Why the EU elections should not be about Brexit – David Martin MEP

Brexit has stultified debate in Britain about the future of Europe. We have been presented with a binary choice of leaving or the status quo. There is another choice. The European elections are an opportunity to renew, reform and remain in the European Union, writes David Martin MEP.

Leave and remain protesters outside the Houses of Parliament. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

No UK party is better equipped to lead in Europe than Labour. We will be the only major UK party fighting these elections on a joint manifesto with sister parties in all 28 member states of the European Union.

In its manifesto, the Party of European Socialists is clear that Europe must better serve its people. Europe needs a change of leadership and direction.

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Recent elections in Spain and Finland show a resurgence of Social Democratic parties and this, combined with a large Labour delegation from the UK, could create a progressive majority in the European Parliament.

With the Presidency of all three institutions (Council, Commission, Parliament) up for grabs after the elections, this is an opportunity to put equality and fairness centre stage in the European debate.

A high priority will be tax justice. It cannot be right that the Amazons and Starbucks continue to avoid paying their fair share of tax, thereby denying governments of vital income that could be used to help the worst off in society.

A Europe of half a billion people is better placed than any individual country to tackle tax-dodging by global corporations.

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We will work for a new Green Deal. Declaring a climate emergency is all well and good but of itself solves no problems. Europe has set ambitious targets for the reduction in carbon emissions. We now must focus on investment to achieve these targets.

A well-targeted programme of investment in renewables, green infrastructure and technology would not only help the planet but also tackle austerity. A key component should be dealing with energy poverty through well-insulated homes and tariffs that protect the poorest from price mechanisms aiming to ensure reduced energy usage.

The EU has a proud record on workers rights. Most of the UK’s rights are underpinned by EU legislation, whether they be the length of the working week, entitlement to holiday pay or the rights of part-time workers.

However, more needs to be done particularly for individuals forced into zero-hours contracts or false self-employment. With a growing elderly population, we need to look at the possibility of enshrining basic rights at the European level for carers.

Europe led the way over 40 years ago on equal pay for equal work. Now it must lead on the gender pay gap.

In the next European Parliament, we will promote a binding EU gender equality strategy.

The use of cheap labour from abroad is unfair both for domestic workers and the guest worker. We are committed to the creation of a European Labour Authority empowered to combat social dumping and ensure fair labour mobility.

Westminster will decide on how, when or if we leave the EU. These European elections should not be a dreary repetition of the Brexit debate but about competing visions of how we can lead in Europe not how we might leave.

David Martin is a Labour MEP for Scotland