Last Friday we had a Labour Members meeting based all around Europe. With a Panel of distinguished speakers, including Brian Watson MEP, Kier Dillon, a Union rep (whos’ name I have forgotten, apologies) and ex MEP Glyn Ford. The common theme between them was the passion they showed for Europe and the need for the UK to continue its membership. Personally I am an Euro-sceptic, given our position I don’t believe that membership of Europe is as necessary as is made out, however this discussion did give me some food for thought, but have I changed my mind?
I’m not against Europe, but I’m not convinced that it is essential for us to be as tied in as we are, what actual real advantage do we see? It is an expensive membership, firstly in real money terms and in the burden from the European Courts as well as the position of not being in the Euro, makes life ‘interesting’ to say the least.
That said, we have had some business arrive in the UK mainly because we are members of the EU so that counts for something.
What interested me about what Brian Watson said was the ability to look at Europe from the Socialist agenda and while my views on businesses aren’t exactly the main stream in the Labour Party, I do think it was a persuasive argument to use the position to try and send the message that the application of fairness and progressive rights is a just and right thing to do.
There is discussion around the need for Britain to remain to do trade with European members, but I’m not convinced with that argument, nothing would really change! We all still need to trade. However, I do believe the much maligned ECHR has provided a truly valuable service and should be supported. (And that is from reviewing real cases, not just the Daily Mail take on them).
Another concern of mine was the “Robin Hood Tax”, the idea that a small levy (0.05%) would be applied to any transactions which is aimed at deterring speculative investment. While on the face of it, it would work, however there are two holes, what is to stop Europe being bypassed and the world to just ignore us because of this tax. Secondly, the receiver of the funds should be the country in which they are incurred, not just the EU central bank!
My main criticism was for the Party itself though. If we are to take Europe more seriously then we need the Party to take is more seriously. If I am to include European information in my engagement work, then the Party need to get that information to me, in the same way as it gets national information to me. I get the distinct impression that the Westminster bubble isn’t too concerned with their European comrades, but they should be, they need to lead by example and push the wider message.
So am I convinced about needing European Membership, well on the face of it, no I’m not! But I do wholeheartedly agree that if Europe changed the way it worked to be more inclusive, a more coherent force for good and a driver for business, then yes I would be all for it. The implication there is that to change it, we need to do it from. the inside, therefore we need to be in the room and not outside it, therefore ongoing membership is a necessity for change.