Almost 70 MPs form Labour Yes to EU group

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Dozens of Labour MPs have organised to form a group to argue for the UK’s membership of the EU. With an in/out referendum certain to happen at some point before the end of 2017, the group believes that a co-ordinated voice is needed to put forward left-of-centre arguments for the European Union and capitalise on Tory splits on the issue.

Labour Yes is being co-chaired by two north east MPs: Pat Glass, member for North West Durham, and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson. They plan to focus on organising MPs to speak on European matters in Parliament, and start to reach out to institutions that are affected by membership, such as business, trade unions and universities. With nearly 70 MPs already signed up, the group represents almost a third of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Pat Glass, who was elected in 2010 and previously worked in local education services, said that with the Tories so divided on the issue, it is paramount for Labour to start making a unified case for an in vote in the referendum. According to the Guardian website, she said:

“It’s very important that Labour MPs make the pro-European case. The Tories are hopelessly divided on this issue and there is a danger that the country’s interests get dragged down by their divisions. The centre of gravity in the Labour party is very firmly to stay in the EU.

“Of course, the case for Britain staying in the EU will not be made by politicians alone but this group will be a strong clear voice in parliament and in the country arguing a case for Britain in Europe based on trade, jobs, investment and our place in the world.”

Her co-chair Phil Wilson stressed the importance of EU membership to businesses and job creation, especially in the north east:

“Companies like Hitachi and Nissan in the north east employ thousands of people and part of their reason for being located in the UK is access to the single market. Half the cars made here by Nissan are exported to the EU.”

The news was welcomed by both Shadow Europe Minister Pat McFadden and Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna – although the move does raise questions about potential splits in the party. Some figures, such as leadership contender Andy Burnham and Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn are understood to wish to run a Labour Yes campaign in place of cross-party campaign, while others think the party should do both.

Pat McFadden said:

“I very much welcome the formation of this group. The past week has shown the continuing disarray in the Conservative party over Europe. Labour Yes will be speaking up for a strong and leading role for Britain in Europe.”

Chuka Umunna said said it was important that Labour puts forward a clear reform agenda for the EU:

“It is crucial we make an emotional as well as an economic case for our continued membership. We must do so with a clear reform package, reflecting Labour’s values, speaking to the concerns people have about the EU. We should also play our part within a broad campaign involving a variety of different groups. The formation of the Labour Yes group of MPs is an important first step in all of this.”

Meanwhile, the paper reports that Kate Hoey is organising a Labour No group.

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