Both the biggest single reason for Britain to stay in Europe and the most needed reform of the European Union centre on jobs.
Three million British jobs directly depend on our membership of the EU and the single market. In my own region of the north-west tens of thousands of people are employed in the defence and auto industries, which are located in the UK in part because of the access this gives to the world’s biggest single market.
Business leaders have so far largely stayed out of the debate raging over Britain’s future in Europe – although Richard Branson made an important intervention this week – but there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of private sector businesses in the UK are extremely concerned at the prospect of a potential ‘Brexit’.
Leaving Europe could lead to a mass exodus of companies from the UK who rely on access to European markets, causing job losses running into millions. The merger of BAE and EADS – which would have secured thousands of jobs in the north-west and across the country – was vetoed by Angela Merkel mainly because of concern that Britain would leave Europe. Having Europe’s largest defence company based in a non-EU country was anathema to Germany.
So it is an argument for the jobs that Europe creates and protects here in the UK that should form the core of our campaign to make the case for British membership of the EU. And it is jobs too which must be at the heart of reform.
For the last year, the Party of European Socialists and the group of Socialists and Democrats in the European parliament have been campaigning for a European Youth Guarantee to be implemented across Europe to get some of Europe’s 5.5 million unemployed young people into work, education or training.
Not dissimilar to Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, the EYG would require national governments to legislate to provide a job, further education or a training place for every young person who has been out of work or education for more than four months. There is not just a moral case to implement this, but an economic one. The cost of having 5.5 million 18-25-year-olds out of work is estimated at €2bn per week. Reintegrating just 10 per cent of them into the workplace would save €10bn per year. Best of all, funded initially by unused EU structural funding, the EYG would not increase the debt burden of member states.
The European Commission finally responded to the S&D campaign in December with the production of a proposal on the introduction of a European Youth Guarantee. What is needed now is a concerted effort by Europe’s leaders to bring it about. The Irish presidency, which started this week, has promised to make it a priority for the next six months. We need to start a national campaign to put pressure on David Cameron ahead of the next EU summit to ensure it is discussed.
Not only do millions of young people here and across Europe depend on action being taken, we can also use it to show how Europe can have a positive effect on people’s lives.
This article originally appeared here.