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Nick Clegg: Speech to the Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards

October 13, 2011 8:00 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

"Anyone who still thinks that the troubles in the Eurozone are somebody else's problem is, frankly, living in fantasy land.

"The twin banking and sovereign debt crises - if left to rage on - could eclipse the 2008 financial meltdown.

"And, if that happens, the UK will pay a very heavy price.

"For one, our financial sector doesn't operate in a vacuum...

"Failure to recapitalise Eurozone banks could, in a worst-case scenario, have serious repercussions for lending here at home.

"The positive noises we are hearing about progress on European bank recapitalisation plans are therefore extremely welcome.

"But this isn't just about London's Square Mile.

"Businesses up and down the country - your businesses - depend on a healthy and stable Europe.

"Over half of all exports from Yorkshire and the Humber go to our European neighbours.

"In 2010 alone, over 4000 northern businesses exported over £25bn of goods to the EU.

"In the parts of the country suffering most from the rise in unemployment.

"That trade creates desperately needed jobs too.

"Prosperity in the North depends on stability in our European backyard.

"Yet, there are some people who see the current troubles as an opportunity for the UK to retreat from Europe.

"A moment to withdraw...

"Preferring isolationism, protectionism.

"Even though that is cutting our nose off to spite our face.

"The real way for the Government to help British businesses is.

"In the short-term, to be supportive of the Eurozone as it finds a swift and decisive resolution to the crisis.

"And, in the long-term, to use this moment to push for the deepening and widening of the Single Market.

"Why? Because by opening up trade, that market has created opportunities for business that would otherwise impossible.

"It has encouraged investment; created jobs; generated wealth.

"I have worked in the European Union.

"I am realistic about its flaws, and I am restless for it to do better.

"But I have also seen the benefits brought home when British officials shape trade agreements to suit British interests.

"I am proud that the world's biggest borderless market place was designed by Lord Cockfield, a British EU Commissioner.

"Driven by the British Government of the time.

"And I will not hide my frustration at the fact that Whitehall has become so much better at saying 'no' to Europe than getting the rest of Europe to say 'yes' to us.

"Under successive governments, a culture has grown up in which the starting point is never 'what can we get out of Europe?'

"But rather, 'how can we protect ourselves from Europe?'

"But that hurts the British people.

"It is a betrayal of great British achievements.

"And it's going to change.

"This Government is doing things differently.

"We're using our influence to advance British interests.

"Interests that are top of my agenda in all my dealings with other European leaders.

"I can tell you today that we are launching an aggressive new push to get more out of the Single Market.

"It is a scandal that, two decades after its inception, that market is still incomplete.

"A scandal that - despite the clear benefits it would bring - government after government has failed to seize the opportunities that come with further liberalisation within the EU.

"A scandal that British businesses and families continue to miss out on billions of pounds as a result.

"We could add 800bn Euros to the European economy just by liberalising trade in services and the digital economy.

"That's three and a half thousand pounds per household, per year.

"This Government is not going to sit idly by while Britain loses out.

"Nor are we going to take a backseat on trade between the EU and the rest of the world either.

"In the current round of EU negotiations on bilateral trade agreements, we're making sure we are heard, and making sure Britain benefits.

"And, in every decision, across the board, Britain must be louder than we've ever been.

"For example, we've left the European Commission in no doubt that the UK expects fair regulation of European financial services.

"Of course we believe that we must learn from the dramatic failings of regulation in the past.

"But any changes to regulation must create a level playing field.

"And we won't abide reforms that undermine recovery in the City.

"It's all part of a new approach.

"This isn't a moment to step away from Europe.

"This is a moment to lead."