Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Why I am standing in Morley and Outwood



I am very pleased to have been selected as the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Morley and Outwood.

I was born, grew up and studied in West Yorkshire and spent 2.5 years as one of the region's MEPs, so I understand not only the problems, but also the potential that areas like Morley & Outwood face. I also have friends who live in the constituency.

Morley and Outwood deserves a hard working Liberal Democrat MP to represent the views of local people in Westminster, and ensure that Liberal Democrat policies that can help and support the people of Morley and Outwood are implemented. Such policies include:

   A further £400 tax cut for low and middle income workers by increasing tax the threshold to £12,500 (full time minimum wage).
   Strict new rules to clamp down and tax evasion and avoidance to make sure that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share and those that do not face serious consequences.
   Supporting families by increasing free childcare provision for working parents and improving shared parental leave.
   Protecting education funding from crèche to college.
   Providing the health service with the £8bn additional funding NHS bosses say is needed in next 5 years.

In addition, why would anyone not want to represent an area that includes the famous Rhubarb triangle?! The Yorkshire rhubarb of course benefits from having European protected regional food speciality status and is great when used to make crumble (slight vested interest here as my Mum makes a great rhubarb crumble....).

It is important to remind voters of Labour's poor handling of the economy in which Ed Balls played a key role first as an economic advisor to Gordon Brown, then as a government minister. As City Minister he championed Labour's "light touch regulation" of financial services, which nearly toppled our banking system, yet in 2011, unbelievably he denied there had been a budget deficit under Labour's watch, telling the BBC: I don't think we had a structural deficit at all in that period.

Labour actually ran a budget deficit since 2002 more than five (!) years before the financial crisis happened.

The Liberal Democrats went into government to help clear up the economic mess Labour had left behind and significant progress has now been made, but the job is not done yet. The Conservatives deficit reduction plans (that there were unable to implement in coalition with the Liberal Democrats) rely purely on cuts, mainly targeting the working poor, but require no additional contributions from the better off in society. 

The Liberal Democrats believe that finishing the job of balancing the nations books can be done in a fairer way using tax rises that target the wealthiest, banks and big businesses and limiting spending cuts to protect the least well off in society. When not opposing every single government cut, the Labour party would borrow more to fund their spending promises because their Bank levy can't really be spent more than once, leaving our children with debts to pay off. 



Unlike Labour and the Tories, Liberal Democrat candidates do not have funds flowing from trade unions or big business, but rely on small donations from ordinary people. You can donate to my campaign by clicking the "donate" button on the Wakefield and Morley Liberal Democrat website: http://www.wakefieldlibdems.org.uk

Thanks in advance for your support!

Rebecca Taylor

Monday, 23 February 2015

MPs should focus on being MPs!




I was a Member of the European Parliament for two and a half years during which time I worked on average 6 days a week, including some rather unsocial hours. Sunday was usually my only proper day off and I often did some catching up on emails that day.

The job of course also involved a great deal of travel, mainly between Leeds and Brussels, but also across the Yorkshire and Humber region and to Strasbourg once a month. I didn’t have much time for family and friends and many complained to me about this.

The life of an MP is similar (although possibly with less travel). I know MPs who work 80 hours a week pretty much on a permanent basis. I therefore struggle to comprehend how an MP has the time for a second job.

If they have time for another job, what are they not doing as an MP as a consequence? Perhaps they only show up to very few parliamentary debates, hold few or no constituency surgeries, don’t visit local businesses, schools and colleges and rarely venture out to meet their constituents? And if they’re not working full-time as an MP, why are they receiving a full-time salary?

Any MP foolish enough to claim they need to earn extra money because £67k isn’t enough to live on (yes Malcolm Rifkind I’m talking to you!), is so out of touch with ordinary life they deserve all the criticism they get. I managed to live in London, the most expensive city in the UK, on a bit more than a third of an MP’s salary. Doing so did require careful budgeting (my top tips: walk or cycle to work, take a packed lunch every day and never buy take away coffee), but it is possible and many people do it. In fact, many people manage on less.

