Labour must remain true to our internationalist values

Nothing better encapsulates what the Labour party stands for than the phrase on every membership card – ‘by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more together than we do alone’. It is an abiding principle that sums up our core values of solidarity, equality, collectivism and internationalism. Whoever wins the long Labour leadership contest this Saturday, we must remain true to these values.

The referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union will be the defining political event of this parliament. The outcome will determine the future of our country and place in the world. So this is not an issue that the Labour party or its new leadership can duck or fudge. As internationalists who believe in solidarity and collectivism, we should campaign unequivocally to remain a member.

The EU is far from perfect. It needs far-reaching reform but, as Alan Johnson says: reform is a process not an event. Our next leader should set out a progressive vision for Europe. But this vision will only be delivered by a Labour government, not by a Tory prime minister or chancellor.

The Labour movement can garner the support of a much broader range of people than any political party could ever contemplate. We must make both the hard-headed economic case for jobs and investment, as well as the more emotional case about our historic role of standing tall in the world.

Europe is a force for good in meeting the global challenges we face – climate change, cross-border crime and terrorism, energy insecurity and dealing with an increasingly aggressive Russia and a precarious situation in Iran – to name but a few. In addition, leaving the EU would threaten our permanent seat on the United Nations security council. There is no doubt that our membership helps us to amplify our voice in the world and in trade negotiations with global economic giants.

The Labour party has led the response in recent days to the worst refugee crisis since the second world war. Yvette Cooper has pushed the government to accept more refugees and continues to pressure them to go further. For the first time since the general election, the government has been reacting to the opposition. The EU has the potential to deliver a shared solution to what is clearly a problem which affects the whole continent.

But our internationalism must reach beyond the borders of the EU. The last Labour government made mistakes in foreign policy but we should never forget our enduring achievements. We negotiated an international agreement and commitment to a 0.7 per cent GDP target for spending on aid, signed the Kyoto accord that introduced the first binding carbon emissions and secured a write down of debt for developing countries.

We also intervened in Kosovo and Sierra Leone to prevent the genocide of innocent people. I profoundly disagree with the assertion that we should not have intervened to prevent Slobodan Milosevic slaughtering ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Whereas, we failed, alongside our international partners, to act in Rwanda and Bosnia and were rightly criticised for not intervening.

Decisions about military intervention are never easy but we cannot start from a position of never intervening. Nor should every intervention be seen through the prism of the Iraq war. If an intervention can stop genocide or crimes against humanity being committed, it should be considered. As an internationalist party which believes in solidarity, we cannot shy away from these decisions.

Neither should we shy away from supporting the United Kingdom’s continuing membership of Nato. After all, Clement Attlee’s postwar government was instrumental in establishing this defensive alliance of peaceful democratic nations. Our membership is even more crucial given that Russia has demonstrated contempt for international law and national borders. Furthermore, it is simply wrong to blame Nato in an attempt to justify Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

The UK’s membership of the EU and Nato should remain at the heart of a Labour foreign policy. We cannot afford to duck the fundamental question about the UK’s EU membership. Any decision about intervention should be carefully considered, not dismissed out of hand.

The abiding Labour principle – of achieving more together than we do alone – must be applied abroad just as it is at home. We must never let our country walk away and resign from the world.

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Emma Reynolds MP is shadow secretary of state for communities and local government. She tweets @EmmaReynoldsMP

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Photo: Dominic Campbell

 

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Comments: 7...

  1. On September 9, 2015 at 8:23 am Verity responded with... #

    Solidarity should be offered wherever we can provide assistance to areas of conflict. But there is nothing in our experience of the EU that helps with this. Indeed on the contrary the EU is more often an obstacle to international solidarity building ‘UKIP style boundaries’ around ‘its’ territory and ‘culture’ In addition it then dabbles beyond its boundaries, (as in Ukraine), offering unrealistic enticing riches and privileges to East European former communist nations. The complete absence of democracy only reinforces inabilities for change. What solidarity has the EU brought between Serbia and Hungary? With the major issues of globalisation that face us we need true international action not the EU’s ‘little Europeanism’. In its actions overseas not only must Europe act with democratic authority it must do is such a manner that does exasperate problems rather than helping. Arrogant support for dictators one day does not fit well with ‘humanitarian’ assistance the next. The international role of the West’s projects in relation arabic dictatorships had not offered that required solidity but has been detrimental to conflict. The EU has had to pretend that Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary have sufficient development similarities with Holland and Germany in order to ‘contrive’ a community of solidarity, rather than as can be seen in Greece imposing impossible financial constraints. The EU would contribute more by developing ‘appropriate’ and proportionate’ bilateral arrangements according to true commonality instead of the narrow ideological contrivance of the EU.

