Our relationship with our neighbours in Europe and other countries 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.
The Party is diametrically opposed to the isolationism now being promoted by President Trump and his admirers in the US and other parts of the World. It 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.
Our Future with Europe
The Party believes that everything possible should be done to persuade the electorate and the Government that leaving the EU is not in the country’s interests and that rather we should seek to use our membership to promote reform from within. 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 £240 billion in 2016 out of a total of £550 billion.
Successive Governments have promoted the UK as an ideal location for inward investment by companies from around the World on the basis of our access to the European Single Market, boosting quality employment, skills and growth. Leaving the EU will mean that investment targeting the EU market will in future go elsewhere. Membership has also given the UK a far greater ability to protect its interests in the wider world than it would have had, had it remained isolated in a post-colonial world dominated by China, Russia and the United States.
EU employment legislation not only guarantees British employees rights to such things as four weeks paid holiday, paid parental leave and protection against discrimination but also protects British companies 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 manoeuvre the UK away from the social market towards a nationalistic, neo-liberal model.
The Single Market
If a the end of the Brexit negotiations, the UK does cease to be a member of the EU, it should remain within the Single Market, accepting the provisions for the freedom of movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court. For most of the 40 years between 1976 and the Brexit referendum, opinion polls have shown majority public support for continued membership of the EU. The referendum was called for party political reasons and was distorted by fake news and a lack of any serious analysis of the consequences of leaving the EU. Indeed, the public were repeatedly assured that the UK could easily negotiate continued membership of the Single Market, an objective a large majority of the public support, but which the Government now rejects.
Neither was the electorate warned of the immediate cost to the taxpayer of leaving, which the Government has since agreed will be in the region of £40 billion, or £600 per head of the population, nor of the problems that would inevitably follow in terms of our relationship with the Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar. On whatever basis, the priority must be to build a stable and positive relationship with the EU, which ensures continuing barrier-free access to the largest market in the World on the best terms available and a continuing supportive relationship with our closest neighbours.
The Global Dimension
As well as through our relations with our neighbours, our security and influence in the World depend 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 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 international threats such as climate change, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, mass migration and population growth demand strong support for joint working at the global level. As part of this, Britain should take a lead with like-minded progressive democracies in arguing for new initiatives to reinvigorate and modernise the framework for international legality and collaboration, for example, by reforming the Security Council of the UN.
The Radical Party believes that the UK should uphold its commitment to contributing a minimum of 0.7% of GNP to development assistance. It should maintain its capacity to respond to humanitarian and other crises in different parts of the world in collaboration with other countries. And it should 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.
Over the years, the focus of British development assistance has changed in response to the philosophical orientation of each incoming Government. News of scandals involving staff working for British development charities have shaken public confidence and led to a drop in donations, on which such organisations largely depend. Fortunately, so far, all of the main political parties have stuck by the longstanding commitment to maintaining the level of development assistance. As well as promoting sustainable economic development and humanitarian aid, it is of vital practical importance that public support is maintained for support in areas such as de-militarisation, global warming, population growth, marine degradation and tackling the drugs trade.
In recent years, the UK has achieved relatively low levels of unemployment with immigration from the EU going hand in hand with growth and job creation. The Party believes that plans to end freedom of movement for workers from the EU should be cancelled, while at the same time efforts are stepped up to strengthen international and bi-lateral initiatives aiming to deter people who might seek to come to the UK illegally by entrusting themselves to people smugglers.
We recognise 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. Public concern over migration in recent years has largely resulted from the civil war in Syria and the growth of trafficking networks in North Africa and the Middle East, but inappropriate policies have exacerbated the problems which face host communities and asylum seekers and other migrants.
Cuts in funding for essential services have encouraged illegal immigration and have left vulnerable people at the mercy of unscrupulous employers and landlords. The Party believes that funding for the immigration service, the police and local authority inspectors should be restored as part of an effort to make sure that existing laws and regulations relating to immigration are properly enforced.
The Party considers that, as is allowed under EU regulations and applied in Germany, migrants from EU countries should be able to come to the UK and remain here provided they find work within three months. With this proviso, the Party is wholly opposed to the introduction of further 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 coming from other parts of the World.
Restrictions on the number of highly skilled workers permitted to come to the UK to take up employment were introduced for short-term electoral reasons, are damaging to Britain’s economic interests, and should be removed. As part of this approach, 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 also be reinstated.
Defence and Security
The Party believes that the UK should continue to honour its pledge to maintain spending on defence at 2% of GNP and press other NATO members to do likewise. 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 dictatorships and threats from non-state terrorist groups.
However, this is also an age of growing and diffuse ‘non-kinetic’ threats, including espionage, covert political operations, computer hacking, and corruption, which need to be deterred and defeated. We believe that, regrettably, in the current circumstances, nuclear weapons remain essential to our capacity to deter potential aggression and nuclear blackmail, but a balanced approach to deterrence requires that this must not be at the expense of Britain’s conventional capabilities.
The Party believes that Britain should maintain its nuclear defence force at the present level, including the submarine-based ballistic missile system, while doing everything possible in conjunction with the international community to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. 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. Meanwhile, the UK should 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.
At the same time, Britain needs conventional forces which are adequate both for its own defence and also to maintain our position in the world as a guarantor not just of our national interests but also our values. From disaster relief to humanitarian intervention, the British military also underpins our capacity to be an influence for security, democracy and human rights on the world stage. We cannot and should not pretend to be a global military power in our own right, but we need to protect our ability to operate beyond our immediate surroundings, especially as part of multilateral forces.
This also demands adequate intelligence and security structures. In a rapidly changing environment, where open sources of information proliferate and non-state threats abound, Britain needs a comprehensive review of its intelligence structures and priorities. This should not be a cost-cutting exercise as the services contribute not only to our own security and that of our allies but also provide us with a distinctive role in the world. Rather, it should be to ensure that our services are best suited to the challenges and opportunities facing our country today and in the future.
SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS
- everything possible should be done to persuade the electorate and the Government that leaving the EU is not in the country’s interest and that, rather, we should seek to reform it from within;
- 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 barrier-free access to the largest market in the World on the best terms available.
The Global Dimension
- 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 our commitment to contributing a minimum of 0.7% of GNP to development assistance;
- maintain our capacity to respond to humanitarian crises in different parts of the world in collaboration with other countries;
- continue to support the funding of international agencies committed to tackling poverty, humanitarian aid and promoting social progress and self-determination for individuals, communities and nations around the world.
- cancel plans to end freedom of movement for workers from the EU with the proviso that, as permitted under EU regulations, those coming in search to work should be required to leave if they still have not found employment after three months;
- step up efforts to strengthen international and bi-lateral initiatives aiming to deter potential immigrants from entrusting themselves to people smugglers;
- remove the ceiling on the number of highly skilled workers allowed to come to take up employment;
- restore funding for the immigration service, the police and local authority inspectors;
- reinstate the policy of allowing high performing graduate and postgraduate students from outside of the EU to stay on in the UK for a period to explore opportunities to find employment.
Defence and Security
- continue to honour our pledge to maintain spending on defence at 2% of GNP and press other members of NATO to do likewise;
- maintain our nuclear defence force at the present level, including the submarine-based ballistic missile system;
- do everything possible in conjunction with the international community to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction;
- join others in a redoubled effort to persuade Russia and the US to reduce their nuclear arsenals, as a staging post to multilateral reductions based on shared values, a strengthened system of international governance and a credible framework for conflict resolution.