I understand that some MPs earned considerably more before they entered politics and if that is the case, then good for them for making a choice to earn less in order to take up public office. That is not however, a justification for a 2nd job/outside consultancy work.

I do however understand that for MPs in certain professions, e.g. the medical profession, there may be a need to undertake training/education or even some professional practice in order to remain qualified and able to practice. I think it’s fair enough to allow an MP time for such activities, but I strongly suspect they don’t come to anything like the time commitment of a 2nd job.

I am uncomfortable about an MP being paid for advice on matters that relate to parliamentary business. As an MEP, when I met with representatives of businesses, charities, NGOs, industry associations, public sector bodies etc, they often asked whether their organisation’s aims in their campaign/concerning a piece of legislation et were realistic and achievable, and if certain of my colleagues were worth approaching. I was happy in such situations to give my opinion (and it was only my opinion). The idea of being paid to do that while holding elected public office not only seems wrong, but seems possibly undemocratic, as I’m sure only a minority of organisations have the money to do that.

And finally, the thing that annoys me the most about the second job debate is that it paints a picture of MPs that is wholly unfair to all those who dedicate long hours serving their constituents sometimes at great personal cost.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Liberal Democrats stand up for British trade & jobs; UKIP and Eurosceptic Tories pretend you can have your cake and eat it

Following a number of Twitter exchanges about trade with Eurosceptics (mostly UKIP supporters), I decided I needed a bit more than 140 characters to properly address this crucial topic.

As a Liberal Democrat, I am a supporter of UK membership of the EU for many reasons including the benefits of being part of the world's biggest single market. Being inside a huge borderless market of 500m consumers is good for British companies, British jobs and British consumers. The UK also benefits from over 70 trade agreements that the EU, negotiating as the world's most powerful trade bloc, has secured with countries across the globe. 

Right now, when the UK economy is beginning to turn a corner, the last thing the country needs is to jeopardise this recovery by pulling out of the EU. In this respect, the Liberal Democrats are the only party standing up and fighting for EU membership and what it means for British jobs; the Tories are too divided to take a position, Labour lacks the courage of its convictions, and we all know where UKIP stands.
 

Eurosceptic trade myth no 1: no jobs are linked to EU membership so none would be lost if we left


A study published a few weeks ago (http://www.cebr.com/reports/british-jobs-and-the-single-market/) shows that over 4 million jobs are linked to Britain's membership of the EU, which given that 50% of our exports go to other EU countries, isn't entirely surprising.

This doesn't mean that if we leave the EU, all those jobs disappear overnight, but it means those jobs are directly linked to our ability to trade (buy and sell) with other EU countries as part of the world's biggest single market.
 
In particular, the UK is very good at attracting international companies to set up here as a springboard to the EU single market, for example the Japanese car companies Nissan, Honda and Toyota.  

These companies may not go as far as leaving the UK in the event of the country exiting the EU (although we cannot be sure of that), but uncertainty about future EU market access would at the very least push them to slim down their UK operations to serve only the UK market rather than producing for export across the EU. 

I want the UK to remain an attractive destination for foreign investment of the kind that has just seen Siemens announce plans to create over 1,000 jobs in Hull in the renewable energy field.

 

Eurosceptic trade myth no 2: we can leave the EU and retain the same trading relationship because "we buy more from Europe than they buy from us"


This is where it's easy to expose a gaping hole in Eurosceptic rhetoric. While the UK buys more goods from the rest of the EU than we sell, the opposite is true of services, which represent 80% (!) of the British economy. The UK exports far more services to the rest of Europe than they sell to us.

This is why our financial services sector (among others) is very worried about a potential EU exit as they fear the massive loss of business that would result from being locked out of the single market in financial services ( http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/04/28/uk-britain-europe-idUKKBN0DE0CD20140428 ).
 
UKIP and Eurosceptic Tories are doing their best to hide this rather vital fact by repeating the "they sell more to us" line without explaining that they only mean goods and not services. Only the week before last on the Sunday Politics show, UKIP candidate Patrick O'Flynn was made to look rather foolish when BBC journalist Andrew Neil had to spell out the facts of British trade in services to the rest of the EU to him; O'Flynn gave no answer. I have since tweeted him several times about this, but he doesn't respond; one suspects either because he cannot or because a truthful answer reveals the weakness of his party's arguments on trade.
 
