Normal party politics were put to one side this week in Newbury as mainstream politicians came together with local MP Richard Benyon in a display of cross-party support for Britain to remain a member of the European Union.
Former Reading West Labour MP Martin Salter has come out of retirement to campaign for the Remain side in the referendum to be held on June 23rd. Also present with Mr Benyon were the Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates for Newbury in last year's General Election, Judith Bunting and Jonny Roberts. West Berkshire Councillors were represented by Council Leader Roger Croft and the Lib Dem Leader of the Opposition Alan Macro.
The cross-party group came together ahead of a public meeting in Thatcham last Friday evening (June 3rd) with Richard Benyon, Judith Bunting and Jonny Roberts sharing a platform in support of the Stronger In campaign.
The meeting turned into a lively debate with standing room only. Richard Benyon, Judith Bunting and Jonny Roberts talked openly about the powerful reasons for remaining in Europe for the benefit of West Berkshire and for the future of our children and the country as a whole.
Richard Benyon said: “It was good to see so many people engaging in this vital debate and I know from feedback from those who came along that they appreciated the cross-party consensus. This issue is way above party politics. It is not like a General Election when we would have another chance to vote after five years or so. This is a once-in-a-lifetime decision which will have huge implications for the future of this country.”
“For me, the main issues are the economy and our security. The consensus across business, backed up by independent economic bodies such as the Institute of Fiscal Studies, is strongly in favour of Remain. Businesses in West Berkshire, such as Xtrac in Thatcham, benefit enormously from access to the single market – the largest trading bloc in the world – and our local economy benefits accordingly. When it comes to security, I sit on the Defence Select Committee and lead the UK’s delegation to the NATO Assembly and have frequent opportunity to hear from some of the best experts on defence and security as well as our allies. There is an almost universal view that Britain leaving the EU would be bad for European security and therefore bad for Britain.”
Martin Salter added: “I’ve long been a supporter of Britain’s membership of the EU as there's an overwhelming economic case for remaining in an institution that has helped deliver an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. However, we should also remind ourselves of how the EU has delivered many important protections for our quality of life including rights at work, consumer protections, cleaner rivers, improved sewage discharge standards, better bathing beaches, wildlife habitat and water framework directives – in fact there is a long list of environmental achievements that have come from Brussels rather than Westminster. That's why I'm so pleased to be campaigning alongside Richard Benyon, my former parliamentary neighbour and Minister for the Natural Environment, and representatives from other parties for Britain to remain inside the EU.”
Judith Bunting said: “I recognise this is a difficult decision for many, but any vote to Leave could result in a horribly impoverished future for our children and our grandchildren. For me, the most worrying aspect is unemployment. Many large employers are indicating that if we leave they will reduce operations in Britain or relocate entirely. Those businesses remaining will not be able to pick up the slack. Too much is at risk if we lose this referendum on the 23rd June. I urge all supporters to take the time go and vote Remain on June 23 rd . I really don’t want our country or our children to face levels of unemployment, again, of two and a half million or more.”
Cross-party support in Thatcham for Stronger In: Councillor Alan Macro, former Labour MP Martin Salter, Labour candidate Jonny Roberts, Lib Dem candidate Judith Bunting and Councillor Roger Croft
There is another opportunity to hear the case for remaining in the EU this Friday 3rd June. Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, along with Jonny Roberts, the Labour candidate in last year’s General Election, will be at the Burdwood Community Centre in Thatcham (RG19 4YA), for a Q&A session starting at 6.30pm.
Richard commented, ‘This is a momentous decision for us all, of every party political persuasion and none. It will affect the future of this country, and the future of our children and grandchildren. There is so much at stake and I am pleased that so many people are keen to engage in the debate and find out more.’
NO, WE'RE NOT AHEAD OF THE PACK IN TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE. BUT WE SHOULD BE. HERE'S HOW TO DO IT
From conservativehome, May 28:
A familiar refrain is that Britain is ahead of other European Union countries in introducing measures to tackle climate change – but that we should not be.
The assertion raises two questions.
