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Ignoring the debate on Europe does Labour no favours

Ed M in EU flagIn three weeks time, voters go to the polls to elect their representatives to the European Parliament. Not surprisingly,  Labour and a majority of the affiliated Trade unions have been very vocal on the need for a big push in the European elections to kick out the scourge of UKIP and BNP MEPs plus valiant aims to increase Labour’s presence from its current group of 13.

Labour members and trade unionists have also been out campaigning hard on the doorstep and in towns and cities encouraging people to vote Labour and raising awareness of the need to kick Nick Griffin, The BNP and fascism out of politics for good. All good so far. But upon further consideration, we see that all the above groups are almost certainly out campaigning during these elections for very different reasons. Some out of party loyalty, Others because they detest the far-right and its fascist ideology. Other comrades support the EU, its political and economic project and (perceived) social aims, and are driven by a need to re-establish legitimacy and popular support for the EU against the reactionary whims of a Conservative government hell bent on an EU referendum and repatriation of many powers back into our national legislature.

It has not gone unnoticed by the media that Labour is the only party with any serious clout to unequivocally support remaining in the EU – with the Lib Dems in danger of wipe-out and with no intentions of offering the road to a ‘Social Europe’.

Ed Miliband has also been very clear that EU withdrawal would be a mistake and stood firm in rejecting the need to offer any kind of EU referendum. This drew praise from the trade unions and many in the party, for its positioning and unifying factor-but it also has to be said drew nifty criticism and accusations from left and right who felt it showed a Labour Party too nervous to demonstrate the worth and popularity of the EU. Voters want to know that the case for remaining in the EU isn’t just an article of faith for Labour, but based on facts and common sense. For them, the mass mud slinging between the Tories, UKIP and Labour on the EU has brought us to a point where people don’t know what is fact or fiction about Europe in the first place. A referendum debate would allow the facts, pros and cons of the EU to surface and people the opportunity to finally make up there own minds.

It was a huge mistake for Ed Miliband to rule out a referendum. It left the impression that ‘he knew best’ and that to make the pledge was somehow ‘opening a can of worms’ he did not want to open – not only for the noble virtues of containing the confidence of UK citizens job security and the business community (Nissan, etc) – but savvily avoiding argument with the “big three” affiliated unions (Unite, GMB, Unison) and any possibility of an opportunity from for those to his left in the party to project the true nature of the EU. Some fear that the radicals in the party would start using the referendum as a platform to debate alternative methods of co-operation (e.g. South America) and the road to potential withdrawal. But these are exactly the sort of debates we need to be having.

This is the first in a series of articles from Thomas Butler making the case for a left-wing Euroscepticism. In the next part, Thomas Butler will consider the “delusion” of a “Social Europe”.


  1. David Ellis says:

    Reads like a pile of sub-UKIP nonsense.

  2. James Martin says:

    That’s right David, heaven forbid anyone would want to fight against the European bosses club, after all who would be there to support your Kiev fascist mates then?

  3. PoundInYourPocket says:

    No doubt about it the “social europe” we all wanted does seem to have mutated into a corporate stitch-up. Especially with EU Comission led policy that is so pro free-market. There are still many “social” policy initiatives but these seem to be secondary to the main pro-market thrust. Mopping up the mess left behind by the market. However a referendum would be absolute carnage as the right-wing media would savage the EU leading to a withdrawl with consequent economic and social meltdown in the UK. Reform is the only way, but it needs a strong left wing EU parliament and left wing national governments. Not hapenning any time soon. But a hasty media driven withdrawl would be a catastrophe so the only option is to try and reform from within.

  4. swatantra says:

    It would be even better if Ed were to debate with Farage in a head to head and demolish all UKIPs arguments about the Referendum and leaving Europe.

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