Why Labour should be making a One Nation case for Europe

19th January, 2013 2:32 pm

 

Yesterday we were supposed to have the big speech on Europe from David Cameron. It was originally scheduled for next week and then under pressure from business leaders and our partners in the EU, it was brought forward to today. And now – for understandable reasons – it’s been postponed.

This reflects the uncertainty and lack of leadership that has defined Conservative Party policy on our relationship with the EU. Will we have a referendum? Will a protracted campaign deter investment? What choice will a referendum offer us? Vince Cable this week says a referendum would be a dangerous sleepwalk to a “Brexit”. In short, it’s a euroshambles.

Thankfully, Labour has moved to spell out its approach to Europe. On Thursday, in a speech at Chatham House, Douglas Alexander has given a clear commitment that a Labour Government would represent the “national interest” in its dealings with the EU.

Mr Alexander said: “We have a Prime Minister who simply cannot reconcile he demands of his party with the needs of his country”. That won’t be the case for a Labour Government. That’s because Labour understands the realpolitik of both being in the EU and taking a leadership position – and the benefits that can bring the UK.

Ideological hostility to the EU is becoming more mainstream in the Conservative Party – so is opportunistic hostility – as a result of fears over a UKIP challenge at the next general election.

It’s something of a relief to hear that Douglas Alexander will not fall into the opportunistic trap. This for me is the measure of Douglas Alexander as a national politician. He could have trumped David Cameron today by calling for a referendum – albeit one that offers a real choice rather than the false choice that the Conservatives are likely to offer (either out or a membership where we are stripped of employment and environmental protections – and which in any case is unlikely to be accepted by our 26 EU partners ).

Labour seems more comfortable than it has been for a long time about its position on Europe. Just because David Cameron shys away from upsetting hardline Eurosceptics who are making all the noise at the moment, it doesn’t mean that Ed Miliband should too. As a One Nation party that sees the benefits of EU membership for our national interest, we have a responsibility for making the case.

For pro-Europeans in the Labour Party like me, Douglas Alexander’s speech is music to our ears. Not only is it unapologetically pro-European but it is also hard-headed about what it wants from the EU for hard-working families in he UK.

There are some eurofederalists in our party that think we should simply make a European case for our membership. This is wrong. We should make a One Nation case.

That’s why Douglas Alexander is right to say he wants to address people’s concerns over things like the Agency Workers Directive and the Posting of Workers Directive. David Cameron simply wants to dump any employment protection measures at the earliest possible opportunity. Make no mistake that’s what the Conservative policy on re-negotiation is all about.

Similarly, we need to take a One Nation approach to free movement of workers. Next year, restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK will be lifted. While there are already tough EU restrictions on welfare benefits for non-UK Europeans, the Labour Party’s policy review needs to take a close look at our labour market requirements and address the wider issue of free movement of workers accordingly.

This is the right way to approach the European Union. It is based on a hard-headed assessment of our national interests and our party’s values. As long as we take a One Nation approach we have nothing to fear from hard-line eurosceptics in UKIP or elsewhere.

Kevin Doran is a Member of the Future of Europe Forum 

  • NT86

    Maybe Labour would manage to claw back lost votes by actually promising a referendum. Labour voters are just as sick and tired of this expensive, inefficient gravy train as Tory voters and UKIP voters. There was a time before Blair’s leadership when Euroscepticism was seen as the norm in the party. What changed?

    • reformist lickspittle

      It was a bit before Blair, actually.

      One of the first things Kinnock did after becoming leader following the 1983 election disaster was to dump withdrawal from the EC/EU (not least because despite being supposedly “popular” in polls, it had actually proved a vote loser on the doorstep – maybe that is something still relevant to today??) And by the late 1980s Labour had become a basically pro-European party – not least because many had come to see Europe (with the Delors “social” progammes and so on) as something of a bulwark against Thatcherite free market, anti worker extremism.

      Promising a referendum is easy populism – but as the PM is now finding out, rather harder to put into practice…….

  • MonkeyBot5000

    Please stop trying to brand everything as One Nation as it really doesn’t mean anything. It just sounds like you’re trying to put a veneer of vague, inoffensive patriotism on something.

    We’re not consumers, we’re voters and we know the difference between a marketing pitch and a reasoned argument. If you want to make a case for Europe, tell us why you think it’s good for the British people and tell us what you will do to address the problems.

    I’d have no problem with fully integrated U.S. of Europe in principle, but only if it’s accountable to the people and the populaces of the countries involved vote for it. However, given the problems with the EAW and a budget that no-one seems to be able to tame or even explain with some signed off accounts, I’d prefer to stay out of the EU until I see some concrete action to tackle those problems.

  • JoeDM

    One Nation Europe.

    Sounds like a single federal state !!!

Latest

  • Featured Miliband plans “Home Office Enforcement Unit” to tackle illegal exploitation of immigrants

    Miliband plans “Home Office Enforcement Unit” to tackle illegal exploitation of immigrants

    Ed Miliband will tomorrow lay out the five Labour principles that will underpin the party’s approach to immigration. In what the party are calling a “major speech” in the North West, Miliband will say that while he believes “immigration can benefit our country” he feels it necessary to say that “Labour got this wrong in the past”. His message will be: “We have listened. We have learned. And we have changed.” The five principles Miliband will set out are: Rebuilding […]

    Read more →
  • News Video The Promise of Britain – watch Ed Miliband’s speech announcing an end to unpaid internships

    The Promise of Britain – watch Ed Miliband’s speech announcing an end to unpaid internships

    Ed Miliband today said a Labour Government would bring about an end to unpaid internships, as he launched the party’s manifesto for young people in Lincoln. The Labour leader revisited his idea of the Promise of Britain: “Over the last five years I’ve been talking about what I call the Promise of Britain. The Promise of Britain, to me, says the next generation should do better than the last. I actually think it’s the way you judge the progress and […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Scotland The latest Ashcroft poll of Scottish seats is more than a mere earthquake – it’s a cataclysm

    The latest Ashcroft poll of Scottish seats is more than a mere earthquake – it’s a cataclysm

    If previous Ashcroft constituency polling in Scotland could be described as an earthquake, the poll the Tory peer had dropped this afternoon will require an entirely different word. A cataclysm perhaps. If this is an earthquake it’s certainly not the kind that rattles the windows in the middle of the night, it’s the sort that razes whole cities to the ground. If Lord Ashcroft’s polling is correct, there’s a risk that Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy could lose his seat […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Shouldn’t Michael Gove be a bit disappointed with himself?

    Shouldn’t Michael Gove be a bit disappointed with himself?

    Michael Gove used to stride around Whitehall like he owned the place. Of all of the Tory Cabinet ministers who took up their posts in 2010, Gove was clearly the one who was most determined to change things. Not in a way that I’d like, admittedly. In my view his treatment of the education as a tool of ideological warfare damaged pupil and teacher alike. But there was no doubt that this was someone on a mission to change Britain. Which […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband now bookies’ favourite become PM

    Miliband now bookies’ favourite become PM

    Ed Miliband is now the favourite to become Prime Minister, according to bookmakers. Ladbrokes now make the Labour leader odds on to be the politician walking into Downing St after May’s election. They say the odds for Miliband to be PM on July 1st are 5/6, while Cameron comes in at evens. Nigel Farage is a long shot at 100/1, while Nick Clegg is even further out at 200-1. The recalculation comes after last night’s TV debate, which Miliband was […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit