Britain’s EU referendum must be fought on the future

by Callum Anderson

As David Cameron edges closer to a final agreement with the European Commission and the other 27 Member States, both Leave and Remain campaigns struggle to wrest control and momentum ahead of a possible plebiscite this summer.

Whenever the referendum takes place, Britons will have to make their biggest decision for more than a generation. One that should be definitive and non-reversible. One that will ultimately decide Britain’s place in the twenty-first century.

Opinion polls – if we still trust them – have been highly volatile and are likely to remain so, with challenges such as terrorism and the migrant crisis looming large.

It, of course, goes without saying that Britain Stronger In Europe, backed by organisations such as British Influence and Labour’s In for Britain, must continue to make a positive case for Britain’s membership in the EU and call out the myths spread by the Eurosceptics.

The economic benefits – jobs, trade and investment – must be messages unceasingly repeated to citizens on the doorstep.

Equally, as Jim Murphy articulated superbly last summer, Britons must be reminded that the EU has not only been a free-trade area but also responsible for one of the great moral triumphs of our time: the establishment of democracy and the rule of law in the south and east of Europe.

That isn’t even to mention the freedom that all 60 million of us have to study, work and live in 27 other countries without needing a visa. Or the European Convention on Human Rights. Or the fact that, thanks to the European Arrest Warrant, Britain can arrest criminals across the EU to ensure justice and safeguard our population’s safety.

The list is endless.

Yet, whilst these points are all valid and necessary, they are not sufficient in themselves.

By far the most effective and powerful way for pro-Europeans to win the argument and ensure that Britain maintains its EU membership is to focus on the future. This does not mean downplaying the historical achievements, but to simultaneously explain and accentuate the challenges that face us all and how only by engaging and co-operating with our EU partners will we ensure our safety and prosperity in the years and decades to come.

Indeed, be it tackling climate change, investing in research (be it medical, energy or scientific) confronting domestic and international terrorism or embracing the fourth industrial revolution that will see our economies transform, the challenges that Britain faces are increasingly complex and global, requiring international, co-ordinated responses.

Yet Britain has a huge opportunity to play a key role in shaping and driving through agendas that will keep our people safe and prosperous. By 2050 it will be EU’s largest economy, as well as its most populous member. Yet it can only maximise its voice and exert its influence if it is at the heart of an EU that is playing an increasingly significant role in international affairs. Withdrawing from the EU will inevitably weaken Britain’s hand in trade negotiations and reduce its sway in issues of foreign policy.

It must be made explicitly clear that in the twenty-first century, Britain reaches its potential when it works with the EU, not around it.

But what of Labour?

For such an important issue, the leadership, the parliamentary party and the membership must, at least temporarily, put their differences aside and unite behind our internationalist values to make the credible and patriotic case for EU membership.

That means organising and working together, leveraging the connections that all have with their local communities and trade unions so that Britain can help to build a stronger, fairer and safer world.

Callum Anderson is a Labour activist and tweets here.

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10 Responses to “Britain’s EU referendum must be fought on the future”

  1. Freeborn John says:

    The EU is a state under construction. All you need to know to vote LEAVE is that staying in means means a future in which the British state is gradually replaced by a de-facto government in Brussels that no voter has any hope of influencing via the ballot box.

  2. Disenfranchised says:

    This is terribly wrong on so many counts.

    “One that should be definitive and non-reversible.” – it is part of our constitutional make-up that no government can bind its successor.

    “jobs, trade and investment” are all very well, but if those on the bottom can’t compete with the incoming hordes, there will be no reason for them to stay in the EU.

    Jim Murphy was right at the forefront when the Lisbon Treaty was being rammed down our throats, the LT being a hurriedly put together replacement for a proposed EU Constitution, the LT conveniently not needing a vote, and the EU Constitution, although promised a vote on, conveniently buried.

    Jim Murphy, along with Gordon Brown and David Miliband, were responsible for this measure, one of the most anti-democratic pieces of political thuggery I have witnessed in my lifetime.

    The rest of the stuff contained in Callum Anderson’s piece can be achieved through cooperation and doesn’t need political union.

