Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 22 July 2011

On Friday I visited a successful manufacturing business that has recently relocated into my constituency. They are expanding rapidly and looking to recruit more staff than the well-paid thirty something they currently employ. We discussed a range of issues but one in particular is worth developing: the importance to British companies of our markets in Europe.
The company exports a high proportion of its products into European markets. The same could be said of many businesses in the UK employing millions of people. Because of the historically low value of the pound, many of them are thriving with full order books and rising demand. This is one of the reasons why our economy is experiencing growth, albeit very modest growth.
So it is firmly in the British interest that the euro zone countries on our doorstep do not slide into chaos. The CEO of the company I visited on Friday made that abundantly clear. That is not the same as saying that we should bail them out. But it is not in our interests that Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy should enter into sovereign debt (ie bankruptcy). Although these concerns have been in the papers for many months now, and this all seems to be happening in slow motion, the threats have not gone away.
So although I receive e-mails saying the UK should not contribute to the International Monetary Fund (which leads the process of support for these debt crippled countries), the consequences of no support being available would have immediate and direct consequences here, right on our doorstep. British jobs would be lost. Although we are not part of the euro zone (thank goodness) and we should not stump up our cash to bail out profligate governments, nonetheless we should at the very least be sitting around the table to try and secure a soft landing. 
But while it is crucial to play our part in making the European single market successful, for the reasons given, I must confess that I have recently been entertaining heretic thoughts. Perhaps it is time to reflect on whether it is necessary for the UK to remain in the EU. Free Trade area – essential, but do we really need the bureaucratic straitjacket that comes with it? Once the immediate turmoil is behind us, is it time to put the issue of our EU membership to the British people once again?
I intend to spend the summer pondering these things. 

posted by Gary @ 17:04