We live in an uncertain and unstable world, with more diverse threats and challenges than at any point in my adult life.
The last thing we need is uncertainty and instability that is self inflicted. But that is exactly what the threat of UK withdrawal from the European Union – and the uncertainties of the 30 or so months before an in/out Referendum – would mean.
The Labour Movement for Europe (LME) brings together Labour and trade union activists who know that, together with our European partners, we have greater influence and better chances of ensuring a future which is stable, productive and safe for our country and for working people. We want to build on what the free association of democracies, which is the European Union, has achieved. Helping to extend democracy, social welfare systems and a path from poverty to prosperity for millions. Developing a single market of more than half a billion people, to whom British workers and their firms can sell our goods and services without barriers. A benefit which the CBI estimates to be worth an average £3,000 a year net to every household in our country, at a net average cost of £250.
But in LME, we also recognise the urgent need to reform the Union after years of self-defeating austerity policies operated by Governments that have squeezed economies. Many of our fellow citizens are losing hope. The confident belief that things will be better for their children than they were for them has been worn away. We have to change that at home and throughout the EU. That’s why we make common cause with progressive parties and movements across the continent to campaign for policies that counter recession instead of deepening it; for durable and sustainable economic growth; decent jobs and training; higher living standards and a fulfilling future for young people.
That would be right at any time. Now, it is vital:
- Global political and economic power is shifting away from European countries and the USA. Everyday, China, India , Brazil and Indonesia are getting stronger economically and politically.
- Conflicts in the Middle East and Eastern Europe perpetuate and widen insecurity through instability and terrorism.
- Climate change makes our weather unpredictable, disrupts our lives and,unless combated, will ruin the future.
- Deep poverty and war forces desperate people to risk their very lives in efforts to find refuge for themselves and their families.
All of these challenges require rational, collective responses. None recognise borders or maps. None can or will be addressed by introversion, especially for a country that has the size and needs of the UK.
Ignoring those facts of 21st century life, the Europhobes claim that ‘restoring British sovereignty’ is their justification for wanting to break away from the EU. As a result, they offer absurd and dishonest illusions.
“We can be outside the EU and still benefit from the single market”, they say, without recognising that the countries which are in that position – Norway and Switzerland – have to pay the EU to benefit from the Single Market and have no say in any of the rules of that market.
“We can meet the costs of pensions, university fees, extra defence spending, extra policing”, they say,” out of the savings made by not contributing to the EU”. That would be the greatest miracle since the loaves and fishes: in the years between 2007 and 2013, UK net payments to the EU averaged £4 billion a year (for UK and some other countries it’s higher this year – £6.9 billion because of a one-off adjustment of contributions). But UK public spending, even after the Coalition’s huge cuts, is around £2 billion a day so leaving the EU would meet the bills for, at best, a few days – and that without taking into account the massive economic losses to follow from secession.
In short, these “patriots” want all pay and no say in Europe, the economics of fairyland. They want a no rules labour market with low wages, agency work, zero hour contracts, and – at best – flimsy employment rights. With that sort of patriotism, our country doesn’t need enemies from outside – they are home grown.
Defeating them at the General Election is, of course, essential. But the task of winning arguments and capturing hearts and mind starts now.
People in the Labour Party and in trade unions need to argue and campaign for positive engagement and reform in the EU, for better conditions of work and strengthened rights. These are essential components of the advance of care, opportunity, security and justice which motivate us in our political and industrial efforts.
Since we know in our Party and our trade unions that “the victory of ideals must be organised”, the best way to do that is to join the Labour Movement for Europe.
We therefore invite individual members of the Labour Party and trade unions to join and ward branches, constituency Labour parties and trade unions at workplace, district, regional and national level to affiliate so that we can work together to overcome our natural political foes and, by doing that, assert and advance the interests of the working people that we seek to serve. You can join the LME by clicking here.
Neil Kinnock is former Leader of the Labour Party and the Honorary President of Labour Movement for Europe