First, how credible is the idea that are we are unilaterally forging ahead of the rest, when you think of France’s extensive nuclear reactor fleet, or consider that Sweden already gets half of its total energy, not just electricity, from renewable sources?
And, second, if we are ahead, is that really damaging the competitiveness of British businesses and our economy overall?
These concerns are misplaced. It turns out that we are not “ahead of the pack”. Which means that we need to look again, in turn, at claims that climate policies are holding back British businesses.
Consider for a moment the fact that all EU member countries share the same ambition – a cut of carbon emissions by 80-95 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050, and an energy system that is secure, efficient and cheap.
These countries are starting from very different circumstances: the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, for example, were acutally within the Soviet Union itself, not just in the Soviet bloc, in 1990. Some economies are intrinsically more efficient than others. And some have historical advantages. The UK began the 1990s with the dash for gas, and the then newly-united Germany by using the wealth of the old West Germany to clean up the dirty industry of the old East Germany. So it is not surprising that if one looks only at emission cuts since 1990, both do relatively rather well.
If you try to compare countries based on individual measures, therefore, you will fail to obtain a realistic comparison.
The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a think-tank on whose Advisory Board I sit, has just published a more comprehensive analysis of countries’ progress towards the common EU goal. It looks at a “basket” of seven measures, incorporating both historical achievements and the current rate of progress. These measures cover emission reductions, energy efficiency and the build-out of renewable and nuclear energy.
And on this basket, the UK is just about average. We are near the head of the pack on some, but woefully behind on others. This holds true whether the UK is compared with our closest equivalents in terms of size and GDP (Germany, Italy, France and Spain), or with the entire 28 member states. We are amidst the pack – not out in front.
Both George Osborne and Amber Rudd have observed in recent times that the UK should “cut our carbon emissions no slower but also no faster than our fellow countries in Europe”, and that is important to “travel in step” with our competitors. The ECIU analysis shows that this ambition has been achieved; we are already travelling in step.
Looking ahead, the Government must decide within the next month whether or not to accept the Committee on Climate Change (CCC)’s recommendation on the level of the fifth carbon budget, covering the period from 2028-32. The Government’s response will give a vital signal to investors. As the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee found recently, confidence has been “spooked” by the recent raft of policy changes, which they see as abrupt and opaque.
Unequivocal acceptance of the CCC’s fifth carbon budget advice – with no ifs, buts or caveats – is an ideal opportunity to reassure investors by providing certainty about the UK’s direction of travel, and to unlock the investment that the UK’s energy system sorely needs at the lowest possible costs. The ECC Committee has also recommended unequivocal acceptance of the CCC’s advice as the most cost effective way of meeting our long-term goals and providing certainty to investors.
If the UK is going no faster than its EU counterparts, the notion that our policies are driving British industry into the dust cannot, logically, be true. It was raised during the recent steel crisis, with certain media commentators claiming that unilateral UK climate policies were driving up energy prices and making British manufacturers uncompetitive.
In reality, energy policy costs make up around one per cent of steel production costs. The precise structure of levies and compensation can be amended to give manufacturers some relief – as the Government has done. But the real problems are beyond the capacity of government to solve: excess capacity, collapsed prices worldwide, and a global glut of cheap steel.
The reality is, as the Prime Minister himself has said, that supporting the low-carbon sector is not just good for the planet, but good for the British economy. The low-carbon sector is worth £46 billion per year and employs nearly a quarter of a million people – more than double the size of our car manufacturing industry. Low-carbon industries have revitalised communities in such places as Hull and Grimsby, and are creating new business opportunities for innovative British manufacturers.
As I and a number of my Conservative colleagues recently said in a letter to David Cameron, early and full acceptance of the CCC’s recommendation for the fifth carbon budget will give investors the confidence to act, and so maintain this government’s proud record of lower emissions combined with sustained economic growth.
The Prime Minister has also said that the UK is in a “global race” and that “the countries that succeed in that race, the economies in Europe that will prosper, are those that are the greenest and the most energy efficient.” He may well be right; but if the UK is to be among the winners of this global race, it needs to keep its foot on the accelerator, because it is not yet out in front.