Labour must stand firm against referendum

Speaking to the Bournemouth Fabians on Friday 28 June 2013 Mike Gapes MP a member and former Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said :

“Despite recent difficulties the European Union is a great success.  The original Coal and Steel Community has developed over sixty years  into the European Union of 28 countries next week when Croatia joins the world’s largest single internal market of 500 million people. Many other countries elsewhere in the Balkans, in Turkey and Eastern Europe still aspire to join the EU .  Why should that be if it was the unmitigated failure portrayed in some tabloids and by some Europhobic politicians?

The Nobel prize committee rightly recognised the European Union’s contribution to peace in Europe over the decades. In the 70 years between 1870 and 1940 there were three major European wars. Since 1945 the EU has made  a major contribution to peace, democracy, prosperity and stability in our continent.

Millions of British workers and pensioners depend on and benefit from the increased trade and prosperity which comes from our membership of the European Union and access to its internal market.   Despite recent growth of the BRICS  half of all British trade is still with the other EU countries and we sell more to the Netherlands and Ireland than we do to China. Many will benefit from a successful  EU- US Free Trade Treaty. A Britain outside the EU and its single market and EU negotiated treaties could be in a cold lonely place subject to the pressures and buffeting of uncertainty and speculation.

The 17 existing members who share a currency will soon be joined by the 18thLatvia, and they are absolutely determined that the Euro will  not just survive but be strengthened.   That means that the UK will be in an uncomfortable position as the eurozone states and about ten other countries –the so called pre-ins-  go ahead with new institutional arrangements.

Instead of addressing the economic crisis that confronts the whole of this continent, and the wrong, misguided austerity economics that is creating tens of millions of unemployed people in this country and in the Eurozone   David Cameron is proposing to have a four year  obsession with a probably unrealisable renegotiation and repatriation of powers and a referendum in late 2017.

The government have taken a dangerous leap in the dark, creating enormous uncertainty for anybody in China, Korea or the USA who wishes to plan to invest in this country. They are putting jobs and prosperity in Britain at risk. This risk to inward investment will be reduced as long as Labour does not follow suit.

As the cross party Foreign Affairs Select Committee argued in its recent unanimous report “The Government's tone, language and overall approach can have a major impact in sustaining UK influence in the EU. The Government should frame its approach and language in pan-EU rather than UK-only terms, and should remain constructive, positive and engaged.”

If Labour stands firm, rejects a referendum and argues for a constructive and pragmatic pro-European reformist approach I predict that the Tories will come to regret Cameron’s 2017 referendum plan as they confront defeat at the next general election. Let’s focus on the real needs of our country. Let the next general election be the referendum on Britain’s future in Europe.”



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