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Celebrating 40 years of UK membership of the EU

Catherine offers her thoughts on Britain's 40 year membership of the European Union and how we have benefited.


Forty years ago, when Britain joined the then EEC, we joined someone else's club. But through British guile, tenacity and ingenuity, we have made the EU our own, and to our great benefit.

Britain was the creator and driver of the single market programme that has developed the world's largest single market; a level of trade liberalisation unrivalled anywhere in the world governed by a British-style set of liberal economic rules on competition and state aids that ensure fair play. As a result, the average household is around £3,300 a year better off and there are around an extra 492,114 jobs in the South East.

British police and lawyers have developed, from scratch, Europe's structures and rules for international police and counter-terrorism cooperation. It is British standards of justice and civil rights upon which European standards have been built and exported across Europe.

And, over the last forty years, Britain has been the brains in shaping Europe's foreign policy and voice in the world whether it is European enlargement, international climate change negotiations, free trade deals, sanctions on Iran and Syria, development aid and support to Africa and Burma. In every case, Britain has been at the helm in using the collective weight of the EU to promote our shared interests, export our values and help build a more stable and prosperous world.

It is little wonder that the rest of Europe cannot understand the Euroscepticism in the UK at present. For in their view, Britain has won the vast majority of the big fights in Europe over the last forty years. And to the great benefit of Britain and Europe as a whole.

So as we reflect on the last 40 years, and Britain's long history of engagement in Europe, there is one overwhelming lesson: whenever Britain has hesitated and had self-doubts about engaging in Europe, it has always in retrospect been a huge mistake.

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