George Foulkes, Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe Scotland, says if we see past the smears and fears of the Leave campaign we will find a vote to Remain endorses not just workplace rights and equality, but also the basic peace and prosperity upon which Europe has been rebuilt.
We find ourselves a little over one week from the referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. The campaign may not have been as long as the Scottish independence referendum but we have seen a condensed rerun of the same arguments concerning democracy, sovereignty and economics.
We are also witnessing a tightening of the polls as we race towards June 23rd.
At the Labour Movement for Europe Scotland (LMES) we knew we would need to learn the lessons of that 2014 plebiscite; we had to make a strong Labour case for solidarity beyond our own borders and it had to emphasise the positives as much as, if not more than, highlighting the potential risks.
We have tried to live up to that ambition and our events have focused on celebrating what we have helped to build and on the opportunities for further progressive reform we can achieve going forward.
Let’s take a look at where we have come from and what we have achieved before we assess the possibilities for the UK if we vote Remain or Leave.
1945. The Second World War came to an end in Europe. Alongside the euphoric relief that this nightmare was now over, there was a deep sense of hope that the devastation wrought by this conflict, and the First World War, could be avoided in future. It was following Europe’s longest, darkest night that a new dawn broke and the people of Europe decided a new path must be trod.
The EU we know today – the EU we have helped to create – arose from that post-war hope and the clear urgency of the need for peace. The nations of Europe, which for so long had used their power to dominate their competitors, would begin a journey that would see their power combined and amplified.
A union of nations that would pool their resources, share their risks and abide by an agreed set of rules. A community that would extend the hand of peace to its European neighbours and see it grow to 28 member states covering over 500 million people. A union that would, delivering on its promise of peace for three generations, and ultimately win the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was by making the nations of Europe rely on each other that war became “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”.
In order to maintain the strong relationship between peace and prosperity we needed democratic oversight. As Robert Schuman described it in 1950, a “High Authority” was required to ensure all members played by the rules and had a say in forming the regulations.
Peace and prosperity lie in parallel, running in the same direction like train tracks, united by strong political planks. To think we can remove just one of these vital components and still enjoy a stable a secure onward journey is almost fantastical.
One argument that is commonly used by proponents of Brexit or Lexit is that the EU is undemocratic, that the UK is powerless to stop the dictatorial machinations of Brussels, and that Europe is unreformable.
These charges don’t appear to stand up to scrutiny. The EU operates thanks to democratically elected national governments and directly elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The European Commission – that “High Authority” Schuman spoke of – consists of 28 Commissioners, one from each Member State. They are nominated by the national governments and our MEPs interview them before voting on their inclusion in the Commission.
The UK has also been on the winning side of votes in the Council over 2000 times since 1999, losing only 56 times. It is simply untrue to say we can’t have our say and we are subjected to EU rules with which we do not agree. Far too often our national government has nationalised EU successes. We claim the good as our own doing but decry any perceived negative as an imposition by ‘bureaucratic Brussels’.
One of the other great myths is that the EU is incapable of reform. This argument falls on two counts. Firstly, the EU continually reforms its structures and procedures to adapt to public demand or economic/political conditions. In fact, thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, there is now a direct correlation between the result of the European Parliamentary elections and the Commission President.
Secondly, one of the key gripes of those in favour of leaving the EU is that we did not sign up to a political but an economic union. If this is the case, then how did a political union arise unless the EU was reformed? It is just one of the many glaring contradictions in the argument to leave the European Union.
Knowing the conditions that led to the creation of the EU and dispelling myths regarding its functionality are just part of the EU story. There is a Labour thread too that runs within the complex history of the EU.
The Labour Party and wider Labour movement have used the EU as a platform to transform workplace rights, social rights, environmental rights and at this very moment are working to reform economic practices. The Labour movement in this country and across the EU can be proud of what we have achieved together.
From health and safety legislation to paid annual leave, maternity and paternity rights to regular breaks at work and from equality of opportunity for men and women to the freedom to live, work or study anywhere in the EU we can see the fingerprints of the Labour movement. Is it any wonder the overwhelming weight of opinion on the question of our EU membership among trades unions is for us to remain?
I doubt many people advocating a vote to remain in the EU do so to maintain the status quo in Europe. That just simply isn’t an option for Labour-minded people. It is almost written in our DNA to seek reform that will positively impact on the widest group of people as possible.
