The campaign group British Influence has launched a cross-party EU manifesto in London called, “Better off In a Better Europe.” It seeks to set out the terms and reasoning for Britain to remain in the European Union.
The manifesto was launched by British Influence Director Peter Wilding, who said “far from leaving Europe, Britain should be leading Europe”. He was supported by co-presidents, Conservative Party MP Ken Clarke, Lord Mandelson of the Labour Party and Danny Alexander MP for the Liberal Democrats.
They were keen to stress that it was a cross-party group aimed at focusing on the best for Britain and would not be allowing their different political allegiances to get in the way of the task in hand.
The launch comes amidst recent musings from within the UK Parliament on the issue of a referendum for the British people regarding Britain’s membership of the EU. A bill allowing the public to vote on the issue was proposed by the Conservative Party earlier this month. It passed at the First Commons stage – the second reading – though it’s passage through the UK Parliament is far from guaranteed.
Britain’s membership of the EU is dividing the country’s politicians and there are many who oppose the ideas put forward by groups such as British Influence. The Leader of UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, has called for an EU referendum before the next election.
At the launch, Eurosceptic MEP for the East of England, David Campbell Bannerman, spoke to euronews about Britain opting out of the EU, “I think we’d pay less in membership fees and we’d have less in terms of red tape as well, whilst retaining all the trading and friendly and cultural links with Europe.”
“Our contribution to the EU is about £19 billion a year, it’s about £53 million a day, we get some money back, you know for the farmers and [through] regional grants, but that money’s going down in many ways, and really my argument is ‘look we do want to trade with the EU- that’s what the British people want – but we don’t want the politics, we don’t want a single army…we don’t want to join the Eurozone, so let’s just keep trade and leave the politics alone.’”
British Influence’s website states: “We are neither Europhile nor Europhobe but propose Eurorealist, practical solutions to European policies affecting the UK.”
Their manifesto says: “Britain should lead the EU reform campaign from within, not threaten unilateral repatriation of powers.”
Within it they also write: “By creating alliances with those who share our belief in boosting growth and jobs, we can actively reboot the EU for the 21st century and project our economic and political reform agenda in and through Europe to the wider world.”
The group wishes to promote the idea of an EU which is “leaner and meaner- to focus only on essential tasks and not to be diverted”.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Mr Alexander said: “Britain must work with our allies for change from within to ensure the EU continues take reform seriously.”
He reiterated the importance of Britain continuing to work together with the European Union: “EU Trade deals with the US, India, Canada and Japan will be worth billions to the UK economy but could not be won by the UK alone.”
Veteran Europhile Ken Clarke, speaking at the launch said: “We are not the last known followers of an eccentric cause, we are actually supporters of the European Union at a time when it probably matters more to the well-being of this country, than anytime in my lifetime, that we remain an active and positive member of an ever-expanding and ever-stronger European Union.”
Lord Mandelson also spoke to euronews, saying: “The British people are divided about Europe, but when it comes to it and they are presented with the choice between continuing to combine our strengths, our attributes, our advantages with others in Europe, or leaving and standing alone in the world, I think they’ll choose the former, they’ll want to continue to be in Europe.”
However, he stressed that British Influence are under no illusions that the battle will be won easily: “It is going to be a fight, those who want to take Britain out of Europe have always wanted to do so, they’ve got a lot of money and a lot of emotion behind them and some media, so it will be a fight, but it’s one that a lot of us are up for.”