Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Brexit risks our place in the world

George Osborne said on Wednesday that Britain should remain in European Union, but not be run by Europe. The risk is that, instead of freeing up Britain from European influence, “Brexit” would turn the United Kingdom into a European economic satellite.

Business leaders know this risk very well – and fear it. This is why the Financial Times’s editorial yesterday encouraged pro-European business leaders to start the campaign now. Regardless of the outcome of the Cameron’s negotiations: ‘At best, the reforms he secures — on benefits for migrants or on the shape of EU institutions — will be modest. At worst, the economic case for continued membership of a bloc with 500 million citizens and 21 million companies will remain overwhelming.’

The necessity of making the case for continued membership of the EU relates to our place in the global economy – but it relates to our place in the world, too, and the two are inevitably intertwined.

None of us, as countries, can succeed alone in the complex world we live in. The threats we face are multifaceted and need to be dealt with using the broadest set of international tools available.

Think of Ukraine. Many of us believed that Russia had moved away from a cold war mindset. So far, this has proved us wrong. Also, take Libya. It would impossible to address migration, terrorism, regional stability while Libya is not a functioning state. This shows that what happens in eastern Europe, north Africa and the Middle East impacts all of us – and we cannot shy away from it. In this global world, we can share expertise, tools and assets to achieve together what we cannot achieve on our own – peace and prosperity for future generations. To me, that is what Europe is all about. We need to start making this case now.

What we are facing instead is a prime minister who is stronger – having won an overall majority – but not strong enough to not listen to the vociferous Eurosceptics in his own party. Having stated that he wants to campaign for to stay in the reformed EU, he is now facing a heated debate within his own party, with his own ministers saying that they want the freedom to campaign for Brexit.

This is a dangerous game. The first effect is that the negotiations have started with the prime minister saying that he wants the EU to be a multi-currency union. I am not clear what this means, no one is proposing the option of joining the Eurozone, far from it. Businesses know that what is really crucial is access and proximity to Eurozone. Others in the continent might think that Cameron is threatening to leave the game – while wanting to tell the others to change the rules.

The reality is that the European partners should be forthcoming, in particular if Britain asks to open negotiations in areas where it knows that many other EU member states would be keen to join forces and achieve progress – think of the energy market and the digital economy – rather than simply looking for opt-outs for the UK from the fundamental principles and policies of the EU. By turning Cameron’s gamble into an open discussion about reform, we might be able both to secure Britain’s ongoing membership, and be that bit stronger as we stand together in our globalised world.


Ivana Bartoletti is chair of Fabian Women’s Network. She tweets @IvanaBartoletti

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Ivana Bartoletti

is chair of Fabian Women's Network and candidate for Havering and Redbridge in the London assembly election


  • I don’t want to be in a little Europe. I want us to have a seat at the top table. We’re a major economy in the top ten – and we are a nuclear state with incredible armed forces. We are a power in or out of the EU. The EU is a redundant middleman in a globalised world. A 1950’s idea for a 2020 world. We should get out while we can before it fails of its own accord.

  • “The EU is a redundant middleman in a globalised world”

    I am sure that the Germans beg to differ, as do the former Soviet states who are desperate to avoid the clutches of “Mother” Russia and its Mafia government. Millions of people in Ulrain are fighting a war to be European and join the EU. Just because the UK media in very insular and seldom reports European issues, less still with any level of intelligence, does not mean it is not happening. Europe is very relevant indeed.

  • Here is Labour’s opportunity to start to climb back to relevance and popularity!

    Positively back the EU referendum! The Greens are stealing a march yet again. Their policy is to back a pro-European Referendum to reconnect people to the institution, a lever to reform the institution to become more democratic, no silly sound bite politics like the Conservatives and sadly Labour.

    Unfortunately, I fear the party will be dragged kicking and screaming to even talk about Europe (a subject unbelievably ignored in the election!) and that will follow the usual lower common denominater politics of trying to out Tory the Tories. As if the lesson has not been learnt about accepting the Tories false narrative!

    Lets celebrate and publicise the great things about being in the EU, like freedom of movement, business opportunities, working rights, environmental proptection, the grantd to poorer areas etc and lets be upfront about the need to be united in the face of a growing Russian threat to our security; a need to embrace our brothers and sisters in the East to bring long term security and prosperity and lets put giving power to the European people first.

    Make Cameron pay for supporting a vote to stay in!

  • Why do we need a quango in Brussels to do any of those things.

    On the subject of workers rights and conditions, we in the UK have been fighting for those for over 150 years that I am aware of; and what use are those rights to people who don’t have a job because local authorities employed agencies to gather in cheap labour from Eastern Europe – to those people at the bottom of the pile in the UK belonging to the EU hasn’t been very helpful at all.

    If you accept that we must always have an underclass in this country, if you believe that small countries must be bullied, through poverty, into submission to an authoritative and centralised Brussels, and if you believe it is right to force already impoverished countries to borrow money to bailout a dysfunctional economic block – then the European Union is for you.

    For my part, the idea of a democratic European Union stopped at the Lisbon Treaty – the EU Emperor is naked now and we can all see its corrupt and putrid undercarriage.

  • Just because it is barely reported in the British media! Have you already forgotten the “revolution” that ousted the Kremlin backed president? Pro-EU and European demonstrations kicked this all off.

    Putin is fighting to keep Ukrain in his sphere of influence, millions of Ukranians are resisting. This may be inconvenient to your anti-EU rhetoric, none the less it is true.

  • We don’t need a quango in Brussels, quite right. What we need is a real democracy, accountable to the people of Europe. Empower the European Parliament and rid us of the quango commission.

    You also make a valid point that we have fought in the UK for 150 for certain rights, with little succes and it wasn’t till we had to be pursuaded by the EU to enshrine the maximum working week and minimum of 20 days holiday etc.

    The rest of your comment is emotional rubbish.

  • Why?

    Why do we need a “real democracy” in a European Parliament – we could do without either. It’s quite possible to trade with each other without having a political set-up.
    And if you are going to talk about real democracy you are going to have to sometime address the treaties that gave power to EU institutions – the people of the EU are paying for departments created by the Lisbon Treaty; nobody was allowed a say on the Lisbon Treaty, even when they were promised a vote.

    Most working people in the UK have been part of the process of bringing down the number of hours we worked in the week, and that goes for a myriad of other working conditions – we did this ourselves. If the EU decides that it is the sole repository for my ‘rights’ there is not really any point in having national or local democracy at all – is there.

    There are those that advocate a “post democratic” and “technocratic” future for the peoples of the European Union – I disagree with them.

    Sorry to upset you by insulting your beloved EU, but you must recognise that there are people in the UK who viscerally loathe the organisation, and it is almost impossible for us to hide that emotion.

  • Your visceral hatred of the EU blinding you. A Brexit future is one dominated by undemocratic treaties enforced on the unwitting voters; Labour and Conservatives have quietly backed TTIP for example, selling our sovereignty to corporations.

    The EU institution is far from perfect, but can be democratised and become a bulwark against corporate interests.

  • How can the EU become a bulwark against corporate interests when it is in the process of making TTIP law (or trying to do so) across the Union?

  • I quite agree, it isn’t sufficiently at the moment. Hence, the need to reform it and make it work in the interests of the European people.

    Let’s not get too rose tinted by the alternative of going it alone, as I point out, both Labour and Conservative are happy to throw away sovereignty through trade deals anyway. Both parties are in hock to the corporate sector and a few wealthy individuals, Labour less so, but jettisoning the Unions will make it little different from the Tories.

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