The economic crash of 2008 shone a light on nefarious practices that had become the norm in our financial industries. What we now need to do is focus our attention not on apportioning blame to migrants or bureaucratic bullies for our woes, but come together as a movement, across the EU, to reform our economies and the way they operate.
It was a UK Labour MEP, Anneliese Dodds, who recently acted as Rapporteur on a report into tax avoidance and tax evasion. At the EU level we have the collective strength to take action on this global problem. The EU is the largest economy on the planet and measures to introduce transparency in these unjust tax practices should start here. We must play our full part in that. Leaving the EU does not bode well for those who seek tax justice, as our current government have stood as a roadblock to progress in this area.
And a rush to protectionism is not the answer for working people in the UK. It is not the lesson we should learn from the global crash of 2008. What we need to do is transform and renew our economy and do it to the benefit of over 500 million people. We will do so if we continue to stand with our sister parties and partners in the Labour movement across the member states.
Where LMES and the Labour IN campaigns promote a hopeful vision of a united Europe that tackles shared problems and enjoys shared prosperity, what are we met with from the Vote Leave side? What future is on offer that trumps the labour values of solidarity and unity? What arguments do we have that apparently show the internationalist case as one of fear?
Vote Leave, having comprehensively lost the economic argument weeks ago (90% of economists polled in a recent survey backed ‘Remain’), has descended into a campaign of smears and fears. Leaflets and infographics that seek to scare people with stories of tens of millions of Turkish immigrants battering down our doors to destroy our way of life, the continued use of discredited statistics (exposed by the UK Statistics Agency) and the ludicrous false-choice of ‘Taking Back Control’.
We are offered the Norway model, or the Albanian model, Canadian, Australian, Swiss… I lose track of which country other than our own we have to aspire to be after a while.
Norway is the oft-lauded example of a country that has control over its decision making yet still enjoys the benefits of access to the EU single market. It is ostensibly a strong argument: all the good bits and none of the perceived bad. It isn’t reflective of the reality however and that reality points to a clear incompatibility between two of the main arguments to leave.
Norway enjoys access to the single market but it must pay into the EU pot and it must abide by the rules of the single market. It has no say over the directives and regulations with which it must comply. That isn’t taking back control – it is giving it away. We would cede our sovereignty not regain it.
The main incompatibility between the Vote Leave arguments lies here: if we wish to leave the EU because of immigration then we cannot enjoy the kind of access to the single market that Norway does; they sign up to the freedom of movement of people.
To be offered – by Vote Leave – the chance to clamp down on immigration while simultaneously benefiting from access to the single market is disingenuous to say the least.
When making a case for a particular proposition it is important to strongly articulate your own vision, however it is wholly positive to point out the flaws in the arguments of your opponents. Campaigners for Vote Leave are unsure of what to offer and so they tell us we can have it all regardless of the reality. We can leave the EU and have access to the single market by signing up to rules we have no say over and basic fundamentals like freedom of movement, or we can leave the EU, pull up the drawbridge and shut ourselves off from the world markets because we fear migrants.
LMES and the wider Labour movement offer something more fulfilling than that future of fear and isolation. We propose to stand with our EU partners to tackle our shared problems; to work with others to build upon our joint successes; and to create a European Union that delivers peace and prosperity into the future.
19 thoughts on “Peace and prosperity in Europe”
The great Labour Government of 1945 had nothing to do with and played no part in creation of The European Coal and Steel Community, one the forerunner’s of today’s EU.
The post war Labour Government rejected the ECSC as membership of it would not be compatible in the delivery of a democratic socialist programme in the UK.
In the 1975 EC “Common Market” referendum the majority of Labour Party was euro sceptic and the Tories were the pro European Community party.
The point is, don’t buy the line that Labour has always been slavishly pro the “European Project” and that it’s in “our traditions” to support this. This line is a falsehood, it’s simply not true.
If you want the UK to become a fully democratic country again. You know what you have to do.
The UK has never been a fully Democratic country in its entire existence.
1. It has always pandered to an unelected undemocratic second chamber of patronage and privilege. Which makes the EU Parliament more democratic in that respect.
2. The UK is not and never has been a Country. It is a Parliamentary union between Countries.
Like I said before you never seem to think your posts through.
Mike, lets be frank, you follow the schizophrenic SNP.
The SNP display classic symptoms of schizophrenia, such as a failure to understand reality, coupled with unclear and confused thinking.
