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Tories are having a hissy fit, but what’s Labour’s view on Europe?

Today we’ll see one of the most bizarre votes that the Commons have ever seen. Here we have the PLP whipped to support the government in rejecting an amendment put down to the Queen’s Speech by the Tory Right which Cameron is now supporting being tabled against his own legislative programme.

This pantomime reflects the determination of Tory hysterics (sorry, eurosceptics) to force Cameron into a binding commitment to hold an in-out referendum on the EU in 2017 to pave the way for an exit which Cameron himself has pledged to resist to the limt of his powers. This is the tail wagging the dog again in the Tory party exactly like ‘the bastards’ did to Major after Maastricht.

It is a delight to behold this fight-to-the-finish ferment engulfing the Tory party on an issue which only 10% of the electorate think a most important issue while 65% think the economy and the cost of living are vastly more important. UKIP has succeeded in dragging the Tories into the further extremities of the Right and exposed the depths of their divisions as nothing else can. But does Labour just lie low and watch the spectacle? It should not.

At present the whole case about Europe reads like a Tory family feud. The stay-ins argue: Would foreign investors still be as interested in the UK if it could no longer offer access to the EU market and could no longer influence EU regulations? Could the City of London remain Europe’s financial capital if the UK left the EU? If EU regulations are so burdensome, how come Germany remains such a successful global exporter?

The leavers reply: Since the UK still sends 46% of its exports of goods and services to the EU, wouldn’t exit put a large proportion of its trade at risk? Is it sensible to leave if the UK would still be bound by the rules of the Single Market, though have no influence over any future changes? Is it not counter-productive in terms of the UK’s global role if the US relationship, as Obama again made clear yesterday, largely hinges round Britain’s role in Europe?

The key issues of labour laws, environmental regulations, public services and social policy don’t even feature. The neo-liberal paradigm, and the alternative business model needed after the worst crash for a century, doesn’t get a mention. The principle of solidarity and inter-regional redistribution is nowhere to be seen. The central question of whether social protection and communal rights prevail over the single market, or vice-versa, doesn’t even rate.

What Labour should be doing is not gawping at the Tory self-destruct, but setting out a fresh vision of what a reformed EU would look like. The contrast would earn Labour some much-needed voting power.

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