China also sells more (goods) to the UK than we do to China, but I don't think anyone would be foolish enough to claim this would give the UK the upper hand in trade negotiations with China. However, Eurosceptics would have you believe the UK (1 country, market of 60 million) would be able to hold the rest of the EU (27 countries, market of over 440m) to ransom. Pretty had to believe isn't it? Well unless you are living in the past and think the British empire still exists....
 

Eurosceptic trade myth no 3: we can have a free trade deal with the EU


It is possible to trade with the EU without being a member country through a free trade deal. The most recent deal that came into force was the EU - Canada trade agreement, which removed a number of tariff and non-tariff barriers, for example in the food sector, which was good news for the British food industry.  

However, what UKIP/Eurosceptic Tories do not want people to know is this: no EU free trade deal ever negotiated gives full access to the EU single market. Nigel Farage mentioned Mexico's trade deal with the EU in the Nick versus Nigel debate; a trade deal which excludes specific sectors and products, such as dairy, grains and sugar, but of course he didn't mention all these exclusions, wonder why? 

The EU-US trade deal (TTIP), which is likely to be the most significant trade deal ever negotiated, will not come close to allowing American companies full access to the single market. Even the Swiss with their 120 (!) bilateral agreements with the EU do not have access to the single market in services.  

So which sectors of the economy do UKIP and Eurosceptic Tories want to let down by locking them out of the world's biggest market? Does they think the British people are foolish enough to believe you can have your cake and eat it? I credit the British public with far more common sense than that!
 

Eurosceptic trade myth no 4: we can join the EEA; trading with the EU, but free from Brussels rules

Some UKIP supporters and Eurosceptic Tories claim that we can join the EEA (European Economic Area), which are countries that are part of the single market, but outside the EU like Norway, thus allowing us to trade with the EU as freely as we do now, but with no "interference" from Brussels. Sounds too good to be true doesn't it?  

The UK may be able to join the EEA, but what would the implications be? As an EEA member, the UK would have to: 

   contribute to the EU budget (the "small contribution" Nigel Farage says Norway pays is actually over 80% of the British contribution per head of the population), but have no say in how it was spent; 
 
   implement EU laws that would be decided without British MEPs and British government ministers at the table in Brussels shaping those laws. 
 
Or in other words the EEA option means "out of Europe, but run by the EU". As Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament and former Belgian PM once said "You're either at the table in Brussels or you're on the menu". I know where I would prefer the UK to be.

Even the Norwegian Foreign Minister himself has warned the UK against leaving the EU, saying his country had to put up with "regulation without representation".

 

Eurosceptic trade myth no 5: we can be like the Swiss

 
The other option for the UK (advocated by Tory Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan, who is at least honest about the impossibility of a mythical have-your-cake-and-eat-it free trade deal promoted by UKIP), is the Swiss option of negotiating sector by sector/policy area by policy area cooperation with the EU.  

This has so far resulted in Switzerland signing some 120 (!) bilateral agreements with the EU. Each time there are significant changes in relevant EU policy areas, Switzerland needs to update its bilateral accords with the EU or initiate new ones. Despite hundreds of agreements with the EU, Swiss companies are not free to buy and sell services in the single market; imagine what impact that would have on the UK which has a trade surplus in services with the rest of the EU. I would rather not thanks! 

To monitor EU developments, the Swiss government and Swiss business and civil society representatives are present in Brussels following virtually everything the EU does in order to adapt themselves to it. The Swiss lobby the EU institutions when decisions are being made that will affect Switzerland, but without the benefit of having Swiss MEPs and Swiss government ministers to fight their corner, unlike the UK whose MEPs and ministers are on the ground doing just that. Well, except UKIP MEPs who don't bother with the hard graft of standing up for British interests day in, day out.  

I was amazed to find Swiss government representatives attending a meeting in the European Parliament on alcohol policy. I was informed by one of them that "any changes in EU alcohol policy will affect us, so we need to monitor the situation". This is a policy area where the EU has very little legislative power!
 
This sounds like the worst of both worlds to me; having to follow what the EU does and change your own policies accordingly without benefitting from full access to the single market.
 

Eurosceptic trade myth no 6: EU membership hampers the UK in global trade

The argument goes something like this: the UK is "not free to trade with the rest of the world" due to being part of the EU. This argument seems to assume firstly that EU and global trade are mutually exclusive; ie you cannot do both, which is somewhat economically illiterate. Selling to customer A does not prevent a business from selling to customer B too.  

Whenever I ask Eurosceptics why German companies manage to sell far more to emerging markets like Brazil than British companies apparently unhindered by the same EU membership that is "holding back" the UK, I don't get any coherent answers.
 
UKIP talk about trading more with the Commonwealth and even go as far as claiming that joining the EU destroyed trade with Commonwealth countries. The truth is that trade with Commonwealth countries had been declining for many years before the UK joined  what was then the European Economic Community in 1973.
 
Commonwealth countries set free from British colonial rule naturally started to trade more with their neighbours than the more geographically distant UK. It is no surprise that Australia's biggest trading partners today are China and Japan (http://dfat.gov.au/publications/tgs/index.html). I do not know how anyone could seriously suggest that Britain leaving the EU would reverse this 50 year old trend.  

In addition, the vast majority of Commonwealth countries have trade deals with the EU and Commonwealth governments  such as Australia and Canada say they want the UK to remain part of the EU. UKIP and Eurosceptic Tories are so backward looking, they cannot see that our relationship with the Commonwealth has changed, and we cannot go back to being an imperial power on whose empire the sun never sets.  

Another false claim is that the trade deals the EU makes with the rest of the world with its huge negotiating strength as the world's biggest trade bloc somehow disadvantage the UK. Britain's leading exporters would tell you a very different story - UK exports to South Korea have increased substantially since the EU-SK trade deal, for example.  

In addition, the UK is very good at getting British trade priorities reflected in EU trade policy, for example, one of the products targeted in the EU - India trade negotiations is whisky! Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the World Trade Organisation stated that Britain risks losing influence in trade negotiations if it left the EU (www.huffpost.com/uk/entry/4773835) and you would expect he knows a bit about global trade. 
 
Even the winner of the "Brexit" essay competition, much fêted by Eurosceptics, says that outside the EU, the UK would be able to negotiate global trade deals, but this would not be from a position of strength. Or look at it this way; the USA is currently negotiating a free trade deal with the EU which will require both parties to adapt to each other's trade rules, while the US - Chile free trade deal requires Chile to adapt to US trade rules, but not the other way round. 

And finally... 

Another argument that UKIP and Eurosceptic Tories put forward is that the UK should leave the EU because the EU's share of world trade is declining, so it's an outdated concept. It is true that as large emerging markets like Brazil, India and China grow, the share of world trade of the EU (and other industrialised countries like Japan) is shrinking.  

However, there are two huge caveats here. Firstly, this is not a quick process of change, which means that the UK still currently sells more to Belgium (!) than Brazil, so it would not be sensible to turn our back on our EU trade partners right now.  

Secondly, and even more importantly, if current trends continue, then some estimate that 30 years time, there may be no European country in the G8,  but the EU will remain the world's largest single market. So in fact, the Eurosceptic argument against the EU is actually one of the biggest arguments in favour!  

In the future, European countries can retain a strong voice in global trade by acting togetheras part of the EU. I do not want the UK to be on the sidelines without a voice at that moment, but a leading member of the EU. 
 
As a Liberal Democrat I want to look to the future, protect Britain's economic recovery, retain a strong British voice in global trade and fight for British jobs. The Eurosceptics want to hark back to an imperial past long gone that can never be recovered, ignore the realities of the modern world and put Britain's economic recovery in jeopardy.  

The choice is clear for anyone who cares about the future of the UK; it's In Europe In Work with the Liberal Democrats or out Out of Europe Out of Work with UKIP and Tory Eurosceptics.