depend on trade, not membership, and the trade will continue after Independence Day. And in any case, if 3½ million British jobs depend on UK exports to Europe, you can bet that 5 million jobs on the continent depend on their exports to the UK. We’re their largest customer in the world, bar none.
I’ve been a member of the European parliament’s Unemployment Committee for many years, though to be fair as UKIP’s Industry & Energy Spokesman, I focus on the Industry Committee rather than the Unemployment Committee (my good colleague Derek Clark on the other hand, is also on Unemployment, but attends and votes assiduously). Month by month the Unemployment Committee votes through measure after measure that damages employment. The two classics are the Working Time Directive and the Temporary Workers Directive. But there are now dozens of these measures.
They’re presented as “Employment Protection”, and it’s easy for Europhiles to spin a positive story about them. But in the short term, they create huge hiring disincentives (especially for the SMEs we love to talk about). They raise immediate barriers to entry into the labour market. They increase employment costs. And in the medium term, they stifle growth and competitiveness, and reduce GDP and overall employment opportunities. A Job Destruction Machine.
I remember saying to other MEPs on the Committee: “Look, you’ve just voted for something that will destroy jobs in your home country”. And the reply? “OK, Roger, we know you worry about that, but we’re building Europe!”.
Then there’s my specialist subject, energy. But don’t take my word for it. Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani says energy prices in Europe “are creating an Industrial Massacre”. Not my words. His words. But he’s right. We’re driving jobs and investment out of the EU altogether, often to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards. It’s a lose-lose deal. Ask the 500+ workers who lost their jobs at the Alcan Lynemouth plant as a direct result of green taxes. Ask the 123 workers who lost their jobs at the Kingsnorth power station in Kent, because of the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive. Or ask BMW, who chose to locate a new plant in the USA, not the EU, explicitly because of energy prices.
Then there’s the EU’s “free movement of workers” principle, which allows citizens of much poorer countries to come freely to richer member-states, attracted by higher wages – or in many cases, by higher welfare and healthcare standards. These new arrivals clearly affect job prospects for existing citizens and residents (it’s well said that those who suffer most from the next wave of immigration are the last wave of immigrants). But they also cause “wage compression”, driving down wages, especially for lower-paid, lower-skilled workers.
Finally, there’s the reckless and disastrous €uro currency experiment, which has created conditions in Southern Europe which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. Youth unemployment close to 60% in Greece, and not much better in Portugal, Spain, Italy. A whole generation of Mediterranean youth thrown on the scrap-heap in the name of European Integration. It’s little satisfaction for us Eurosceptics to say “We told you so fifteen years ago”. But we did. And they wouldn’t listen.
In the EU, policy area after policy area has done huge damage to employment, growth and prosperity. To hear the Lib-Dems (and other EU apologists) today telling us that “We need the EU for jobs” is simply breath-taking effrontery.