The starting gun has fired on the referendum date when we will cast our vote in the most significant constitutional, social and economic decision that the UK will take in a generation.
Our future relationship with the European Union, quite possibly the future of our UK Union, our future relationship with Scotland, the possible impact on the Irish peace process and our place in the world will all be shaped by the decisions taken by voters on 23rd June.
So writes Pat Glass MP, as we hit exactly 8 weeks until polling day. Christians on the Left are engaging in the debate and encourage all our members to do so:- see our Resource Hub for many more links, articles and events around the EU discussion in the run up to June 23rd and beyond.
As Labour's Shadow Europe Minister my position and the position of my Party is clear. Labour is campaigning for the UK to remain in a Europe because as a country we are stronger, safer and more prosperous as part of the largest economic union in the world. Being a part of the European Union is good for jobs, growth, investment, security, our influence in the world and for our rights as workers here in the UK. Labour want our country to remain part of an alliance that has brought 70 years of peace and prosperity to a continent that has been engulfed in war and economic devastation regularly every 30 years for hundreds of years.
Being part of the EU costs us £6bn per year after rebates. It delivers us £400m worth of trade each year and last year we received £1.2Tn worth of inward investment purely because we are a gateway to the European Union, its free market and its 500 million consumers. In my region, the North East of England, the only region in the UK with a trade surplus, the benefits are even higher with 70% of everything we export going to the EU and that’s a lot of exports and a lot of jobs particularly in car manufacture, structural and chemical engineering.
We know that we live in an increasingly globalised world. The problems we face are complex and need complex and international responses. We cannot hope to solve the problems that do not recognise borders on our own, problems of climate change, international terrorism, international crime and mass migration. We can only make progress on these issues by working with others.
Those campaigning to leave the European Union, the Brexit campaigners, are determined to leave the EU at any price. After 41 years we know exactly what ‘IN’ looks like whereas those campaigning to leave cannot tell us anything about what ‘OUT’ looks like. They cite the ‘Norway’ deal or the ‘Switzerland’ deal or the ‘Canada’ deal as a possible future for the UK outside of the EU but cannot tell us which of these ‘deals’ they are campaigning for and they fail to mention that the costs would be similar to what we pay now for full membership and would require the UK to conform to EU rules and regulations including free movement of people.
The Mayor of London, who has flip-flopped on IN or OUT depending on which is the best position for his leadership campaign, got himself into all kinds of trouble a couple of weeks ago when he was for a ‘Canada style deal’ then when it was explained to him exactly what the Canada deal looked like he was dead against it. The bottom line is that Brexit campaigners cannot tell us what kind of economic deal they would want with the European Union, how long it will take to negotiate and at what cost in terms of our economic growth and jobs. The Brexit campaign have no answers to what will happen to our Union if Scotland votes to remain and England votes to leave, they cannot tell us what are the implication for the Irish peace process if we have to start re-installing border posts between Northern and Southern Ireland and they have no answers to issues of climate change, global tax avoidance, Russian expansionism or other international issues that we cannot tackle alone.
One of the biggest benefits of the European Union has been the peace dividend. The European Union was formed out of the ashes of the Second World War and every village in this country and across Europe have war memorials that pay testament to those who died in the last two major conflicts in Europe. In preparation for a major speech a couple of weeks ago I carried out an internet search on wars in Western Europe from 1700 and found 198 major conflicts. That is approximately one major conflict every 18 months. The UK was not involved in all but it was involved in many and that is a lot of young people’s lives that have been interrupted or even destroyed.
The European Union was initially formed to stop this regular slaughter and what started with a federation of coal and steel and has grown into a massively strong union of 28 countries and has presided over more than 70 years of peace in Western Europe. Some would argue that NATO is the main reason for peace in Europe and whilst NATO does have a significant part to play it is a largely reactive organisation, reacting to aggression when it occurs, whereas the EU through its work in democratic capacity building, securing peace and human rights across the world has had a far more pro-active role in securing peace and stability.
I recently represented Labour in committee receiving an update on the very comprehensive EU Common Security Foreign Policy program. The programme sets out an engagement plan for each country in the world where conflict exists, including those where there are ongoing conflicts and those where there is potential for conflict. It is reassuring to see the planning and expertise that goes on, away from the public gaze, to build a safer and more secure world not just in Europe but right across the world.
The EU is not the only reason why we in Western Europe sort out our differences around the negotiation table and not on the battlefield but it remains the main reason. This is a peace dividend that, for the sake of those who come after, we cannot afford to squander.
Labour is campaigning to remain in the European Union because it makes us a stronger, safer and more prosperous country but we also see this referendum as an opportunity to work with our European partners to deliver a more socially fair Europe. A Europe in which we can continue to work together to improve the lives of women; a Europe where the rights of workers are improved; a Europe in which we can together tackle the curse of exploitative contracts, climate change, global tax avoidance and international terrorism. There are many other EU countries that want the same as we do and are looking to the UK to lead us through this referendum and towards a more socially just Europe.
Pat Glass is Shadow Minister for Europe and Labour MP for North West Durham. Pat has also written for the Labour Movement for Europe, who are affiliated to the Labour Party.
First Published on http://labourmovement.eu/