Words by Stiff Little Fingers
European parliament The European elections are just around the corner, with votes taking place this Thursday 22 May. But how well do you know the candidates, and what it is they really stand for? Here is a round-up of key parties and their policies, to give a focused picture of what issues are at stake.


Conservatives

The Conservative party has been worst hit by the rise of UKIP, with the more Eurosceptic sections of its voter base shifting across to UKIP. Cameron and co are certainly attempting to regain those voters with their manifesto for this election, promising a continued rejection of the Euro in favour of economic independence, and an in/out referendum on EU membership. The Tories claim to be the only party who can and will deliver one.

Other than that, the party is looking for more control of justice and home affairs – giving the police more power to “protect British citizens unencumbered by unnecessary interference from the European institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights”, along with a change in benefit-claiming procedures, so that the free movement for EU citizens is “free movement to take up work, not a freedom to move just for more generous benefits”. The Tory manifesto also talks of reform, presumably on the basis of an 'In' victory in the referendum, changing the European parliament so that the national parliaments have more power and a greater say on European policy making.


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Greens

The Greens are running on a manifesto of animal protection, calling for the EU to help in protecting animals. Having vocally opposed the badger cull, they want the EU to aid by permitting the vaccination of cattle. They are also looking to the EU to fund alternatives to animal testing, banning such testing completely. Also on the Green agenda is a ban on the import of wild animals, with stronger limits on what animals may be kept as pets, alongside removing subsidies to bullfighting and fiestas involving the running of the bulls.

The Greens also aim to end factory farming, by way of action against over-use of antibiotics, banning the caging of hens, pig farrowing crates and the addition of mandatory grazing access for cattle and goats. The party is campaigning for better labelling of meat and dairy (containing the country, production and slaughter methods) and CCTV in slaughter houses.


Labour

Labour takes an interesting stance on the EU. Its position is a reformed EU that is says will be focused on boosting jobs and economic growth, with Britain at the heart. But the party would also insist on the blocking of any transfer of British powers to the EU without having an in/out referendum first.

Labour focuses on an economic reform of the EU, restraining the budgets along with focusing spending on that which will reduce national level costs. Cuts would happen in places like the common agricultural policy, directing spending toward research and development.

As part of that, Labour proposes a new position, the commissioner of growth, bringing together some existing commission portfolios on economic policies – ensuring the EU focuses on growth and can be held accountable for the progress made.

The party is also pushing for European banking reform, introducing proper controls to bonuses, and reforming to a stable, efficient system that stimulates growth by supporting credit provision, and providing greater resilience to financial crises.

Other financial policies include the erosion of foreign tax bases as a tax avoidance scheme, alongside an international financial transaction tax, one supported by all financial centres, including the US, as part of the prevention of moving taxable profits offshore or to lower-taxed countries.


Liberal Democrats


Nick Clegg
The Lib Dems are also running on a reformation platform, with the belief that membership of the EU is needed to keep the economic recovery up. In particular the Lib Dems focus on the EU's potential to generate jobs.

The party supports the removal of remaining trade barriers – to open up a market of 500 million customers to British businesses, along with opening up the online industries, energy markets and accountancy, law and architecture services (markets where the UK has the edge) to create more opportunities to expand trade, thus creating more jobs.

The Lib Dems also look to support businesses, backing representation for small businesses at all EU negotiations, providing an ability to protect their interests. The Lib Dems are also looking for research funding from the EU’s £60bn Research and Technology pot, going to UK universities and companies for their innovation.


UKIP

Pinning down the policies for UKIP going into this election is as hard as pulling hens' teeth, with its manifesto an eight-page document that focuses on why Britain should leave the EU.

Many policies focus on what would change if we left the EU - including those on cutting and controlling immigration, reducing fuel poverty by scrapping the subsidies for renewable energy and removing the right for prisoners to vote.

Beyond that, UKIP policies include 'Local Homes for Local Families' (an initiative to prioritise council housing towards those with British-born ancestors), mandatory health insurance for tourists coming into the UK and the reduction of the price of petrol and diesel by cutting fuel duty.

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Image of european parliament and Nick Clegg used courtesy of Francisco Antunes and Chatham House respectively via Flickr under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Images cropped and resized.