Better off in, and fighting for change, than being out and isolated

As Labour re-evaluates its offer to the electorate last month I expect we will see some policy changes. This will doubtless receive mixed reactions, but however you look at it what we offered was rejected by the electorate – and changes have to be made.

The first significant re-think has come in the guise of the referendum on whether the UK remains in the EU.

I confess that I was not keen on the idea of a referendum. However, there is no getting away from the fact that this is a minority view, and any sensible politician should always be mindful of public opinion.

I still think that the debate will create an air of uncertainty in the business world, especially if it looks like those who want a UK exit might be getting their way. Nonetheless, the referendum lies before us, and those of us who want the UK to remain in the EU must make the argument.

I am in no doubt that the EU is in need of reform; almost two decades of accounts not signed off is but one area of concern. However, I am in no doubt that our prosperity is bound up with Europe. I also believe that the British have a long and proud history of reaching out to the world, and exit would signal a reversal of that approach.

We no longer have the Empire, and the world has moved on considerably since our entry into the Common Market in 1973. New economies now challenge for supremacy, and if we give up our seat at the big table of Europe, we will only blunt our competitive edge in the economic battles to come.

We also have the challenges of climate change, terrorism, and international crime to deal with, and being part of the EU makes us better able to do this. A small island state does not have the clout of a large chunk of continental Europe, and our voice and standing in the world would undoubtedly diminish should those who want exit win the referendum.

By all means let’s change and improve the European Union, but please do not gamble with our place in the world, our prosperity, and the future of the generations to come. We are better off in.

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One Response to Better off in, and fighting for change, than being out and isolated

  1. Whilst agreeing with you about the wisdom of staying in Europe, the change in policy on the referendum looks bad – at least from outside the party.

    Labour did not support the idea of putting our membership to a referendum for good reasons. The fact that Labour lost the election does not mean that every policy was fundamentally wrong and should be abandoned.

    The about-turn is being played as just that: an about-turn. “You don’t agree with us, so we will change our policy”. I think Tony Benn called that being a weather-vane rather than a sign-post.

    There is a line to be taken which is the line of pragmatism; something along the lines of “The Conservatives have got absolute power on the basis of about 25% of the vote. We recognise that that is the way that the system works and as a party we support this system. Therefore we acknowledge that it is pointless and a waste of parliamentary time to oppose the referendum because the Cons are going to foist one on us anyway. The best that we can do is to try and shorten the period of uncertainty and then campaign to stay in. That campaign will be hampered if we are seen to oppose the calling of the referendum. The Tories being better at raw politics than us will successfully claim that by opposing the referendum we are opposing some [fictional] majority; we decline to put our necks in that noose.”

    The sound bite is “The sooner we get this over and done with the better; therefore we will not oppose the referendum but concentrate on winning it.”

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