Baroness Sarah Ludford – Liberal Democrat MEP for London – took part in a 1 to 11 discussion at Business Network Magazine, where the relationship between Britain and the European Union became the principal subject of discussion.
The meeting started with a speech outlining the importance of national identity and the consequent uneasiness in delegating powers to the supranational EU level. While some individuals accept that different identities can exist simultaneously, others believe that “power or identity can only be located in one place”. Although advocating more powers for local entities, Baroness Ludford recognizes that the EU is necessary and helpful in fighting ‘big challenges’ such as climate change and trade. She therefore claims that sovereignty can be given up in order to obtain a share of an arrangement protecting someone better than could otherwise be done alone. In this sense, sovereignty is not permanently lost. However, in a culture characterised by a ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality, the concept of power sharing at a supranational level undoubtedly sounds uncomfortable.
Questions from the audience successively shifted the discussion on issue concerning more specifically the Single Market. Baroness Ludford explained how Single Market membership was fundamental for Britain and – more specifically – for London. Due to its linguistic diversity, London constitutes an attractive environment for investors and businesses to operate. Without denying the need for improvement in its workings, she was categorical in outlining Britain’s necessity to remain an active voice in its decision-making process.
On a related matter, Baroness Ludford was also asked to outline her views on the access to the European market for developing countries and the allocation of skilled labour to EU citizens. While outlining her firm support for the free movement of people in the Single Market, she promptly specified that immigration policy falls within the remit of national governments. Consequently, she expressed favour towards a ‘well-crafted’ immigration policy that could welcome skilled people from outside the EU and drew attention to the devastating effects that a ‘protectionist’ Single Market entails on developing countries. Baroness Ludford insisted throughout the entire discussion on the necessity for the EU to be a ‘outward looking’ entity rather than an isolationist organization for the sole benefit of its member states.
Additional questions also included comments on the relationship between different institutional bodies in the EU.