Summary of speech by Seb Dance to meeting of the Orpington Labour Party, 30 March 2016 by Nigel de Gruchy, Orpington Labour Party Secretary
Seb Dance delivered a brilliant, passionate and positive case for the UK remaining in the EU. He thanked members for their support in securing a very good result in the 2014 EU elections, doubling the number of Labour Party List MEPs in London from 2 to 4. He was appointed the EU Parliamentary Rapporteur (‘cabinet member’) for the Environment ‘Competency’ (which also included Public Health and Food Safety) and accounted for sixty per cent of all EU legislation.
With London suffering over 10,000 premature deaths annually owing to a polluted environment his work was more important than ever. As pollution knew no national boundaries it would be lunacy for the UK to leave the EU and pretend it could better cope on its own. The VW car emissions’ scandal resulted in the first EU parliamentary enquiry to prepare for EU wide action against false data provided by VW and perhaps others.
He did not recognise the anti-EU picture painted by critics of an out-of-control bureaucracy denying member states influence. The institutions of the EU, the Council of Ministers, The Commission and the Parliament provided a novel albeit inevitably imperfect model for the democratic, the legislative and the executive. Far from apologising for so called ‘bureaucracy’ Seb was proud of the achievement of the EU in establishing badly needed common standards across 28 member states on environmental safeguards, public health and food standards which were essential for a single market to operate fairly and in the public interest.
Unlike the Conservatives, the Labour Party supported a social dimension for the EU. It should not just be a businessmen’s club. Three principles guided Seb in his EU work: the Progressive; Pragmatic and Patriotic. These had led to millions of employees gaining a range of rights such as limits to the working week, paid holiday entitlement, paid parental leave. The EU had promoted equal rights for all regardless of gender, race, religion and personal preferences.
The EU had presided over unprecedented periods of peace in Europe, extended democracy to dictatorial regimes and provided 28 member states with access to the largest market in the western developed world of 500m people. The UK had more influence in the world through the EU than it would have outside. UKIP and Tory ‘Brexiters’ pined for a bygone era of British imperial dominance. Countries outside the EU such as Norway still had to pay 90% of contributions applicable to members. They received no rebate, no structural funds and had no influence over the rules. The UK relied upon the EU for over 50% of its exports. Seb concluded by saying he was staggered that some people believed the UK would be better off ‘out’. The Norwegian Government now conceded they had made a mistake in staying out.
An interesting Q&A session followed and concluded with the Chair thanking Seb for an inspiring performance which was received with strong acclamation from the members present.