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'Staying in Europe will protect jobs'

I’M IN: Nick Clegg makes case for Europe

LAST WEEK I took on Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, in the debate over Britain’s membership of the EU. At my invitation we took to the television studios to have it out, live on air about whether or not Britain should remain in the EU.

Why? Because on May 22 Britain will go to the polls for the European Elections and you will be faced with a simple but important choice: Do you believe Britain is better off in Europe, or do you think we should leave?

The Liberal Democrats are the Party of IN, UKIP are the party of OUT, and I believe the British people need to hear both sides of this debate.

The reality is that exiting the EU would be disastrous for Britain: our jobs, our economy and our society too. This nation is always at its best when we are open and outward-facing – engaged with our neighbours and the rest of the world.

UKIP and others say otherwise, arguing that we would be better off if cut ourselves off from the rest of the continent. It’s the politics of blame – little Englanders shunning the outside world and pretending that all of Britain’s problems can be easily solved: we just need to pull up the drawbridge.

But it is a dangerous con. Walking away from Europe – our biggest export market – is the surest way to trash our fragile economic recovery. It is only by staying in the EU that we can protect the millions of jobs which are linked to European trade.

As part of a European economic superpower we also have much greater clout with other world economies. America has also made it clear that it values its old ally as much for our influence in Europe as anything else.

And ultimately this is about strength in numbers. Why would we isolate ourselves when we live in an uncertain world? In the 21st century our greatest challenges are ones we cannot face alone. Whether it’s tackling climate change, dealing with terrorism or clamping down on cross-border crime – on all of these our nations are stronger together than we are apart.

If you agree that Britain is better off in Europe, it’s time to make yourselves heard. The Liberal Democrats are now Britain’s only party of IN. The Labour and Conservative parties are entirely absent from this debate. Both of their parties are deeply divided on this issue. As a result neither is willing to take UKIP on.

But the Liberal Democrats are making a stand. And in the European parliament we will stand up for British values too. There is a real threat that these elections will see populists and extremists elected across the continent.

Put the Liberal Democrats into the European Parliament and we can defend the freedom and diversity that we all hold so dear. My party believes passionately that all people must be treated equally – irrespective of colour or gender, and regardless of the circumstances of their birth. We believe in the values of tolerance and respect – and as we seek to promote Britain’s interests in Europe we will always seek to advance these very British ideals.

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