Britain and Europe: Today we punch above our weight. Tomorrow we may not even get in to the ring

October 27, 2013 3:57 pm

In the debate about how British jobs and business would be damaged irreparably by the Conservative threat to take us out of the European Union, Labour has to argue the case too that it would wreak equal damage to Britain’s standing and influence in the world.

International partners, including Britain’s historic allies and friends, have been clear. Japan called on the UK to “maintain a strong voice and continue to play a major role in the EU.” Australia told the UK that EU membership allows Britain greater “leverage in our global influence.” And the Obama administration warned Britain that referendums such as the one wanted by David Cameron “turn countries inward.”

If the Conservatives were honest, that is the real alternative which they offer.

Remember when Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s adviser wanted to criticise British intelligence, he called us “a small island no one listens to?”. And Eurosceptics often cite Norway. But the Head of the Institute of International Affairs in Oslo says his country’s relationship with the EU is no alternative for Britain, as it is “complex and costly, as well as problematic in terms of democracy and the national interest”.

Even the UK Government’s own so-called and skewed “Balance of Competencies” review came to the same conclusion. The report on EU foreign policy published earlier this year found that competencies “remain squarely with Member States” and that “most of the evidence argues..strongly in the UK’s interest to work through the EU”.

europe: are we in or out?

Yet it is Tory ideology that leads them to ignore their own evidence.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (in this year’s European Foreign Policy Scorecard), has already shown the British Government prepared to give up leadership in six out of nineteen areas of European foreign policy. This is despite the overall finding that in only one area during the last year – EU-China investment – has there been any even minor divergence between EU and UK goals.

Meanwhile EU High Representative for foreign policy Cathy Ashton has scored a series of successes including the mediation between Serbia and Kosovo, encouraging reforms in Burma, leading the enormously important diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear programme, and combatting piracy off the Horn of Africa.

We should be proud that Cathy is British too, and a former Labour leader in the House of Lords at that. In the European Parliament her achievements will always be attributed to her individual merits not her nationality. But surely those successes do demonstrate how British foreign policy can sit comfortably at the heart of today’s European Union?

Labour has a different vision, not just for Britain but for Europe too. Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has rightly argued that the EU amplifies British power and promotes “our values and not just our interests”. We understand that every EU country stands taller, is able to build better alliances, win more trade deals, tackle global challenges including climate change, by taking a constructive part in a common European foreign policy. Labour believes this enhances not threatens British sovereignty.

Today we punch above our weight. Tomorrow we may not even get in to the ring.

In the European Parliament, Labour rejects the argument for British exceptionalism. In our own country, we oppose British isolationism. And it is our party not our opponents, who best represent British influence.

  • treborc1

    But it’s the people who should chose not Miliband or the labour party, Blair promised a vote then went back on it, the simple truth we have never had a vote on entering the United States of Europe. But if we have a referendum and the people agree to it then I’m fine, right now the EU is not what we voted on it not as labour or the Tories promised it’s not in any way shape of form a common market.

  • The_Average_Joe_UK

    We import more from Europe that we export. QED Europe needs us more than we need them.

    Europe is corrupt. The accounts have never been signed off

    Who gives a *oss what Putin an undemocrtaic pseudo communist dictator says?

    Europe generates tons of bureaucratic red tape that impedes business

    Europe will try to screw our finance industry

    The pro Brigade and that includes Cameron are terrified of the people they CLAIM to represent. Because the truth is the EU crowd have lost the argument.

    • JoeDM

      All good valid points.

      There have been quite a few articles across the media recently all making the same basic set of points. Mmm…. I wonder….no, they wouldn’t……coincidence?

  • swatnan

    Richard Howitt is the best MEP that the Eastern Region has ever had. And yes, he, like Nigel Farage, are both paid by the EU. Richard however makes positive comments about the EU because it is here to stay, unlike Nigel, who is always knocking the EU, instead of asking for example: Why can’t we have an elected Commission instead of an appointed one?

    • The_Average_Joe_UK

      The corrupt EU will destroy itself. I’d rather it were today than tomorrow.

      • treborc1

        So long as it does not ignite another world war


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