This year’s centenary of the First World War has got me thinking about my grandad. He signed up and fought in ‘the war to end all wars’. Just over 20 years later my dad found himself at war too – as an RAF pilot. We often forget that our continent’s history has been one of the bloodiest in the world. I’m the first generation in my family since the 19th century not to have been drawn into a European war.
Why? Because after WW2, politicians across Europe said ‘enough is enough’. They reckoned that the best wayto stop us killing each other was to create a framework of economic and political interdependence that would make war unthinkable. And they were right! By working together, Europe has enjoyed an unprecedented 70 years of peace.
So when we judge the pros and cons of the European Union, we mustn’t forget the immeasurable benefits of living in peace and raising our families free from the horrors of war. Let’s also recognise how the EU ensured stability in Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union collapsed. But, as events in the Ukraine demonstrate, we can’t take peace for granted and have to work to maintain it.
There are so many Conservatives whose politics are defined by opposition to the EU. Their constant criticism has added to rising support for UKIP. Why is the party that took the UK into Europe now so hostile to the organisation that Winston Churchill wanted? Simple. Driven by progressive national governments, and by the Parliament we’ll elect next week, the EU began to set decent standards for working people across Europe.
So when the Tories and UKIP say they want to bring powers back to the UK, let’s be clear what they mean. They want to scrap EU rules that, for the first time give British workers legal entitlements to paid holidays, equal rights to part-time workers, enhanced maternity rights, protection for agency workers, and the right to breaks at work. They want the UK out of the EU so we can lead a race to the bottom – attracting investment by offering the cheapest labour costs and worst working conditions in Europe. I don’t think most in Sheffield want to be part of a low wage, low security economy. I think they want better for themselves and their children. Voting in next week’s European elections is a way of achieving this.
Paul Blomfield MP