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SP: Labour's alternative treaty - Printable Version

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SP: Labour's alternative treaty - Ruth Murphy - 09-12-2020

Ruth Murphy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, attended a conference on European issues hosted at Mansion House. There, she presented a speech about Labour's alternative vision for Maastricht. Before and after the speech, she engaged in two of her favourite activities: bantering with the press and eating food that will undoubtedly cut her lifespan in half. 

[Image: 47605d65a01d97c7b1943500c8b8c9f8.jpg]
Murphy above, wearing a dress and donning a hairdo that cost more than her parents' annual incomes combined. Politics has really gotten her to high places. 

"Good evening,

I’m grateful to the Lord Mayor and his team for hosting this conference. It is important we as a country come together to discuss vital European issues and to have honest conversations about our role in Europe and the future of Europe. We all need to do our part in ensuring these discussions are had not just in Westminster and in the City of London, but that those conversations are had up and down the country.

There are good, decent and hardworking Britons who fall on all sides of this debate: Britons who believe our future lies within Europe, people who are entirely sceptical of the project and what I believe are the silent majority who have a much more nuanced view. As Shadow Foreign Secretary, I want to make it clear to that majority: I am with you. In a debate dominated by polarising voices who want to spin our membership of the European Community as either the very destruction of this country or the only way it can survive, Labour wants to offer that sensible middle ground.

And it is Labour that understands that whatever view we have on Europe, we are all united by Britishness and a desire to see Britain thrive. That should be our fundamental position as we go forward - to find a reasonable compromise for Britain so that we can move forwards.

Just as it is no secret the country has a diverse range of views on Europe, so too is it no secret the Labour Party does. Some have wanted to paint stories of Labour division. I am not going to pretend there aren’t pro Europeans nor eurosceptics in Shadow Cabinets, let alone on the backbenches. But what I can assure the public that the backbenches are resolutely united in believing Britain and Europe have been charted on the wrong course, and the frontbench are united behind the plan I will be presenting tonight.

The hostile briefings that have come from the Cabinet against the Foreign Secretary, which he has had to rebuff publicly, have weakened Britain’s ability to lead within Europe. Labour will be proud to present a vision that is focused on uniting the country. Only then do we have the ability to claim to lead.

We’ll be clear that there should be no more division, no more self-destruction, but a self-confident Britain ready to unite the country and lead in Europe and the world.

The gist of our position is already clear: that we do not believe a single currency would be the right course for Britain and would oppose it, but that we would support a referendum just as we do for Maastricht. As I said earlier, it is good we are having discussions about Europe here, but we need to bring that debate out into the country and deliver a result we can unite behind, ensuring that powers are not transferred without the approval of the British public. We have also made clear we do not support the Maastricht Treaty as negotiated by the Foreign Secretary.

I have spoken at length about why the Labour Party is sceptical of this treaty before, and I do not want to bore you all with the specific details. We feel it is a treaty that does very little to steer Britain away from the course of a Federal Europe, that restricts Britain’s economic powers and that does nothing for neglected communities and for fishing communities across the country.

What is important is that the Labour Party is able to lay out our alternative. An alternative that offers further cooperation with Europe and embraced Britain’s future in Europe, an alternative that protects our sovereignty and assures Britons who fear a Federal Europe but most crucially ensure we craft a Europe that doesn’t just work for the most powerful, but that offers something to the British people and tangibly improves their lives. Should Maastricht not pass, a Labour government will ensure this would be the alternative. Should it pass, Labour will push for a renegotiation.

This renegotiation will not exist to destroy the Maastricht Treaty from the ground up. There are many aspects of the Treaty we will ensure are preserved as they work well for Britain if not in practice, then at least in principle. We will not aim to undermine any of the pillars of the treaty, nor will we barter away any of the brakes to a Federal Europe that the Foreign Secretary has negotiated. We will support the referendum for a euro within the treaty, so that this question can be put to the people.

But that brings me onto my first point: the Foreign Secretary has negotiated brakes on the journey to a Federal Europe, when the British people need assurances that Britain also has its hands on the steering wheel to establish our own destiny within Europe without the threat of being subsumed by it. In any negotiation, we will establish an opt out for Britain from an ‘ever closer union’ so that Britain truly has the opportunity to lead from within Europe and ensure Europe does not simply sleepwalk into a Federal Europe that would not work for us just as it would not work for our European allies.

But we will go further, and we will fight to ensure national Parliaments are recognised within Europe. Instead of giving just the European Parliament more power to scrutinise legislation, we will ensure the British Parliament and other national Parliaments across the continent are granted at least some of the same privileges. Whatever our political identity, we in Britain can be proud that we are the country that possesses the mother of all Parliaments that is accountable to the British people – we cannot let its status or its primacy be threatened. In doing this, we will reject blind support for the European project.

