Balls speech signals Labour’s shift in focus to EU reform

15th May, 2014 9:32 pm

Labour’s European election campaign has come under attack in recent weeks for barely talking about Europe, and avoiding the debate around immigration. Earlier today Yvette Cooper made an intervention on UKIP and immigration, and now Ed Balls – in a speech this evening – has pushed Labour’s position on EU reform. Balls said:

“The status quo isn’t good enough. We need to see change in Britain, but we also need to see real change in Europe too. Europe needs to work better to respond to public concerns, deliver better value for money for taxpayers and secure rising prosperity. The EU must be made to work better for Britain.”

Whilst some will doubtless suggest that this change in emphasis contains an implied criticism of Douglas Alexander from Ed Balls – especially after tension between the two men has been reported before. But we understand that the speech has been in the campaign grid for weeks, and was agreed by Balls, Alexander and Miliband in advance. Indeed, the speech echoes Alexander’s comments on EU reform last week – and references Alexander by name on more than one occasion.

ed balls tests

Specific measures mentioned by Balls in his speech include:

  • An EU Commissioner focused on growth
  • An independent audit of the impact of any new piece of EU legislation on growth
  • Extend the period of time that people from new member states have to wait before being able to come to the UK to look for work
  • Stopping the payment of benefits to those not resident in the UK
  • Doubling the time that an EU migrant has to wait before being able to claim the basic Job Seekers Allowance

It’s unclear at this stage whether or not these reform plans will be the focal point of Labour’s messaging in the final week before election day.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Where the Tories go today Ball’s goes tomorrow. Eeek.

    • i_bid

      I’m sure a set of policies that seem to scream “benefit-scrounging immigrants issue” that both the main parties have made yet another consensus on, will hurt UKIP no end…

      • Monkey_Bach

        It is desperate, awful and reactionary stuff. As Balls appears to have no shame I’ll be ashamed of him. for him, on his behalf.


    • Mukkinese

      Right because this is just like the Tories attempts to remove human and workers rights, except that it isn’t.

      The immigration stuff is neither here nor there, a six month delay and making people claim benefits in the country that they are actually in is hardly radical stuff.

      This is just gesture politics for the “I’m not a racist” UKIP supporters, your hysteria is worst than the over-heated press…

      • Monkey_Bach

        I can’t decipher what you mean but suppose it balanced, sage and wise. Personally I find a deliberate and contrived announcement like this on the eve of elections to return Euro MPs an act of poorly judged and reckless desperation; not the act of a statesman but more that of a rather shallow man in a bit of a state as per UKIP.

        But then I’m me and Balls is balls.


  • EricBC

    Looks like a few anti-immigration gestures for the tabloids and not much else. Dynamically insipid.

  • i_bid

    I was reeling at the quoted comment, entirely made up of trite platitudes that don’t say anything much, before I even seen the list of ‘measures’ (anything but measured). What an absolute joke.

    So basically just continuing Tories distraction (and misrepresentation), stopping their benefits, hoping to fool the public – and not worry about all the aspersions inherently attached – who actually want to see the free movement of labour addressed.

    • MikeHomfray

      It won’t be. Its the entire point of having the EU – a single European market which means free movement of goods and labour.
      If you want to come out of the EU then that is your view but no party which wants to stay in the EU can be against the free movement of labour

      • gunnerbear

        “but no party which wants to stay in the EU can be against the free movement of labour”

        Well said. The UK can either be or out of everything the EU is, it can’t pick and chose in the long run given the continual push towards EU integration.

        • MikeHomfray

          Exactly. And Labour is a pro-EU party.

      • Holly

        ‘a single European market which means the free movement of goods and labour’.
        Welfare/state benefits shouldn’t even be on the radar.
        It has been free movement to the UK, en masse, over the last decade…
        Too far, too fast you might say..
        Hurting, but not working..
        British jobs for EU workers more like.

  • PoundInYourPocket

    This is the lowest form of “triangulation” politics. Suggesting reform purely to underine UKIP. With a bit of Tory “growth” thrown in. What about the kind of reform that’s realy required and that the labour left has been calling for year after year. Democratic reform of the institution. Transparency of the Council of Ministers and Commission, allowing the EU Parliament to propoe legislation rather than just vote on it, and what about changing the entire ethos of the EU away from corporate intests and towards the interessts of the EU population. Do I have to join the Green party to get EU reform ?

  • MrSauce

    Who on earth did he make this speech to?
    Is there anyone who would turn up to listen to Ed Balls?
    Maybe his audience was taken unawares.
    Probably expecting Bingo.

    • gunnerbear

      “Maybe his audience was taken unawares.
      Probably expecting Bingo.”

      Harsh and brilliant. Top Notch.

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  • treborc1

    It’s what labour has been doing for a while now they let the Tories set the agenda and then follow on, the issue for labour is to ask them do they have anything to offer other then a few cap and agree with the Tories.

    The next election is a toss up of which Conservatives you want Labour Lite or the real thing.

    Gordon brown and putting young women with babies back into work houses, and the disabled well thank god he left power.

  • Rex Hale

    It would be interesting to see a thought-through Labour approach to reform of the EU, rather than these foreigner-bashing Cameron-lite platitudes. An approach to reform that champions the four EU freedoms (a vital argument that urgently needs making in the UK), takes on the ‘ever closer union’ problem, and and starts to challenge the democratic deficit of the EU machine constructively would be very welcome.

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