Gordon Brown returned to the political frontline today when he gave a speech on the importance of the EU to jobs, workers’ rights and the environment. He was speaking at a Labour In for Britain rally at the University of Warwick.
In this European referendum the Labour In for Britain and Britain Stronger In Europe campaigns are articulating a forward-looking statement of how Europe can best work for the British people.
In assessing the case for Britain’s membership of the European Union, our starting point should not be what best serves the interests of the European Union but how we can best meet the needs and aspirations of the British people.
This referendum is not so much about the future of Europe as the future of Britain – about the people of Britain and the kind of country we want to live in, now and in the future.
When we look at the challenging demands of a global economy and an increasingly insecure and unstable world, the case for British engagement in Europe is even stronger than it was when we first joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s.
Since then, we have entered a new world that is shaped by globalisation and defined by our interdependence. In this world, the real challenge for our nation – and indeed for every nation – is to balance the autonomy we desire with the co-operation we need…
As a pro-European chancellor who nonetheless recommended against entry into the Euro, I will always put Britain’s national interest first.
I opposed the Euro when co-operation was wrong for Britain but I support co-operation in a range of areas including the economy, workers’ rights and the environment where it is right for Britain.
While I recommended against entry into the Euro, I have always favoured opening up the European single market.
Thousands of British people are going to work today in the 200,000 individual British companies trading with Europe. 10,000 European-owned businesses employ us, British workers, across our country. The most recent reputable study by Professor Iain Begg has suggested more than three million jobs in Britain are now linked to Europe.
And as the single market expands into digital, financial services and energy – areas in which Britain is a world leader – it could become the biggest job creator of the next decade, creating up to 500,000 new jobs.
And we need Britain to remain part of the EU to benefit from a 15 per cent share – £45bn plus – of the £320bn European infrastructure fund, particularly to help rebuild our hard-hit steel communities.
While Parliament continues to determine our own social security policies, we help workers secure basic rights by setting minimum standards across the 28 EU member countries – preventing a self-defeating race to the bottom in which the good paying companies and countries are undercut by the bad and the bad by the worst.
Inside the European Union, Britain has the power to decide our energy balance between nuclear, coal, oil and renewables. However, an energy and environmental union not only prevents free-riders from polluting our air but also integrates our massive yet intermittent wind and wave power into the widest possible energy pool – preventing the waste of power.
It is clear that the challenges ahead for Britain – from creating jobs and raising living standards to combatting pollution and ensuring our defence and security – can only be addressed by cross-border co-operation and co-ordination with our nearest neighbours.
In short, European co-operation is the best way to secure more jobs, the only way to curb tax havens, the most effective way to tackle illegal immigration and terrorism on our borders and a progressive way to address climate change and guarantee minimum standards at work.
And I have found that, by an overwhelming margin of two to one, the British people are far more supportive of the European Union if we are not just a member – but a leader.