    Callum is correct in his last paragraph though, there is a wide division through our society with on one side, consisting of the university class, public bodies, and NGOs – these people have formed a power base beyond any democratic accountability – and the public at street level, who don’t feel that life is fair and safe at all.
    ““Leveraging” the bought and paid for is OK as long as we defeat ‘the people’ through our NGOs” is the message.

    I’ll repeat it for the thousandth time – Labour should plant its feet firmly in the ground and oppose the European Union on behalf of those at the bottom, but it won’t; such is the self-serving nature of this loathsome class that wouldn’t know the meaning of the word Democracy.

  3. NHSGP says:

    I’ve read this twice and the content of your post is zero. There’s no content, no detail.

    So lets see


    1. Reform of CAP – nothing
    2. Migration causing housing shortages – none.
    3. Inability to expel criminals – nothing – see Westminster Bridge for hundreds
    4. Child benefit going overseas – nothing
    5. Migrants on welfare – nothing – Still controlled by the EU, and they have explicitly said its illegal.
    6. Working class shafted on wages
    7. Working class shafted on housing
    8. Working class shafted on schooling

    Then look at the arguments.

    When the UK leaves we will impose tariffs and trade barriers. Illegal under the WTO. So the EU doesn’t give a toss about free trade or about treaties.

    No instead it will try and do that. The reason is that when the UK prospers outside, other countries will get the same idea, so it needs to punish the UK to encourage the others. What the f***? It doesn’t give a shit about democracy.

    So when they have that think the UK is better off out.

  4. swatantra says:

    From the other comments, and the opinion polls, it looks like we’re sleep walking into a Brexit.
    There is a definite Anti Europe feeling in the country, and Corbyn is doing little to quell that feeling. Its left to Alan Johnson to speak up for Europe, separately from Cameron, because there is no Joint Campaign o stay in.
    The Stay in lot are going to have their work cut out for them to even present a case in the Media, with the Media hostile too.
    Its all a pity

  5. Ex labour says:

    Good lord is this the best the “in” supporters can muster ? I’ll be polite and just say its a total “heads gone” piece.

    Cameron has asked the EU for nothing. He even missed out several manifesto pledges to reform the EU, so he effectively gave the EU an easy ride. But even so, if you read the response in the document published yesterday the EU still retains control of everything. For example the “emergency brake” can only be implemented on the EU say so based on some yet to be defined criteria.

    This proposal does not give us back the powers handed over to the EU by both Labour and Tory; it does not gives us control of our borders; it does not give us control over benefits and asylum; it does not give us control over UK law; it does not cut regulation and red tape etc etc. I could go on but I guess you get the drift.

    A future in the EU means more subservience to and unelected elite who will increase their powers continuously at our expense.

  6. Fred says:

    …. Just another one of Callums, shallow and easily debunked pro EU articles.

    Hows that lack of any real world experience treating you Callum?

  7. Martin says:

    A good contribution Cameron, particularly your emphasis on the challenges of the future, when so much of the Brexit brigade look to the past.

    Part of these challenges are large powerblocks including hugely powerful multinational corporations that medium sized and small countries will be powerless to effect any meaningful democratic control.

    BUT, can Labour really stand shoulder to shoulder with Cameron as Labour did in the Scottish referendum? Will any other party be on the same platform? The trouble is that this is Cameron’s referendum that has been pushed forward as an instrument to deal with divisions in the Conservative Party.

  8. Tafia says:

    Equally, as Jim Murphy articulated superbly last summer

    The only thing Jim Murphy articulated was the deserved collapse of Scottish Labour.

  9. Madasafish says:

    I have just read this article. It is shallow, and barely credible.
    No mention of immigration.
    No mention of the problems we have when EU law and lawyers over-ride UK law.

    And so on. Not ONE difficulty addressed. Just glosses over the difficulties that many UK voters have being a EU member.

    As for the last sentence “so that Britain can help to build a stronger, fairer and safer world.” .

    I am not a supporter of Brexit but reading the article made me want to cry. If that’s teh best Remain can produce, the limp Leave campaign will win hands down..

    PS As I write news is just coming in of the EU over-riding our ability to send back foreign criminals from the UK..

    I suspect the EU are sleepwalking to a British exit: not because there is any great enthusiasm for it but because those who want us to remain write trite puerile rubbish like this.


  10. John P Reid says:

    Well said MadasAFish

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