EU Calls for End to Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

It is now a full year since Saudi Arabia began bombing in Yemen and it is time we put pressure on our government to stop selling arms to this regime which is breaking international law.

In February MEPs voted for a European Union-wide arms embargo against Saudi Arabia to protest against the Gulf state’s bombing in Yemen which is a violation of international law that has resulted in thousands of deaths. The European parliament voted by a large majority for an EU-wide ban on arms sales to the kingdom, citing the “disastrous humanitarian situation” as a result of “Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen”. The resolution criticised the “intensification of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition”.

The Parliament does not have the power to force members of the EU to act but it is a clear statement of the position of the majority of European people. The motion, based on a proposal put forward by the Green Group, was passed by 359 votes to 212, with a majority made up of Socialists, Liberals, Greens, Leftists and Eurosceptics. Britain’s Conservatives, reflecting continued support for the arms industry by our national government at the cost of innocent lives. In the last year the Foreign Office has supplied export licences for up to £3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia; the UK has been the largest supplier of arms to the region since 2010.

The UK has also been accused of direct involvement in the bombing campaign because there are British military in Saudi, although the government claims they are only involved in training. And Cameron was involved in the absurd situation where Saudi Arabia was given a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Although we are not seeing enough pressure on Saudi and it is a disgrace that they are using British-made arms to kill children in Yemen, none the less it is clear that outside the EU we would not even see the constraint of EU human rights policy to prevent the immoral arms sales our government relishes.

What Has the EU Done for Women?

It’s easy to point to examples of things that the EU has done to make life fairer for women.

Because we’re in Europe the UK has to abide by rules which were put in place by the EU to protect and promote equality and women’s rights in the workplace. Not only that, but the EU has helped tackle gender discrimination and fight against income inequality.

It has given us maternity leave and work protections during pregnancy as well as rules preventing harassment and unequal treatment at work, which means women in Britain benefit from the EU every day. We are guaranteed a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave when we give birth, four months to care for children aged under eight months and the right to go back to our jobs after taking maternity leave.

The EU also introduced rules which protect us from being discriminated against or harassed at work, something which was sadly once commonplace.

But it does much more than just protect women’s rights at work. The EU is also the driving force behind ending violence against women and preventing sexual exploitation, both in the UK and around the continent. It offers opportunity to young women to learn and develop in the shape of educational programmes and does so much more.

It probably isn’t a coincidence that some of the leading campaigners for us to leave the EU also turn out to be dinosaurs when it comes to women’s rights. UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said working mothers are worth less than men, London Mayor Boris Johnson said women only go to university “to find men to marry” and leave campaigner George Galloway was named Sexist of the Year for describing sexual assault as “bad manners”.

Every woman who has taken maternity leave, benefited from anti-discrimination laws, or got a job created by doing business on the continent has the EU to thank, at least in part. This is something to bear in mind as you weigh up your decision about how to vote on 23 June.

EU and the Western Powerhouse

The South West has incredible renewable energy resources.

A report from the Resilience Centre in the Forest of Dean calculated that this has the potential to create 122,000 jobs across the region and add over £4bn a year to the regional economy. This is what we call the Western Powerhouse. But our government is determined to develop fracking and new nuclear stations even though these make us dependent on the Chinese and will destroy our economy and our health.
As members of the EU we are bound to meet the renewable energy targets set by EU law. This has the ambitious aim of ensuring 20% of EU energy comes from renewables by 2020. Flying in the face of an extraordinary potential in the area of renewables, our government is nonetheless one of those that tries to undermine more ambitious targets at European level.

Germany is going through an energy revolution that is giving power to the people. In the past decade the share of renewable electricity has risen from 6% to nearly 25%. More than half of the investment in renewables has been made by small investors, meaning that this transition to renewables has empowered local communities and and brought great wealth to rural communities.

While our failure to follow this example and invest in this sector that could create so many economic opportunities is very disappointing, it is clear that things will be much worse for our renewables industry if we were to leave the EU. It is only our European targets that is preventing further job losses and waste of renewable resources in the South West.

Our Steel Industry Needs European Cooperation

The story of Port Talbot is a classic example of government deceit and incompetence.

Sajid Javid has had the gall to blame the EU for not introducing tariffs on Chinese steel, which is being dumped on world markets and destroying higher-quality European production facilities. But it was the British government that blocked these higher tariffs that were proposed by the EU Commission, arguing for free trade as part of the national kowtow to China. So our government has refused to protect our steel industry in order to attract Chinese cash and is now deceitfully blaming Brussels for failure to act.

So would we be better off outside the EU where we could set our own tariffs on Chinese steel? There are two reasons why this clearly would not be the case. First, it was our government that was blocking the tariffs on Chinese steel at European level so we would be unlikely to see them imposed in the UK. Secondly, we are a small steel producer on our own but much stronger in the world markets when we work alongside the industries of Germany, France, and Italy.

Our government has kowtowed to the Chinese but they have proved themselves to be bad allies, now imposing 46% tariffs on European steel. We would be much better off playing a constructive role in EU and working with our European partners to protect the European steel industry and steel jobs across the continent.

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