Why Labour should remain close to Europe

I read this post by Sunny Hundal recently about why Britain should move further away from the EU. It symbolised a viewpoint which has given up on Europe, or caved in to pressure. Presumptions that the Euro is dead is certainly not one which I would take, the leadership in Europe take or the Labour Party should take as frankly, we have too much to lose. Secondly, pushing restart on things is easy to say until you realise just how much we have achieved within Europe and how much there is to lose.

Although being pro-Europe, I am pragmatic about it. I do not consent to everything that comes out of Brussels because I’m pro-EU just as I don’t consent to everything that comes out of Holyrood because I agree with devolution. Europe is a tool to deliver a better life for our people, and if we understand how it works and how to get the most out of it for our citizens then we can use it to our advantage.

Economic Union has on the whole in my view been good for the long term development of Europe. The speedy development of the economic periphery and strengthening of the center has allowed people to enjoy a comparatively high living standard. However, I am not uncritical of it. As I mentioned in the last post, there has been a conservative attitude not focusing enough on mutual gain which has been one of the key systematic errors. The inability of the Conservative leaders to get past prejudices and scapegoats for the Eurozone Crisis is one of the things that is holding them back from implementing the structural reforms and short term bailouts needed to solve the crisis. If they were to implement some of the structural reforms then they would have to stop pandering to their voters and trying to gain votes. They would have to surrender power to the greater good to prevent sudden stops, playing the system and lack of unity.

I don’t believe that it is impossible though. We have done it many times in the past, and when we realise how serious the situation is in the Eurozone then I believe that progress is being made, albeit not fast enough. The alternative to this progress is that countries would not be working together to bail each other out and that they would prolong the crisis by adding populist strings to any stability fund. If there was no EU then I doubt that the little we have seen would’ve happened at all. Greece’s downfall doesn’t benefit Greece, it doesn’t benefit the Eurozone and it doesn’t benefit us. In this, we all have a responsibility to keep it afloat. As Van Rompuy says, it is too important that we keep the Eurozone afloat for us to fail, we must make the necessary possible.

Hundal’s two main points were that the Eurozone was effectively dead and that the Merkozy deal was imperfect. Apart from the battle for the Eurozone being very much alive and kicking, I firmly believe that Governments have a responsibility to solve it for the sake of the millions, if not billions, of people who will be affected by the economic catastrophe of a Euro collapse. Crisis never calls for leaders who give up, and if Labour were to take this attitude then it’d be forgetting exactly who the party is there to protect; the millions of working people across the UK. Failing to stand up for these interests is far worse than taking a controversial viewpoint as it may lose the support of the Eurosceptics.

Secondly, the Merkozy deal wasn’t perfect. I have already argued that the deal had its flaws, especially being rooted in the idea of local and not structural causes. But the fact is that Cameron didn’t try to solve these flaws, he just negotiated on his own terms even when the national interest was that the Eurozone has a long lasting solution to its problems. Calling the battle lost and not arguing for a better deal for everyone has been disastrous for Britain and it will be the same for Labour.

Labour’s approach must be pro-active and pragmatic. The fact is that we should have no interest in leaving the EU. It is fantastic for Human Rights, Employment rights for Britons across Europe, social rights, environmentalism, accountability, international trade, mutual international policy formation and the opportunities for students, workers and businesses to expand to a bigger market. There has been so much work done in Europe, it’d be a waste to throw it away. When you read the newsletter of the EPLP and see what work is being done there, you wonder why nobody hears about it.

Merkozy’s populist approach is destructive, and Miliband should not be concerned with making the same error. Instead of being parochial, he must lead the debate on to where Europe should be going, talking about things such as greater fiscal accountability between states. He has the bargaining chip of being able to offer greater participation in the Stability Funds for other EU states, who we should be helping anyway.

Politics is always in my eyes about doing what you think is right for the people of the country. Running away from a problem never works out well for a country and never works out well for a leader.

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