It’s rarely heard against the back-drop of a Eurosceptic media. But the whispers are getting loud-er. Playing an active part in the European Union is important. For Wales, it is vital to our future economic prosperity. There is certainly scope for reform, but the economic case alone is overwhelming.
Being part of the EU gives us direct access to the largest single market in the world. In turn, it gives us ac-cess to more than 500 million consumers, with more than half of British exports going to EU countries.
In Wales 150,000 jobs depend on us being in the EU. 500 firms from other member states are based here, providing more than 59,000 jobs. It is well known that many of the larger employers who have headquarters outside the UK but substantial numbers of employees here are in Wales because we are in the EU and because of our access to European markets.
It doesn’t stop there. The EU also has the leverage in international trade negotiations to prise open new export markets in Asia and the Americas.
By being part of the single market we are able to compete with the best companies in the world, which drives competitiveness and innovation in all parts of our economy. To make this work better for Wales and the UK, Labour will campaign, along with our allies, for a new EU Growth Commissioner.
This role would be tasked with assessing the impact of every new piece of legislation on the potential to promote growth across the EU. This will help to improve accountability and focus the EU on the agenda that matters for businesses, jobs, consumers and citizens.
Across Wales, businesses of all sizes and shapes benefit from EU rules. This is done by adopting common standards and rules so that businesses face a single set, rather than 28 different ones. Just one example is that it is now possible for a Welsh business to register a trademark once, valid across Eu-rope, instead of registering that trademark across 28 separate countries.
It is not just big business that benefits. The Federation of Small Business is clear that EU-wide rules actually protect British businesses from competitors abroad who might undercut our high standards if they could. With 99% of businesses in Wales being Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, the EU has a substantial role to play.
However there is much more work to do. It is important that the EU works harder to reduce the burden on business by actively removing unnecessary regulation. The EU must achieve this without damaging the high standard of employee and social protections which it has championed over many years. These must be protected and not diminished.
An often overlooked element of these protections is that companies with secure, safe and happy employees tend to be more productive, suffer less from illness and generally perform better. Protection for employees on precarious contracts is a benefit for all. We need to put the brakes on the race to the bot-tom.
Welsh businesses are amongst the most innovative and ambitious in the UK. With a pro-EU Labour-led Assembly Government in Wales combined with the role the EU plays in the Welsh economy, the facts speak for themselves.
Labour’s vision is of an EU with a focus on building a high growth, high skill and high wage economy whilst retaining the values of respect and protection for employees. A vision Wales can understand and deliver. That is why Wales deserves reform of the EU not retreat.
Jayne Bryant is a Labour MEP Candidate for Wales. She tweets as @JBryantWales