The daily ‘Punch and Judy show’ between the Remain and Leave camps, concentrating on arguments about money and foreigners, infuriate our European allies. The European Union is not just about the pound in your pocket, they say. Jeremy Corbyn is right to frame the argument in terms of our aspirations for the kind of society we want and the kind of values we believe in.
After all, the EU is the boldest of political experiments. Countries that spent centuries fighting each other, and yes, raping and killing each other’s citizens, decided, of their own free, to pool their sovereignty to work together to create prosperity and social justice for their people, rather than leading them to their deaths. There is no greater or more precious internationalist cause than peace. It may be easy to discount this phenomenal achievement of the EU, but we do so at our peril.
The Labour party, our party, is overwhelmingly pro-European: a staggering 68 per cent express a preference for Remain, but it is good that Jeremy, as our leader, has now made such a strong socialist case for Britain to remain at the heart of the EU.
Working together with our European socialist allies we can face up to those challenges that know no boundaries: climate change, global poverty, security, inequality and discrimination, terrorism, tax evasion and fair trade: challenges that in a fast-changing global world are best dealt with together with our allies rather than alone. In this uncertain, perilous world, it is not the time for Europe to be divided, but a time for unity and common action.
There again Jeremy is bang on: the EU needs change and reform. I would argue more change than reform. We, European socialists, need to win the hearts and minds of our citizens and voters. Somehow we ended up on the wrong side of the blame game. Globalisation created insecurity and unemployment for many workers; lighter regulation of the banks and the financial markets created the 2008 crisis, and yet, somehow, the right, the nationalists, and often the far-right have benefitted at our cost, thus giving us a decade of austerity and the dirty whiff of xenophobia and racism.
The refugee crisis is a case in point: Jeremy is right to say that the women, men and children fleeing poverty and war are human beings just like us, and that we need to respond to to this crisis with humanity and compassion. The blaming of foreigners for all the ills of our societies, the stock and trade of the dog-whistle politician across the continent, corrupts our political discourse and deflects the blame from where it must rest.
I do not love the EU any more than I love Westminster or my local council, but each and every one one of them are vital institutions of our democracy, vital resources in making the world that I, my children and grandchildren live in a fairer, more just and more peaceful one. Jeremy’s challenge to all of us, is yes let’s work in the next 69 days to make sure the UK can be at the heart of Europe, but then let’s work together to make sure that heart reflects our socialist values.
Giampi Alhadeff is chair of Labour Movement for Europe
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.