"In it to lead"
LI Brussels member Martin Dawson provides us with his unique perspective on the EU and why the UK should remain "In"
In it to lead
I have been living and working in Brussels for over twenty years and have seen the EU evolve from close up. It has been rather surreal to see Britain turn from being a leading country in the EU to become, under the present government, marginal and without direction. Now, when Europe is facing arguably the biggest challenges since its creation, the Tory government is divided and dithering.
Labour can make the difference. Indeed, it is clear that the Conservatives need Labour to win the EU referendum. But we want Europe on our terms, in line with our values. Let’s remind ourselves why the EU is a good thing.
Influence on the world stage. The EU can help to shape international politics by using its soft power, made up of political, economic and cultural ties. A great example of this was how, after the end of the Cold War in 1989, the EU enlarged and welcomed the ex-Communist countries into its democratic fold. The current conflict in Ukraine remind us that this was no foregone conclusion. And the UK, as a leading member of the EU, was instrumental in making this happen.
Sustainable growth: the EU is the world’s largest single market with 500 million consumers on our doorstep. Without it we would have 28 different sets of customs duties and regulations. Together we form the world’s largest trading block so we can negotiate better deals around the world. Without it we would have to negotiate by ourselves with China, US and the rest of the world. So membership simplifies trade and gives Britain the power to shape the rules of trade. This includes social and environmental standards to ensure fair trade.
Tackling cross border issues. Climate change does not stop at the cliffs of Dover. It is pure illusion to think that Britain can act on climate change by itself. Instead the EU, because of the expertise, relationships and power it has developed over the last 50 years, can have a strong voice in international negotiations. The EU helped achieve a historic agreement at the recent Paris conference. The same logic applies on fighting organized crime and terrorism and busting tax evasion. The increases in migration have not been caused by the EU, but a lasting immigration policy can only be built together, without countries undermining each other and passing the buck.
These are some of the key advantages that the EU offers its members. But it is not just a question of “what has the EU done for us ?”. It is also a question of “what can Britain do for and with the EU”. Or, what role do we want Britain to play in the world ?
As Labour, as socialists and internationalists, we want to build a better world. We are today faced with a world full of uncertainties. Governments seem powerless faced with international finance; there are wars and conflicts all around us; the world’s environment is under threat. The EU of course needs to reform and modernize itself. Should Britain choose to withdraw and go it alone ? Surely not, surely we should stand and fight for our values in an organization which, although not perfect, represents our best framework for engaging with the world.
First you convince your neighbours, then you convince the rest of the world. As socialists, the EU gives us alliances with sister parties across Europe. Leaders from Italy’s Matteo Renzi to Portugal’s Antonio Costa are calling for us to stay and make the progressive case in Europe, shoulder to shoulder. Together we can safeguard jobs and workers’ rights; together we can invest in the economy of the future; together we can deal with the refugee crisis in a humane and orderly fashion; together we can hold corporations to account, stamp out tax evasion and stop catastrophic climate change.
The Leavers are only united in hate of the EU, they have no idea what they would actually do. Should Britain become like Norway, Switzerland or maybe Singapore ? Cameron, as directionless as ever, is making the gamble of his life. After years of ignoring and blaming the EU he now asks people to vote for it. In contrast, as Jeremy Corbyn has rightly said, Labour has its own vision for Europe and the world, built around values of solidarity, social justice, a sustainable economy and fundamental rights. And it all starts with remaining in the EU.