Let me put the SNP case to you in simple terms that you will understand;
You support Scottish “independence” in a federal Europe? That’s not independence Mike, it’s not even close.
Mike, here’s a tip, if you actually want more power and democracy in the hands of the Scottish people;
SNP case on unions.
Some are beneficial some aint.
List of non beneficial unions (Not fully inclusive)
The Roman Empire.
The British Empire
The Soviet Union
The DisUnited Kingdom.
List of beneficial unions ( Not fully exclusive)
The United States
Just examples of what makes a decent workable union relative to what doesn’t.
The top list is an example of unworkable unbalanced despotic union the bottom workable balanced and generally beneficial union.
Was it not Labour who offered Federation as a vow for voting No in the Indyref?
Rhetorical question because there is video evidence on YouTube proving they did.
So your argument is Federation within the UK good Federation within the EU bad?
You are absolutely nowhere with your pretendy arguments why not admit your just anti immigration and cant stand Johnny Foreigners?
Mike, you can keep your plastic, fake, faux, mickey mouse style SNP independence.
I would much rather have the real deal.
Where in the piece does it say the UK joined the ECSC? The article does, rightly, point to the fact that the ECSC came out of the post-WW2 push for peace and that the EU we have today was built by the UK and other Member States.
“1945. The Second World War came to an end in Europe. ……The EU we know today – the EU we have helped to create – arose from that post-war hope and the clear urgency of the need for peace. The nations of Europe, which for so long had used their power to dominate their competitors, would begin a journey that would see their power combined and amplified”
By including the line “the EU we have helped to create” whilst referring to the post war settlement, implicates that the Labour Government of 1945, were in favour of the ECSC (EU) from its outset. This is untrue.
The 1945-51 Labour Government did not support the European Project. They knew it would interfere in both parliamentary democracy and hinder the creation of socially democratic Britain.
Support the EU by all means. What I object to is the attempt to portray the Labour Party as a movement that has historically supported the European project. This is a falsehood.
The Labour Party has historically, been both for and against the European project.
If the Labour party continues to ignore, deny or to silence it’s eurosceptic traditions, it’s finished.
The best place for Scotland is as a self governing country, in an equal partnership with all the other self governing countries that make up the EU.
The worst position for us, is to be under the control of Westminster, which has never, in the past, taken any notice of our interests.
There is no reason we cannot negotiate entry terms that would suit our needs, and if we cannot then we should do a Norway or Switzerland.
Gavin, where will the SNP be holding the negotiations? …….Fantasy Island.
Haha—-very funny, not.
Cameron claims it will take a decade for the UK to exit. Even the minimum is two years. That gives Scotland a reasonable time frame in which to talk entry terms. It may be we will not want to join as a self governing country.
It’s not easy to forecast the political runes after an OUT vote, but the main UK Parties would be even more fractious than at present. A General Election may have to be held in an atmosphere of recrimination.
The SNP, as a united party with a clear vision, could expect to do well. Then expect Indyref2. Who, in Scotland, will front up the Better Together campaign?
If Independence is the aim for the SNP what’s wrong for Independence for the whole of the UK to be freed from the shackles of the EU, the SNP are hypocrites on the issue of Independence.
The UK is Independent within the EU Scotland is not Independent within the UK.
There are 5 year olds who understand that much.
If the UK really is “independent within the EU”, then it will make no difference to you or the rest of your SNP cronies if we vote to leave!
You do realise that you are now arguing against The official SNP line?
Hanging about on this forum is starting to have an effect on you. All this free thinking is obviously starting to take its toll.
Get a grip of yourself Mike.
Vote Leave for a more independent and democratic Scotland.
“Mike, you can keep your plastic, fake, faux, mickey mouse style SNP independence.
I would much rather have the real deal.”
The UK is as Independent as Germany France Norway the USA and every other State in the UN.
Who told you it wasn’t? Whats not real about the Independence of the UK?
Do they have a lesser standing within the UN than other States? Or does Scotland Wales and NI?
Mike, this is poor stuff even by your own very low standards.
Why not take some time out and come back when your SNP organ grinder has given you some new lines.
I accept your capitulation gracefully.
Bye bye Mike.
All this stuff about the EU stopping another war is a load of old toffee it’s NATO not the EU who would be stepping up to the plate in the event of war and you don’t have to be in the EU to be part of NATO.
The idea is not to step up to the plate in the event of war but to avoid the war in the first place.
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