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The Thread of Fairness Through Safer, Stronger and Better Off in Europe

02/03/2016 15:08 GMT | Updated 03/03/2017 10:12 GMT

Solidarity and internationalist principles go to the core of European Union. Yet it is the thread of fairness that binds it together, making our collective endeavour safer, stronger and better off for all. We could go further though in securing a truly 'Social Europe' to embed that fairness.

Working together for the common good, not least in making our nations safer, provides a valuable testimony to the value of EU co-operation. With Russia flexing military muscle to the East and Daesh devastating acts to the South, world security feels very fragile. Those challenges won't go away by exiting the EU; retreating into isolation by abandoning NATO commitments, such as Article 5 which requires us to defend partner nations like Turkey; nor undermining human rights by extracting Britain from UN obligations.

Developing consensus in order to share responsibility affords us an opportunity to even out the pressure of global migration, effectively respond to the plight of refugees and counter terrorism, not least with the European Arrest Warrant.

So fairness in a 'Safer Europe' means being on the side of victims, protecting the most vulnerable and fostering peace around the world, with all the benefits that brings to economies and peoples.

Safeguarding £227BN of exports each year is critical to job stability and growth for Britain, but there is a dividing line here for EU proponents. The few back the interests of large corporations, whereas most of us advocate for the rights of individual consumers and workers.

Profit is no bad thing, but social enterprise has wider benefits. The EU affords the opportunity to develop business models that better reflect public interest and social value. Strength is derived from the contributors, such as workers; not the usual benefactors, such as the rich and powerful. That's why we need to construct a Social Europe that works for 500 million people, not large corporations.

The EU provides a framework for health and safety throughout the single market, rights for agency workers and better consumer protection. It isn't red tape for the sake of it, but measures that protect people from exploitation. In the new era of Corporate Social responsibility that is surely the right thing to do; not just here in Britain, but across the single market.

So a 'Stronger Europe' is about standing up for individuals - their living standards, working conditions and ability to buy in the single market; getting the best deal for them as stakeholders, not corporate shareholders.

Operating on a tariff-free basis within the world's largest single market brings financial benefits to British people. On average, families save £450 each year because of our EU membership. Brexit would turn that upside down, with at least 10% of tariff charges passed on to consumers and negative implications for wages. It will take over a decade to negotiate a deal with Europe and prospects with other markets are very uncertain. We shouldn't forget the bleak days of heightened inflation on working people, which will surely return with the financial markets pitched into turmoil by Brexit.

So fairness in a 'Better Off Europe' is about spreading wealth, creating opportunities for people to thrive and to tackle systemic inequality. That isn't achieved by economic instability.

As a blind woman, I know something about leaping in the dark - it isn't wise. So I say to Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove - The Reckless-Three:

'open your eyes to the reality - from the economic case for staying in Europe and the benefits of building a fair Social Europe, to the trading barriers that will be created by withdrawal and loss of global influence - instead of taking a leap into the dark.'

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