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BIG DEBATE: Our EU membership was hot issue at the polls for first time

PUBLISHED: 17:22 30 May 2014 | UPDATED: 17:22 30 May 2014

EU's 2007 flag

EU's 2007 flag

© EC

Europe played a major part in the recent elections for London’s MEPs and local councillors. The rise of UKIP as a political force reflected the public’s growing anti-Europe sentements which cost the Tories and pro-EU Lib Dems at the polls. So does it really matter whether we’re in or out? A UKIP candidate in the Newham Council election, Daniel Oxley, takes on a re-run battle for hearts and minds with Sarah Ludford, one of the 14 Lib Dem MEPs who lost their seat, on whether London benefits from the EU...

"The EU is an anti-democratic, imperialistic, bossy, self-serving, wasteful, top-down organisation "

Daniel Oxley, UKIP former Newham candidate

Daniel Oxley would support the EU if it was “a cosy place where politicians meet to resolve their differences”—but insists this is not the true picture:

It is an anti-democratic, imperialistic, bossy, self-serving, wasteful, top-down organisation which impairs our security, deprives us of our rights and makes us poor.

The EU presents itself as a parliamentary democracy, but the body which actual tells us what to do is the EU Commission.

The 28 commissioners are appointed—not elected by the public.

"Of course the EU isn’t perfect and needs reform—but many ‘bad news’ stories we hear are simply untrue"

Sarah Ludford, Lib Dem former MEP

The previous EU Commission had such characters as Estonia’s Siim Kallas, previously a member of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union, and the UK-delegated Baroness Ashton who had never been elected to anything.

The EU Parliament is a ‘puppet’ that’s like a parliament, but doesn’t make laws. The EU Commission is not legally bound by the parliament.

Thanks to the EU Arrest Warrant, British citizens can be extradited to any member-state without trial. The legal formality does not consider evidence, just checks the paperwork.

You may find, having been sent abroad to a foreign prison with no evidence, that there are few limits on the time you can be held without trial—you will be “guilty until proven innocent”.

The claim that the EU has kept the peace is a myth. The peace has been kept by NATO.

Before Britain joined the Common Market in 1973, we traded at a profit with Europe.

Now, after 41 years, the UK trades at a loss.

It is not a “free trade” organisation—but a customs union which impairs our ability to trade beyond its borders. Look no further than Tate & Lyle’s Silvertown factory here in East London for the evidence.

Daniel Oxley... let's get out!  Sarah Ludford... let's stay in!Daniel Oxley... let's get out! Sarah Ludford... let's stay in!

Leaving the EU is no guarantee of freedom, peace and prosperity. However, it is difficult to see how things will improve if we stay.

I am pro-Europe and pro-immigration—that’s why I favour leaving the EU. We could have national sovereignty, trading policies based on UK interests, human rights and an immigration policy on a fair basis with no special preference from any particular area.

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But Sarah Ludford, who was 15 years a London MEP before losing her seat at the May 22 polls, says being in the EU is important for the economy:

Working with our European partners is vital for jobs, particularly in east London, and also helps us tackle environmental threats like climate change and the chronic levels of London’s air pollution.

I am disappointed to have lost my seat in the European Parliament—but am proud of what I’ve achieved over the past 15 years as a Liberal Democrat MEP.

I have worked on how to make sure that police across Europe can catch major criminals, that victims get justice and suspects get fair trials.

One of my proudest achievements was securing overwhelming support from fellow MEPs for reform of the European Arrest Warrant so that it is used fairly and not for petty offences.

As negotiator for the Liberal group on new EU data protection rules, I helped secure agreement in the European Parliament for robust privacy rights for citizens, while ensuring that jobs in the digital sector such as in east London’s ‘Tech City’ are supported.

Of course the EU isn’t perfect and is in need of reform—but the vast majority of what the public hears about Europe is the ‘bad news’ propagated by the right-wing press.

Many of these stories are misleading, one-sided or simply untrue, but the barrage of Euro myths over the decades has swung public opinion against the EU.

The Euro-election results show there is some way to go in changing public perceptions.

Nevertheless, I’m proud that LibDem Leader Nick Clegg—unlike David Cameron and Ed Miliband—had the courage to take on UKIP, make the positive case for staying in the EU, for openness and diversity.

With right-wing parties on the rise across Europe, Labour and Tory politicians also need to stand up for London’s interests by making clear that they support Britain’s EU membership and oppose the politics of division and prejudice.


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