Our relationship with our neighbours in Europe and our friends around the World is crucial for our future well-being and security. The commitment by the Conservative and Labour Parties to leave the European Union on the basis of the deeply flawed consultative referendum of June 2016 poses a profound threat to Britain’s future prosperity and to our legal engagement with important elements of the social market model of society.
Our future with Europe
Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1973 because tariff-free access to the large and fast-growing European market was crucial to our future prosperity. With a population of over 550 million the EU is now the destination of some 44% of our exports – worth some £240 billion in 2016 out of a total of £550 billion. Successive Governments have successfully promoted the UK as a desirable location for inward investment by companies from around the World on the basis of our membership, boosting jobs and growth and skills.
EU employment legislation is also a key guarantor of essential rights such as the entitlement to four weeks paid leave for all employees, to paid maternity leave and to protection against discrimination. The fact that these rights are embodied in European law protects British businesses from unfair competition by employers in other member states. Abandoning the guarantee of a level playing field in employment rights marks another step in the campaign by right-wing politicians to move the UK away from the social market towards the nationalistic neo-conservative model favoured by President Trump and his associates.
The Single Market
Over the last thirty years, opinion polls have fairly consistently shown majority public support for continued membership of the EU. The referendum was called for internal party political reasons, was legally a consultation not a decision taking exercise, and was marred by a deliberate campaign of fake news and since abandoned promises. It cannot be seen as a considered or rational way to resolve a complex issue that will profoundly affect a whole range of British interests. In particular, the public were repeatedly assured that if it left the EU, the UK could remain a member of the European Single Market, on the basis enjoyed by countries such as Norway and Switzerland, a promise that has since been abandoned. Surveys have shown that a large majority of the British public are opposed to leaving the Single Market. The Radical Party believes that:
- everything possible should be done to oppose Brexit. If this fails, the UK should remain within the Single Market, accepting the provisions for the freedom of movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court;
- on whatever basis, the priority must be to build a stable and positive relationship with the EU, which ensures continuing access to the largest market in the World on the best terms available.
Britain and the World
As well as through our relations with our neighbours in Europe, our security and influence in the World depends on positive engagement with a variety of international organisations and treaties, in particular the institutions of the United Nations. The election of President Trump and the wave of populist nationalism stoked by the Brexit campaign have called in question the need for formal, multilateral legality at the global level. The Radical Party considers that the scale of international threats such as climate change, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and population growth demand strong support for internationalism. As part of this, Britain should take a lead with like-minded progressive democracies in arguing for new initiatives to reinvigorate and modernising the framework for international legality and collaboration, for example, by reforming the Security Council of the UN.
Over the years, the focus of British development assistance has changed repeatedly in response to the philosophical orientation of each incoming Government. As well as issues such as promoting sustainable economic development and humanitarian assistance it of vital practical importance that public support is maintained for support in areas such as de-militarisation, addressing the threat of global warming; population growth and tackling the drugs trade. The Party believes that Britain should:
- work towards the further development of international law and multilateral international institutions as the most effective and sustainable means of supporting progress towards peace, human rights and security;
- uphold its commitment to contributing a minimum of 0.7% of GNP to development assistance;
- continue to support the funding of international agencies committed to tackling poverty and promoting social progress and self-determination for individuals, communities and nations around the world.
The Party recognises both the benefits that immigrants bring to Britain and that the overall level of immigration needs to be controlled, within the framework of national and international law. The existing system of immigration control must be made to work fairly and effectively, the rights of asylum seekers respected, and the safety and well-being of refugees guaranteed in collaboration with our international partners. The Party is wholly opposed to the introduction of constraints on immigration from EU member countries, which would inevitably lead to skills shortages in the UK and to restrictions on British citizens wishing to work abroad. Controls on immigration must not be allowed to deter bona fide overseas students or prevent employers from recruiting highly qualified staff from other parts of the World. The Radical Party believes that:
- plans to end freedom of movement for workers from the EU should be cancelled;
- efforts should be stepped up to strengthen international and bi-lateral initiatives and agreements aiming to deter would be immigrants from putting their lives at risk by resorting to people smugglers;
- the policy of allowing high performing graduate and postgraduate students from outside of the EU to stay on in the UK for an appropriate period after graduation to explore opportunities to find employment should be reinstated.
Defence and security
Britain needs a defence system which, taking into account our international alliances, reflects, and is sufficient to address, the threats we will continue to face for the foreseeable future. These include potential threats to the UK and our allies from possible future nuclear-armed dictatorship countries and threats from non-state terrorist groups. We believe that, regrettably, in the current circumstances, nuclear weapons remain essential to our capacity to deter potential aggression and nuclear blackmail.
Recent experience with Iran indicates that negotiations and effective international sanctions can be effective in containing the threat of proliferation. It is important to remember that at least 20 countries around the World, which have the technical capacity to develop nuclear weapons of their own, have refrained from doing so because of international law and because they are protected by collective security agreements. The Party believes that Britain should:
- continue to honour its pledge to maintain spending on defence at 2% of GNP and press other members of NATO to do likewise;
- maintain its nuclear defence force at the present level, including the submarine-based ballistic missile system ;
- act with the international community to do everything possible to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction;
- join with others in a redoubled effort to persuade Russia and the US to reduce their current nuclear arsenals, as a staging post to further future multilateral reductions based on shared values, a strengthened system of international governance and an effective and credible framework for conflict resolution.