Ed Miliband understands that people want a government that understands their concerns about Europe but is not obsessed with it.
I feel quite conflicted with Labour leader Ed Miliband’s decision only to hold an EU referendum under a Labour government if the UK is asked to transfer more powers to Brussels. I’m conflicted because, while I am unashamedly pro EU, I dislike what I perceive is a fear of giving people a say.
Undoubtedly, though, this is a clever political move on the part of the Labour leader. This will leave the Tories to tear themselves apart over Europe and will reassure the business community that, under a Labour government, there will be a sense of certainty going into the next parliament.
As I wrote last week, it is now wrong to call the Tories the party of business – on issues such as immigration and Europe they are starkly at odds with the business community.
And yet I would still quite like an EU referendum in order to put the issue to bed – providing, that is, the UK votes to stay inside the EU, something which is far from guaranteed with the legions of misinformation on Europe pumped out by the tabloids.
As Ed Miliband has made clear today, though, the case for Britain’s continued membership of the EU is strong.
For the left, the continued importance of the European project should be self-evident. Corporations and wealthy individuals already behave globally, and the labour movement will also have to think transnationally unless it wishes to sink into irrelevance and see the social gains of the 20th century wiped out by a borderless capitalism.
Even modest social democratic reforms can no longer occur in a single country. There is nothing to stop those with a few hundred thousand in the bank from upping sticks and moving abroad when they’re feeling a bit stingy. Those who wish to create a more equal society will in future have to think in a similarly borderless fashion – or at a minimum throw their lot in with bigger democratic institutions that have the power to set cross-border tax rates such as the EU.
Europe is generally considered anathema for conservatives; yet it is difficult to envisage Britain punching above its weight on the world stage in the coming century if it goes it alone.
Indeed, contrary to popular feeling it is the mentality of the Little Englander which stands athwart the wrong side of history yelling ‘stop’.
Contrary to the coverage the issue receives in the media, Europe tends to come out fairly low on the list of voters’ concerns. However, paradoxically issues on which Europe actually makes a difference come out much higher – immigration if often cited as the public’s biggest concern, and is effected a great deal by Britain’s continued membership of the EU.
The real question, however, is whether immigration – and by extension the EU – are the issues that will change the minds of voters in 2015. Ed Miliband has hedged his bets that they won’t, and believes that people want a government that understands their concerns about Europe but is not obsessed with it. I’m inclined to agree with him.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.