Member Diane Simcoe provides her analysis of the recent European Policy Forum, held in Leeds.
A bit of feedback from the European Policy Forum I attended in Leeds on Saturday 21 November. Labour MEPs Linda McAvan and Richard Corbett were joined by Chair Veronica Hardstaff and keynote speaker Ruairi Quinn (Irish Labour Party / Party European Socialists) and Jim Steinke (Chief Executive, Norther Refugee Centre).
The initial forum was oversubscribed so Richard and Linda ran it morning and afternoon ensuring all who wanted to attend could.
Richard gave copies of his report which you can get from firstname.lastname@example.org. He spoke about the unanimous feeling of the Labour Party to stay in the EU including Jeremy Corbyn who advocates EU reform despite the press trying to suggest that he and other Labour MPs are ambivalent.
Richard shone light on the complex nature of Cameron’s approach to a referendum and the difficulties of appeasing both the extreme anti-EU Tories and party members who want to stay. To paraphrase what he said, “the far right want to leave the EU because there are no rules (social chapter, trade union, human rights) and although Cameron will negotiate a package of reforms that we will not like, it is better to stay in so Labour can change it when we are in power.”
Summing up he highlighted three levels of reasoning for us to stay within the EU – idealistic (to stop generational slaughter in Europe) the pragmatic (all highly interdependent) and the selfish (a trading nation with more trade to EU countries than anywhere else).
Linda spoke of the current fear of terrorism and for us to guard against it boiling over into extremism in politics. She stressed how we will not solve the refugee crisis by leaving the EU as those on the right would have us believe. Linda spoke of the need to work together in the EU to support refugees and the difficulties that have arisen are due to a lack of co-operation between EU countries. This was expanded on by Jim. Jim provided an overview of current work and the need to change the way refugees are perceived.
Linda highlighted the way in which the Tories blame their inaction to save British industries on the EU which is blatantly untrue.
Ruairi’s keynote speech concentrated on EU history and the importance other EU countries place on us staying in it. He spoke of the loss of Britain’s skills and experience in trade and negotiation and was very clear that the EU like us, a very different picture painted by the right.
There were excellent questions and points made by members from the floor.
As a new member the forum was a comprehensive introduction and I think for experienced members it would have been an in-depth exploration of our collective and individual attitudes towards our union with Europe.
What seemed clear is that there will be a referendum next year and we need to work hard to stay in. Only from the inside can we safeguard workers’ rights, ensure economic stability, negotiate protection for the vulnerable and plan a united and humane response to those escaping war and oppression.
And besides anything else, they like us!