Posts Tagged ‘John Cridland’

Can Ed find prime ministerial credibility in selling the case for Europe?

20/11/2012, 12:16:37 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Making a new case for an old ideal. In a nutshell that’s the job of all Labour leaders down the years. But Ed Miliband also thinks it’s the challenge for those who still see Europe as the solution to our national problems rather than the cause of them.

In his speech to the CBI yesterday he warned that fellow EU countries are “deeply concerned” because they sense Britain is “heading to the departure lounge”. A febrile mood on the Tory backbenches reflects the latent hostility among the British public with latest polls showing 56 per cent of Brits would vote to pull out if a referendum is held on the issue.

To his credit Ed stood firm against these siren calls saying he would not let Britain “sleepwalk toward exit from the European Union”. This is as strong an assertion of the importance of the EU as we have heard from any frontline political leader for some time. But even he only managed faint praise.

For he too recognises the EU’s focus is on the past not the future. It is still committed to propping up an insular, agriculturalist ancien regime rather than equipping Europe with the ability to withstand the challenges of the new century.

As he pointed out, farming subsidies still eat up 40 per cent of the EU budget while contributing just 1.5 per cent to economic output.  The focus should instead be on “public goods” for the EU economy like infrastructure, innovation and energy.

In a prescient section of his speech, he conceded that for the post-war generation, including his Jewish parents, “Europe was a murderous continent”. For them European unity was “a noble ideal” with the countries of Europe “seeking to put peace and prosperity in place of war and destruction through economic and political co-operation” (or in former SDLP Leader John Hume’s phrase, the EU is “the longest running peace process in the world”).


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