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Chuka Umunna: “We have to stop gold plating European rules and regulations”

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In the lead up to the 7 May general election, and when Umunna will be defending his position as MP for Streatham, the politician set out what kind of role the European Union would have under a Labour government.

Speaking with Real Business whilst out on the road as part of his “Future Jobs of Britain” tour, Umunna said that the UK must become more “deeply engaged with Europe” and take an increasingly leading role.

“We [as the former Labour government] were able to marshall a majority on so many issues. [David] Cameron is the first to lose a vote at the European council,” he said.

“We need it to be more of a growth focus, pushing the EU growth commissioner – working on structural reforms and not unduly burdening businesses across Europe.”

The declaration came in the same week that Umunna, alongside Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls, unveiled the party’s business manifesto. In it were details on how Labour would support “productive, growing and profitable firms”.

The manifesto is built on the principles of: building a strong economic foundation; ensuring an open approach to the world; backing British businesses to create high-skilled jobs required; helping businesses access finance to grow; and tackling the skills shortages.

Speaking then, Miliband said: “Our long term future lies inside, not outside, the European Union. There could be nothing worse for our country or for our great exporting businesses than playing political games with our membership of the EU.

“We should be reforming Europe from the inside. To build an EU that supports the needs of business. To build an EU that spends its budget wisely. To build an EU with fair rules on immigration.”

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Umunna explained to Real Business that the Labour business manifesto was the first in a series of mini-manifestos appearing before the main edition. “We hope it highlights to business how important we think the relationship with them is,” he added. “We’re aiming to reform the economy so it is fairer. We are only going to be able to do that by working in partnership with business.”

The shadow minister for business, who was previously a solicitor, said Labour’s approach will not be a case of “tearing up” what has already been done right by the coalition, but doing things they have not such as addressing the skills gap and late payment.

Speaking on the perceived lack of productivity in the UK, Umunna said: “”Under the Tories, we’ve seen the rise of a low-wage, low-skilled economy and insecure work as productivity has stagnated, with real wages down by an average of £1,600 a year. Britain is now ranked second bottom for productivity among the G7 economies.

“Labour’s better plan will boost high-skilled, better paid jobs. We will raise the minimum wage and incentivise firms to pay a Living Wage, ensure every school leaver with the grades can access a high- quality apprenticeship and back small firms by cutting – then freezing – business rates. And we will ban exploitative zero-hours contracts which have become the norm for too many under the Tories.”

Next week Real Business will be featuring a more detailed feature including Umunna’s thoughts on exporting, access to finance and apprenticeships – alongside comments and a video interview with Labour minister for small business Toby Perkins.

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