Campaigning to keep our EU membership is one of the most radical things you can do in politics right now. For those of us on the left, preventing Brexit is not about the status quo – it’s very simply the first step towards ending austerity, winning a Labour government, and winning the chance to work in partnership with our European Socialist partners to transform Europe and to counter the authoritarian direction set by China and the US.
At root, the reason we should believe in the EU is because of what it fundamentally is: a group of countries coming together, as equals, to do more than they could apart. The EU is a socialist idea – and one that can be used to create huge social good if we play our part.
Working within a partnership with the size and reach of the EU is the only way to tackle systemic, regional and global crises like climate chaos, to take on the might of globalised business and invest in wage growth and job security. A country the size of the UK cannot stop climate chaos – but working with 27 partners we have the beginning of a chance.
Working cross-border is essential in many other areas, including workers’ rights and environmental protections, if we are to prevent companies simply hopping from country to country searching for the lowest protections, encouraging a race to the bottom.
By choosing to work together we can pool resources, enabling us to invest in the places that need it most, in the best scientific research, and in new industries where they are most needed. In the North East, for example, the EU has invested in the growth of new digital industries, enabling workers to shift from high carbon, polluting jobs to industries of the future.
For Labour to turn our back on the EU would not only be to reject the trade and prosperity offered by membership of the customs union and single market, it would be to turn our back on the chance to create a true socialist Europe. We could work in partnership with other nations and build on the very real achievements of Labour and other socialist parties across the continent.
There is an immediate, expedient reason to back a public vote and Remain. The results of the local and European elections, where we lost half our MEPs, as well as the recent shock poll putting the Lib Dems in first place, mean that Labour has to confront the single most important question the electorate are asking – are you for Leave or Remain?
We are not short of radical policy ideas, from Momentum’s policy ideas including a four-day week, our plan for a £10 minimum wage and the green industrial revolution. But we won’t get a hearing on our domestic policy offer, however radical, until we answer the question of Leave vs Remain, and until we map a way out of the Brexit disaster through a public vote.
But opposing Brexit on its own is not enough. In 2016, 17.4 million people voted for change. If we are to win the argument for Remain, our answer cannot be that change is not needed or that change is impossible. Instead, we have to argue that the radical change our country needs can only happen if we retain our membership of the EU – both to provide the stability and economic strength that comes from being part of the world’s biggest trading bloc and to enable us to partner with European Socialists who are just as keen as we are to see the back of failed neoliberal ideology, climate chaos and unfettered global business.
We are launching the Remain and Reform policy commission to develop this simple idea – that Britain’s best future is in the EU under a Labour government. We will highlight what we already have that’s valuable as EU members, and what we would lose were we to leave. We will publicise and develop policy on the economy, climate and the environment, democracy, workers’ rights and more. Remain must be a vision of a hopeful future – and one that is more than broad-brush strokes.
After three years of argument and indecision, voters deserve an honest appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of a future inside or outside the EU. All the centrists can offer is a return to the status quo – 2016 with added austerity. That’s a vision no voter, Leave or Remain, would ascribe to. Remain and Reform is the silver bullet – an argument that accepts that Britain and the EU need to change, in how our economy runs, how we’re governed and where power lies – but that exposes the lie that leaving the EU would solve any of these problems and maps a route to a better, socialist future.
Remain is not an end in itself. It has to be a first step towards radical transformation of the economy and society. Only by working with our European Socialist partners can we bring real change, not only to the UK, but to the whole of Europe.
Sign up here to hear more about Remain and Reform, our new policy commission, events and more. The first Remain and Reform podcast, featuring the brilliant Laura Parker, national coordinator of Momentum, and Jo Stevens MP, is out now. This isn’t a closed shop: we want you to get involved, bring your ideas and contribute to policy and the campaign.