Alastair Osborne is Chair of Carrick Cumnock and Doon Valley CLP. He says our Labour values tell us to support the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.

 

I had to do a double take. Yes, the road sign did say ‘Quai Ernest-Bevin’.

I was in Strasbourg for the first time on my way to observe the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I was later to learn of the role Bevin played as a leading signatory to the Treaty of London in 1949 which set up the Council of Europe which now has a membership of 47 states and 820 million people. It is sometimes confused with the EU and its European Council – an organisation of 28 member states.

The Council of Europe set up the European Court of Human Rights and exists to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This was the first of several visits I made during which time I learned that the Assembly was divided into those who firmly believed in promoting the founding values and those who were extremely lukewarm to them.

Bevin and Schuman
Ernest Bevin and Robert Schuman

I mention all this because, for Labour, the same values that led us to support the Council of Europe and the Court of Human Rights, with all their faults and cumbersome bureaucracy, also lie behind our support for the UK staying in the EU. Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister who spearheaded the founding of the Council of Europe in 1949, was also responsible for the Schuman Declaration which led to the setting up of the forerunner to the modern EU.

For Scottish Labour, the EU referendum is not about narrow issues of constitutions and institutions, but about Labour values of tolerance, solidarity, social justice, jobs, co-operation, peace and security. Of course there are real problems with structures and bureaucracy in all the European institutions, and there is a desperate need to address public apathy and disengagement with European politics (look at the pathetic voting turnout for European elections right across the EU).  But the challenge for progressive voices is to articulate the real advantages of a Social Europe for ordinary working people.

The left in the UK who support withdrawal from the European Union need to take into account that the EU of the Social Chapter, signed by Robin Cook as soon as Labour came to power in 1997, is not the Common Market of the 1970s. The dimension of European political co-operation has allowed the left in the UK to join forces with the left in Europe to make real gains for working people.

We should challenge Euro sceptics and right-wing opponents of the EU to name one advantage for a working person in the UK which would accrue from a British exit. The truth is that within the EU we have the best opportunity for co-operation to address the big issues of refugees, peace and security, the environment and  jobs.

52% of UK trade goes to other EU countries, totalling around £400 billion a year. This trade, together with other benefits accruing from UK membership of the EU, help support millions of jobs The threat to these jobs should not be overlooked when the issue of withdrawal is raised.

Also part of the original EU vision of Robert Schuman was that Europe should unite to promote international development particularly in Africa. Withdrawal from the EU would have a negative impact on the progress we have made on International Development.

I recently attended the Edinburgh launch of the Labour Movement for Europe Scotland, chaired by the ebullient and enthusiastic George Foulkes. We heard excellent positive speeches from Claire Baker MSP, Catherine Stihler MEP and a tour de force contribution from Gordon Brown. All highlighted our Labour values as the main reason why we should support staying in the EU. As I listened to them my eye kept being caught by the banner behind the platform – it read ‘Promoting European values in Labour and Labour values in Europe.’

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15 thoughts on “From Bevin to the EU referendum

  1. “We should challenge Euro sceptics and right-wing opponents of the EU to name one advantage for a working person in the UK which would accrue from a British exit”.
    UKs contribution to EU is £55m per day. Does Mr Osborne agree with me that not having to ‘contribute’ this money would be an advantage?

    1. Scotland contributes 53 to 56 billion per annum to the Westminster treasury would you agree with me that not having to ‘contribute’ this money would be an advantage?

      1. Mike, You want to try and stick to the subject otherwise some of us may get confused.
        This article is about why Alastair Osborne thinks Labour supporters should vote Yes to remain in the EU at the up and coming referendum. It has nothing to do with Scotland’s ‘contribution’ to UK treasury.

        1. You tried and failed to make a point with regards to the cost to the UK of being in the EU because you don’t like the idea of being in the EU yet you don’t consider the equally relevant cost to Scotland from being in this unbalanced corrupt worthless unbalanced UK because you like the idea of being part of the UK.

          Just thought I would point out the hypocrisy which frankly makes your point of view worthless on this subject.

          1. Well thats me told. You seem to know me better than I know myself Mike. You know what I ‘don’t like’, what I ‘don’t consider’ and that I am a hypocrite. And all I did was point out to Alastair that the UK contribution to EU of £55m/day was a potential saving worth consideration and that you Mike, wander off the subject of the article when you make reference to Scotland’s contribution to the UK treasury. This article is in support of Scottish Labour voting Yes at the up and coming referendum on UK membership of EU. It has nothing to do with Scotland’s contribution to UK.

