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 Full text 
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 - Strasbourg Revised edition

State of the Union (debate)

  Syed Kamall, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, I would like to say to Mr Juncker that when it comes to jobs, security and freedom, a Europe that protects cannot be a Europe that is protectionist. The ECR Group believes that the EU needs to create more opportunities, not more regulations and more agencies. Many of our citizens tell us that they feel as if they have little say in the decisions we make about their lives, their countries and their futures. When it comes to their concerns over migration, security and jobs, they prefer an EU that complements their national and local governments, not seek to overrule them.

Speaking as both a future neighbour who wishes to see a prosperous EU trading and cooperating with a prosperous UK, and speaking today as one of the leaders of the ECR Group with MEPs from across the EU, being critical of the policies of the EU should not be seen as an attack on the EU, but a genuine desire to see an EU which regains the trust and confidence of its citizens.

As a liberal Conservative and a passionate believer in free trade, I welcome the emphasis on open trade in your speech. But modern open trade needs countries to shed the cloak of protectionism. Modern open trade needs to be open to the latest investment in technology to allow frictionless borders. Modern open trade needs faster broadband networks to allow SMEs to trade securely online with the rest of the world. And for our businesses and economies to thrive, let us prioritise the REFIT agenda. Let us improve access to finance for businesses, small and large, via peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding. Let us train our workers with the skills demanded by modern digital economies. But also, let us unleash the spirit of free enterprise in our young people to create their own businesses, and let them be allowed to try and try again if at first they do not succeed. Because, just as Soviet five-year plans did not create creative economies, EU growth plans do not create jobs: it is businesses that create jobs.

We must also remember that our economic prosperity depends upon global stability, and we cannot show disunity in our dealings with Russia or other unpleasant regimes. We must maintain sanctions and show in words and in action at the Eastern Partnership Summit that, for countries like Ukraine, NATO, the EU and the West can offer them a better, stronger and more stable future than turning to face the east.

Mr Juncker, no one expects there to be a quick fix to all the challenges, or for you to have all the answers by the next time we meet. But the people outside of this building want to know that the people inside this building will continue to steady the ship and not set sail into yet more storms. So no matter what side of the argument, or what side of the Channel, all our countries need to prepare to face the global challenges from a position of optimism, from a position of strength, and from a position of honesty with our voters.

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