But we will ensure we work with Europe and forge closer connections where it benefits the British people. Where Europe has the ability to lift standards for workers and consumers, we will be happy to use that power to do so. In any Maastricht negotiation we will seek full participation in the Social Charter, removing our opt out on wage regulations and collective bargaining so we can strengthen standards and pay for workers.

But we won’t just look to do that – we will also seek to strengthen that Social Charter, ensuring Europeans work together to ensure health and safety regulations, regulations on holidays and parental leave, consumer regulations and environmental protections are strengthened. In cooperating in this way, we can ensure that Europe is not used to support austerity and inequality, but that it is done to make a Europe that is more prosperous, healthy and beautiful. In doing this, we will reject blind opposition for the European project.

We will show a willingness to compromise with the European Community, ensuring that fiscal rules are kept so that the harmony of Europe's economies are maintained, but ensuring Britain is able to act in its own economic interests when it needs to the most. Instead of just hoping the Germans accept our ‘exceptional circumstances’, we will fight for a suspension of the European’s dogmatic fiscal rules for a length of five years should a member state experience a recession. This will ensure our hands are not tied and we are able to save businesses across Europe from collapse, workers across Europe from unemployment and public services across Europe from austerity.

And we will fight for real reform to CAP and to the Common Fisheries Policy, to ensure that the European Community works better for British fishing and farming communities across the United Kingdom. Maastricht gave us an opportunity to fight for those communities, and that was missed.

The Common Fisheries Policy has virtually been untouched since its inception despite the devastation it has unleashed on communities across Britain, with fish wasted and restrictive quotas destroying opportunity for fishing businesses. Whilst we accept the need to effectively regulate and harmonise fishing across Europe, it is crucial we do so in a way that works better for fishing communities in Britain and doesn’t see the needless waste and disposal of edible fish.

We will negotiate for fishing quotas to be set at a regional level over a European one. This won’t just be good for Britain, but it will be good for fishing communities across Europe as they operate under conditions that work for them whilst still ensuring sustainability. But to promote the sustainability of fishing, we must also ensure there is a complete ban on the discarding of edible fish – a policy that is completely illogical and has no good justification except to enforce European dogmatism. These are small tweaks, but ones that will be massively beneficial to fishing communities up and down the United Kingdom.

And we will ensure we reform CAP to put an end to wasteful rivers of wine and mountains of cheese, whilst working for small reforms that ensure small businesses and farmers, not the wealthiest, benefit. But we must go further and promote any efficiencies made from reforms to CAP to be put into the European Regional Development Fund, as well as ensuring the ERDF receives the lion’s share of any significant expansion of the European budget. 

With these reforms we’ll ensure Europe doesn’t just benefit the City, Paris and Frankfurt – but Grimsby, Wales and Cornwall. The European project should ensure that it assists the poorest Europeans. They are fundamentally Labour values and that is what this Labour Party will work towards. 

And finally, we will look for clarifications and reforms to state aid rules to state aid. Whilst we appreciate the diversity of views on the issue of nationalisation, we believe that the European Community should not be able to totally restrict Britain’s ability to act in the interest of its own industries. And we know the Germans, who spend more than double we do on state aid, agree. Whilst we accept and appreciate the integrity of the single market, we believe it must be absolutely clear what action and the extent of that action Britain can take to protect and regrow its industries and public sector.

This is our vision. Not pro-European, not Eurosceptic, not ‘for’ or ‘against’ Europe, but a vision that is cooperative and internationalist. A vision that will improve the lives of individuals and communities up and down Britain and Europe. A vision that puts people, not ideology, first. And a vision that I crucially believe can unite this country.

Thank you.


RE: SP: Labour's alternative treaty - Redgrave - 09-14-2020

The setting and content of this speech are designed to establish Ruth Murphy as a Foreign Secretary in waiting. In this, Murphy succeeds and it marks another step in raising her public profile, something she has been doing in significant strides since being appointed to the role.

However, the alternative speech was criticised on Question Time by both Macmillan and Cardigan as being unworkable and a fantasy wish list. This criticism is picked up in the press, particularly amongst the kind of papers who have no desire to see Labour in office. Some also question whether Labour can actually achieve all they set out here when in office and neutral analysts note that such a programme will require a herculean effort akin to the government’s in the Rome negotiations. They say such effort has been done before of course but questions are raised about whether lightning strikes twice.

Regardless of these criticisms and questions, supporters of Labour and Murphy in particular point to this as a bold, coherent vision for what a Labour government would do on Europe, something that hasn’t been seen perhaps since the Wilson days. Murphy also succeeds in weaving in what seems to be her favourite pasttime these days, namely criticisms of Dylan Macmillan.

1XP to Murphy