Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I'll Tell You What the EU's Done for Us

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I'll Tell You What the EU's Done for Us

Article excerpt


MONTY Python's Life of Brian is a brilliant film and like many history teachers, I often used the "what have the Romans ever done for us?" scene to remind pupils of the achievements of the ancients.

So, when North East MEP Stephen Hughes suggested I write my column about the European Parliament, I immediately thought: what has the European Parliament ever done for us?

This is a question only infrequently posed in our newspapers, classrooms and homes. Even when it is asked it is hardly ever properly answered. Usually, especially in the media and from right wing politicians, we get a lot of arrant nonsense instead of reasoned evaluation.

So, if Nigel Farage of the United Kingdom Independence Party is the John Cleese character forever asking what Europe has done for us, then let me be his audience and offer a few concrete, practical answers.

Tough new regulations on child car seats came from the European Parliament rather than Westminster. It forced the re-design of vehicles whose front bumpers were unnecessarily dangerous to pedestrians. The parliament banned tobacco advertising, an area where the United Kingdom Government had been dragging its feet.

For the first time, workers in the UK have the right to a paid holiday thanks to efforts in the parliament. The rights of temporary and part-time workers have improved dramatically.

And then there are the policy areas where only a pan-European initiative will have an impact: recycling targets for all member states, closer border co-operation on crime and fines for airlines who overbook.

British members of the parliament have also managed to block or modify proposals that would have been damaging to us. Examples include protecting the British way of hallmarking our precious metals and preventing VAT from being imposed on stamps. The costly system of monitoring and tagging sheep was modified to help protect our farming community. The Euro-sceptics are always complaining about the volume of regulations coming from Europe. …

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