Ed’s new policy on Europe gives us the leadership we need

by Alan Donnelly

Pro-Europe Labourites have been waiting for leadership on Europe and now we have it. The dilemma for the party was always this: unable to be unabashedly pro-Europe because of Eurosceptic polling, unable to refuse a referendum because of some in the party, yet secretly eager to build a positive reform agenda for the EU.

There was a period of time last year in which every PMQs was dominated by the referendum question, with Cameron urging Ed to say yes or no, and claiming he was the big man for giving the people a say.

He no longer has that card to play. Ed has set out Labour’s position clearly: only if there are further transfers of power will Labour hold a referendum. He has also been clear that on that basis he thinks there will not be one.

Cameron now has little to go on, and will be exposed as being in a weak position on Europe, pushed this way and that by his backbenchers.

Instead of attacking the reasons for the policy, Tories are claiming it is unclear. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Do we offer a referendum come what may? No. Do we want a referendum? No. Why? Because it’s counterproductive to reform, it’s unnecessary, and in the end will not “put the issue to bed” at all.

Beyond the referendum issue, there was much good policy content in Ed’s speech on Wednesday. Back in December I wrote for Progress on what Labour’s priorities for EU reform should be, arguing that in the first half of 2014 we would have to stake out a defined terrain in the debate. I argued we should concentrate on reform without the need for a new treaty, as this is not on the table in other EU countries.

Cameron has gone in the other direction, putting him at odds with European partners. Ed has outlined solid priorities under the banner of “making the European Union better support our prosperity”: anomalies like the Common Agricultural Policy, youth unemployment, state aid rules, avoiding a race to the bottom on wages, protecting employment rights.

The Tories, however, are unclear. True, they have made a clear strategic mistake in placing a time limit on themselves. But ministers consistently fail to answer questions about what reforms they want to see, and what the red lines are that will see Cameron either recommend a “no” rather than a “yes” vote.

No doubt buoyed by Merkel’s defence of Europe in Westminster Hall, we now have the confidence to be pro-Europe. In drawing praise from both the business community and figures like Martin Schulz, Ed sets us apart from Cameron’s Tories whose reaction-agenda is winning no friends.

Alan Donnelly is a former leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party and chair of South Shields CLP

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7 Responses to “Ed’s new policy on Europe gives us the leadership we need”

  1. Tafia says:

    You call that leadership do you? It’s cowardice pure and simple. He is to scared to say no and to scared to say yes so he has opted for yes-but-no-but-yes.

    There are 20 year old infantry Lance Corporals leading 8 man fighting patrols in Afghanistan that have forgotten more about leadership than Ed Miliband will ever know.

  2. swatantra says:

    Eds come out definitely FOR Europe and said Labour is a Pro-European Progressive Party. So, if you don’t want Britain to stay in Europe, then you can can jolly well go and vote Tory in 2015, and suffer the consequences.
    That sounds pretty brave to me.
    And, no 20 yr old should be fighting on the frontline, before having at least a chance of a decent life for a few years. So raise Military Service to 21.

  3. Henrik says:

    @swatantra: if you’re old enough to vote, you’re old enough to be a soldier.

  4. Tafia says:

    It’s 18 for front line service swat because that’s the age you can vote, the age you can marry without your parents consent, the age you can buy alcohol in a pub and the age you can go into a bookies.

    Do you think the age of those should be raised to 21?

    Remember, 18 was old enough for D-Day and they weren’t volunteers like todays Armed Forces – they were conscripted.

    I have no intention of voting Labour despite being a member of over 3 decades that didn’t bother renewing because basically the effort compared to what I was getting in return (the child killer Blair) meant it wasn’t worth the bother. That opinion has deepened over Brown/Balls and Miliband? Please, give intelligent life forms a break.

    The use of ‘Labour’ is I am absolutely certain a breach of the Trades Descriptions Act. The only difference between the tories and Labour is one pretends to be genuine but isn’t and the other doesn’t even bother pretending.

  5. swatantra says:

    Change the Age of Majority back up to 21, and we’ll all be happy.
    You have to ask yourself, would you be happy with your son or daughter laying down their lives on the frontline at 18, or even voting at 18, when they haven’t the maturity.

  6. Ex Labour says:

    Yet more “head up arse” logic in this blog.

    You obviously dont remember Blair giving up our powers to Europe in return for reform of the CAP. Guess what ? the EU autocrats never reformed the CAP once we had handed over the powers ( and money). France will NEVER give any reform on CAP, its what keeps thousands of French small holders (not really farmers) in business.

    We’ve heard all this “if there is a transfer of powers” nonsense before. What Miliband is actually saying is that proles like us should not be given the vote because we dont really understand.

    I really dont get it. Labour bleat on about democracy and rights, yet when it comes to the biggest test, Miliband fails to deliver.

  7. uglyfatbloke says:

    Swatantra – I know 16-year-olds who are more than sensible enough to use the vote and sixty-year-olds who are not, but here’s a tragic but true thing….
    Regular soldiers have to start young , like footballers. If there are to be competent senior NCOs in their thirties, they mostly they have to start soldiering in their late teens. It’s different in a long war with mass conscription when the army has more recruits to choose from and can advance unusually competent people at a much faster rate, but even then, most senior NCOs are regulars, not conscripts, because it takes such a long time for them to accumulate the training and experience they need.
    Also – and again it’s not a cheerful thing to say – evidence indicates that the older we get the more prone we are to combat-generated emotional conditions, both during and after service.

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