  2. On September 9, 2015 at 11:48 pm David Poyser responded with... #

    The success of the Jeremy Corbyn campaign has shown us that what Labour needs is to have a straight message. Not shilly-shallying, or developing convoluted lines that seem to be the result of Opinion Polls and Focus Groups. This piece brilliant. A defence of Britain’s membership of the EU because it is good for Britain (and it fits in with Labour’s values). Emma Reynolds is taking a principled position arguing for British Membership of the EU arguing from the front foot. As she says “The referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union will be the defining political event of this parliament. …So this is not an issue that the Labour party or its new leadership can duck or fudge. As internationalists who believe in solidarity and collectivism, we should campaign unequivocally to remain a member.” Many of us wish more Labour MPs and MEPs had been saying this for the last twenty years. We will not forgive ourselves if we play politics with this nation-defining issue. Let’s all stand up and follow Emma Reynolds’s lead.

    • On September 11, 2015 at 3:48 pm Darren Cahil responded with... #

      Will you still vote Yes in the EU referendum when Cameron secures these reforms or at least, he will likely get some of these?:

      ‘Allowing Britain to opt-out from the EU ambition to forge an “ever closer union” of the peoples of Europe

      Restricting access to in-work and out-of-work benefits to EU migrants

      Giving greater powers to national parliaments to block EU legislation

      Supporting the continued enlargement of the EU to new members but with new mechanisms in place to “prevent vast migrations across the Continent”

      Freeing business from red tape and “excessive interference” from Brussels and providing access to new markets through “turbo charging” free trade deals with America and Asia

      Protection for the City of London financial markets from EU legislation

      Creating safeguards to ensure changes in the single market cannot be imposed on non-eurozone members by the eurozone’

      I won’t vote for this, will you? I will boycott the referendum and I would urge Labour to do the same.

      • On September 11, 2015 at 11:26 pm David Poyser responded with... #

        Of COURSE I will be voting to stay in the EU. Leaving a tier of government because you don’t like the policies at any one time seems crazy to me, sorry. Would you not vote for local government simply because you didn’t like the policies? Would you stand by and let some Tory populist remove any important level of government just because you didn’t like its policies at one time? Would you them abolish Westminster because of the policies at any one time? Sorry to annoy people, but why do you think it is that only the unhinged Far Right that are anti- their country’s EU membership in any country other than the UK? Alone of all EU countries we have had the drip drip drip of anti-EU nonsense from the Daily Mail, the Sun (and Nigel Farage on the BBC) and it has seeped into everyone’s thinking

        • On September 14, 2015 at 1:17 am Darren Cahil responded with... #

          ‘Of COURSE I will be voting to stay in the EU. Leaving a tier of government because you don’t like the policies at any one time seems crazy to me, sorry’

          There’s no need to be sorry. 🙂 To clarify, I don’t advocate leaving the EU, national-chauvinists will ebenfit, we have to be internationalists. The problem with referendums is, crude instruments that they are, you’ll be voting for Cameron’s right-wing, anti-immigrant xenophobic reforms too, a sort of semi-exit from the EU. And that’s the problem I have with it, hence, I’ll abstain from voting in the EU referendum!

          So there you have it, semi-exit from the EU or full exit from the EU!

          ‘Would you stand by and let some Tory populist remove any important level of government just because you didn’t like its policies at one time?’

          I doubt that will happen anyway. Cameron’s a cany negotiator, unfortunately those naive types I sadly know on the left that think that voting No is a good idea, because Cameron will have to resign. No doubt that is true, but leaving aside the cynical, opportunist approach to politics, I think it is unlikely to happen, Cameron’s not stupid.

          ‘Would you them abolish Westminster because of the policies at any one time?’

          No, because representatives in parliament explore the complexities of the issues and debate them, with referendums we get silly season, silly season coming to Britain soon. Representative democracy =/= direct democracy. Its worth keeping in mind by the way that Bonaparte and Hitler used referendums to devastating effect, by giving false choices for ‘the people’ to decide their fate.

          Anyway, I think you understand my aversion of the fix up that is referendums, they’re not democratic and it’s why annoyingly, Cameron claims people decided not to vote for proportional representation, because proportional representation was not on the ballot, turnout 39% by the way. And don’t get me started on the Scottish independence referendum, loyalism vs nationalism, what a choice!

          Lastly, so glad to have Corbyn as Labour leader, sorry, I couldn’t resist it. 😛

          • On September 26, 2015 at 8:58 pm David Poyser responded with... #

            as you say, all power to the European Parliament. Great to have Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader 🙂

  3. On October 4, 2015 at 2:54 am Robin Arnold responded with... #

    I agree with the substance of what’s being said but not the tone. I doubt your average constituent that may have been forced into abject poverty by manufacturing wages being decimated by globalisation is really going to love high-minded ideals about internationalism, nor will the average small company that finds it easier to export to the other side of the world than they do to the European Union. Europe exists whether we like it or not, and personally I think we are better off as a member of the EU rather than outside it. I’m also proud there’s kids in Kosova named ‘Tonibler’ because their parents were so grateful for the intervention. I just think the tone sounds a bit out of touch, I don’t think any of my neighbours would describe themselves as internationalists.

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