          2. Will, Your question to Alastair, what will his position be if Scotland votes to stay and UK votes to leave, is a fair one and it is a proposition unionists in Scotland will have to address if that is the outcome. It is the outcome that supporters of Scottish independence are pinning all their hopes on.
            I have another proposition that I believe is the more likely and is equally relevant; that Scotland votes to remain in EU and so does rUK. If this is the outcome what would you expect David Cameron to say to Scotland and supporters of Scottish independence? He will be in a very strong constitutional position. Should this happen he will be seen as the saviour of the union who saw off challenges from both Scottish and British nationalists. He will be able to say he faced up to these challenges by offering a democratic vote where he prevailed on both occasions. He will no doubt say to Scottish nationalists ‘you lost one but you won one’. He will argue that Scottish/UK/Europe constitutional questions have been subjected to long and detailed scrutiny and now these issues have been settled.
            The result of the up and coming EU referendum will have a huge impact on the future of the Scottish independence movement. A split decision (Scotland votes Yes, rUK votes No) will keep the momentum going. A unanimous verdict will, I think, be the end of the dream that is an independent Scotland.

          3. That last comment of mine 1044 was in reply to Will’s comment of 0109 12 January. Sorry for the mistake.

      1. Alastair, Sorry for the delay in my reply (IT problems).
        You don’t agree with me because you “don’t see it as about contributions but about benefits” (EU membership). So the costs of membership are of seconadry importance to benefits received?
        You remind of the ex PM Gordon Brown, he had the same attitude to public money. Spending was so important to him that when there was no money left he just borrowed more. Its the reason why Labour will not be forming a government for a long time.

  2. Alistair—it was not a seamless progress from the Treaty of London to the present day EU for Labour.
    The UK did not want to join the European project in its various guises, for many years—indeed Gaitskill set up the straw man of “a thousand years(sic) of history.
    Even once past France’s power of veto, many in Labour wanted out, and that is still the case for an unknown number to this day.
    As we see from Cameron’s sucking up to Hungary’s President, just one of a host of far right Leaders, its not all social democracy out there. Nor is there any great incentive for Scotland to be in the EU if Cameron and his ilk, end the legal and social rights of UK citizens.
    There is a route for Scotland to enter under its own terms if we vote for independence. But that would depend on negotiations being in our favour, and as the EU has shown in regard to both Scotland and Catalonia, the EU is still the Big Boys Club.
    There is a lot to play for, and it wont be easy to come to a clear position.

    1. You are right that the issue has divided opinion over the decades However, as I say in article ‘the EU of the Social Chapter is not the Common Market of the 1970s’ I don’t have any interest in a separate Scottish membership. Thanks for taking time to read and comment

  3. Alastair if there is a Brexit and the majority of Scotlands folks voted to stay in EU what would your position be post Brexit on a IndyRef2?

    1. I don’t support another Indy referendum, certainly not as a result of an EU referendum which is a decision for the whole UK. The distinctive Scottish role in this is to deliver the biggest vote possible for staying in EU. But thanks for taking time to read the article and comment

      1. Alastair what you are saying is that you are happy to continue to be ruled by the head office in Westminster this is out of touch with the last remnants of the Scottish Labour section who are now banging the drum for Devo Max, Home Rule as a desperate last attempt to see off the inevitable Scottish Independence and cling on to the near extinct dinosaur that is the Union. Sorry to say that you are out of touch with the ordinary last remnants of the Scottish Labour section. I envisage one of two things post Scottish elections and wipeout of Scottish Labour section beaten into 3rd place by the Tories they are one a leadership challenge and a new leader elected and a complete breakaway from the head office and the forming of a new Scottish Independent Labour Party, Two support for either Scottish Independence or Devo Max, Home Rule.

  4. ” I ‘don’t consider’ and that I am a hypocrite. And all I did was point out to Alastair that the UK contribution to EU of £55m/day was a potential saving worth consideration and that you Mike, wander off the subject of the article when you make reference to Scotland’s contribution to the UK treasury. This article is in support of Scottish Labour voting Yes at the up and coming referendum on UK membership of EU. It has nothing to do with Scotland’s contribution to UK.”

    How can Scotlands constitutional position within the UK be of inconsequence to the UK within the EU question?
    How can the parallel consideration between the 2 constitutional questions be dissimilar or irrelevant?

    Is that because of the transparent hypocrisy we are seeing with the pro union anti union position taken by many pro union anti union supporters?

    You have to argue the reverse position when considering the constitutional arrangement within the UK relative to within the EU and are willing to do so without blinking an eye.

    That shows a lack of conviction and honesty on both positions.

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