Politics UK: Culloden

Full Version: Preston at the Labour movement for Europe
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Ruan Preston, Labour leadership contender and former Shadow Home Secretary, spoke to the Labour Movement for Europe:


Quote:Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

A big part of party leadership is to be able to articulate the party’s vision on the issues of the day, when they arise. When the government fails to pick up on vital cues and fails to pursue what is best for Britain, Labour needs to be there delivering a narrative that inspires hope for something better. On no issue is this more pressing nowadays than the issue of Europe. Because man, has the government failed there.

We know the familiar story. The Tories are hopelessly divided on Europe, and their position has been as changeable as their leadership. They’ve been for, against, for and against, willing to offer a referendum and suddenly pushing it through Parliament without giving the British people a say. The whole Tory record on Europe is a litany of weaknesses, culminating in letting another nation reject a treaty for us when France voted down Maastricht. Is it any wonder that people are not enthused by the idea of Europe? Is it any wonder that to win the argument, the Tories point to an election ‘win’ that was altogether unconvincing? Like Napoleon, Bibi went to conquer Europe - but all she did was get a coalition formed against us.

Now is the time, more than ever, for Labour to deliver a positive, optimistic and hopeful vision for the future of Europe, one that puts people at the centre rather than merely thinking of them as were they some sort of afterthought. Because we have that vision. In stark contrast to the Tories’ inconsistent back-and-forth, we know what we want to achieve in Europe: a Europe where people count, that is about their needs, that is close to home for them, that is home for them.
Bibi Lauria doesn’t fool anyone. Her ‘strength’ in Europe masks the weakness of a divided party. Already we’ve heard the Tory sovereignty hawks speak about ‘a Europe of nations’ and strengthening Britain by hitting the brakes on Europe. They claim that that is the only way for a stronger Britain. Likewise, Bibi’s camp has claimed that our agenda is a rejection of Europe and weakens it. Again, as so often during this campaign, I respond with a simple question: why, exactly? Why can’t we build a Europe that’s stronger and closer together, while also bringing it closer to home? Why can’t a strong Britain exist within a strong Europe?

If the failure of the Maastricht Treaty shows anything, it’s not that European integration does not matter - it’s that people do not see themselves as part of the project. That’s what we have to change, and it will be the focus of a positive Labour Party policy on Europe under my leadership. We need to make Europe work not just for Britain, but for the British people - and that means we need to turn it from an economic business project to a project for the workers, dreamers and consumers of this country.

We need to unlock the promise of the common market to all, and that means we need to make Europe work for the workers as well. The government may consider such provisions a concession, but to the working people of Britain, the Social Chapter was one of the highlights of the Maastricht Treaty. The Tories may feel tempted to loose the Social Chapter - I say that would be a mistake worthy of defeat in a new referendum. Rather, we need to strongly build on the Social Chapter, and use it to level up protections for working people and for social equality across the member states through Qualified Majority Voting. For Britain, that means levelling up our worker’s rights without putting us at a competitive disadvantage - in fact, it means a boost to the productivity and well-being of European workers. That is something worth fighting for.

But we need to do more. We need to unlock the continent to the dreamers of Britain, especially to young people. They are the future of Europe, and to strengthen their stake in the European project, we must make it easier for them to be future citizens of Britain and Europe. That is why I’m so enthusiastic about the ERASMUS programme which allows young people and students to come to universities throughout Europe to study for a semester. It’s why I will look for coalitions in Europe to further student exchanges to encourage people from Britain to study on the continent and vice versa. But it’s not just students - our working people can benefit from lifelong learning opportunities on the continent as well. Why not let them exchange skills with say, French or German colleagues? That’s why I’ll work for a European dimension to the Lifelong Learning Fund I am proposing, for the good of Britain and Europe.

Finally, we need to make Europe work better for consumers. It’s simple, really: any market should have broad consumer protections. So should the common market. I don’t just mean all those product standards - we’ve got enough of those in many markets. What I mean is proper protections for consumers written into the treaties - to give the EC the right to top up national consumer protection with a strong European regime. So that, when you buy products from abroad, you know that you are being well served. Those rules should be adopted by qualified majority voting, as most vital areas of European integration will be.

That’s how we’ll bring Europe closer together, while also bringing it closer to home. There’s so much more to do. We need to reform the CAP. Not just scrap or cut it, but reform it. Let’s face it - there’s nations on the continent that benefit from it too much to successfully scrap it. But why not use that as an opportunity? We can support our farmers in a way that benefits British farmers and does something for the environment and the long-term future of rural Europe, rather than prop up inefficient farmers. And, of course, we need to strengthen European democracy. We need to strengthen the European Parliament as well as national parliaments so they can form a strong alliance to keep the use of power in Europe accountable.

This is going to be a major issue in the coming days, and chances are it will be presented as a choice: do we want a closer relationship in Europe or keep things closer to home? I think Labour’s role as a party of progress, and Britain’s needs for the 21st century, demand that we look beyond that false dichotomy. I believe that a new Labour government can help make great strides for European integration that work to the advantage of all those many European and British citizens who deserve to be part of the project at long last. With me as Labour leader, Labour will work for that positive, progressive policy.

Thank you.