Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Labour can reach out for Europe

The Labour party has launched its campaign to stay in the European Union. In Birmingham, Alan Johnson, who is leading the campaign, rightly stated:

There is no progressive case for leaving the EU. Our principled campaign, based on our values, starts now.

Security, workers’ rights and prosperity will be three key elements of the Labour In For Britain campaign.

First, as Alan argued powerfully, leaving the EU would make us more vulnerable and less secure. Alongside our European neighbours, we are a target for violent extremism. The horrific attacks in Paris highlight that terrorists do not respect national borders. The perpetrators planned the atrocities from Belgium. By sharing intelligence and pooling resources we are better placed to track down those responsible and seek to prevent further attacks. The European arrest warrant helps us remove criminals from our own shores and brings those fleeing abroad back home to face justice.

Second, the last Labour government signed up to the social chapter. As a result workers benefit from statutory paid holidays, new rights for agency workers and anti-discrimination laws. All of this progressive legislation would be at stake if we were to leave the EU.

Finally, we trade more with the rest of the EU than we do with any big economy around the world. Should we leave, trade, investment and jobs would all be at risk. Our companies could face tariffs and other trade barriers. Companies, such as Honda, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and Airbus, would think twice about investing in a country outside of the EU.

While Labour is united in support of our EU membership, the Tories are bitterly divided. Europe has haunted every Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher. Even though David Cameron is leading the renegotiation, his party will remain neutral. It is extraordinary that Conservative Central Office will provide no funds or data to assist their party leader in selling his deal to the British people.

The vast majority of Labour MPs, including the leader and the entire shadow cabinet, have signed up to a pro-European group within the parliamentary Labour party. Jeremy Corbyn committed the party to campaigning to stay in the EU within days of taking office. The Labour movement has greater reach and grassroots engagement than any other political party in the country.

Recent polls suggest that this referendum could go down to the wire. The stakes are high. Leaving would leave us less secure, prosperous and able to meet the challenges we face. It would also take away hard-fought rights from working people. The Scottish Nationalists are eager for any opportunity to demand another referendum on Scottish separation. We could end up with England, Wales and Northern Ireland isolated on the fringes of Europe.

The Labour movement has always been guided by our values of internationalism, solidarity, and equality. We must draw on the commitment and reach of our movement to make a distinctive and progressive case for Britain to remain in the EU. This week was the start of that campaign. For the sake of future generations we must do everything we can to make it a success.

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Emma Reynolds MP is a former shadow minister for Europe. She tweets @EmmaReynoldsMP

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Emma Reynolds MP

is a former member of the shadow cabinet

1 comment

  • Good worthy stuff, but not sure its going to win the argument. The social chapter is regrettably a faded glory and has not protected UK workers from zero hours contracts, voluntary signing away of hours protection, the driving down of wages for many non- and even some professional jobs, loss of decent pensions, etc., so we need to be very careful not to overegg how great it is. The EU itself is hardly very democratic and the commission like Westminster too influenced by corporate agendas. and a lack of openness = too many political stitch ups and no sense of accountability. Think we need to be have a more nuanced view and a more forward agenda about the positive changes we’d like to see to move it forward in ordinary people’s interests rather than defending an unpopular status quo. How we can more positively manage migration /immigration and providing adequate public services to cater for population changes, etc.. Collective action on tax avoidance, corporate cheating, etc. Politically crucial we are seen to have a distinct Labour message anddo not repeat the Scottish referendum mistake.

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