We’re better off in the EU, but not because of Cameron’s deal

Being in the EU is valuable, no matter what deal is made for the benefit of Tory backbenchers

This week, a deal is being made in Brussels which will affect all of our futures, and it’s a deal which I am sure David Cameron intends to take full credit for.

But Cameron’s deal is not why we should vote to remain in the EU, even if the deal itself may be useful. We should vote to remain in the EU because being in the EU was already valuable, no matter what deal has been struck for the benefit of Cameron’s backbenchers, or what changes may happen as a result. Being in the EU is already a victory for us, in many diverse ways.

The fact that Cameron has a deal at all disproves much of what even some of his own allies say about Europe. It is a common Eurosceptic argument that Britain is essentially voiceless within the EU, with no ability to influence decisions.

The argument that Britain is powerless as a member of the EU is nonsense. This is demonstrated by the other member states being willing to negotiate at all. Our European partners value and respect us, and they are willing to give us a deal which is not on the offer to anybody else. They are bending over backwards to try to meet our needs.

But ultimately no one will be given the chance in the UK to vote for or against Cameron’s deal. Our referendum will be on staying or leaving the EU. That’s why, regardless of what happens in the negotiations rooms of the Council of Ministers in Brussels, I’ll be out and about across the North East on Thursday launching our Labour In For Britain campaign with Alan Johnson MP.

Joined by trade unionists, business, community activists and Labour members from across the North East, I’ll be making the case for why we are better off in the EU. It’s a strong regional case as we are net beneficiaries of our EU membership in terms of investment, jobs and rights.

Let’s not forget, it is not Cameron, or the Tories at home or in Brussels, who have prioritised workers’ rights in our common market, or who demand measures be put in place to prevent undercutting and the exploitation of workers brought to Britain to provide cheap labour.

On the contrary, rather than use the renegotiation to do this, the Tories initially threatened to renegotiate away all our rights at work, and the pernicious trade union bill gives a glimpse of what leaving the EU would mean for them. It is a victory of the Labour movement that the EU social chapter of rights was taken off the table, to the irritation of rabid Tory free-traders.

The social chapter, which John Major’s Tory government opted us out of and the new Labour government signed us up to in 1997, sets out basic rights at work: maximum working hours and paid holidays, equal pay for equal work, parental leave, equal treatment and anti-discrimination, the same rights for part-time and agency workers as full time workers, worker information and consultation when a company restructures or changes hands and the subsequent transfer of employment rights (TUPE).

It is not the Tories who pushed for these rights, and so today it is not them who ought to claim responsibility for the rights guaranteed by Europe which we enjoy today. It is the Labour movement who upholds such values in Europe, and historically, both as a government and in the European Parliament, Labour politicians have got such legislation on the EU table for negotiation.

The world has changed since 1975. The letter published in the Sunday Mirror last weekend signed by five Labour grandees shows just how far our relationship with Europe has changed with time. Neil Kinnock, Margaret Beckett, David Blunkett, Jack Straw and Hilary Benn all reaffirmed their commitment to the European project.

All had previously been against our membership of the EEC during the 1975 referendum, and all now believe we should remain. It is striking that so many major figures in our party have changed their minds based on the economic and social evidence of the benefits of our continued membership.

I am a Labour MEP for the North East of England, and I think it is important to remember that ultimately it is not Brussels who will win this argument for us, but Britain. The deal may be forged in Brussels but the battle for our membership of the EU will be won or lost on the streets of the North East and other regions. It would be worth staying in the EU without this deal, and it is worth staying in the EU with it on offer.

The question of our membership is a bigger question than any deal done by Cameron, and the answer to that question must be yes.

Jude Kirton-Darling is Labour MEP for the North East of England. Follow her on Twitter

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9 Responses to “We’re better off in the EU, but not because of Cameron’s deal”

  1. Deborah Mahmoudieh (@veganicvibez)

    It’s despicable that Cameron is riding on the migrant worker issue to get us out of the EU; what about all the British people who have migrated to other EU nations, how will his proposed ‘deal’ affect them? What this is really about,is denial of human, children’s and workers rights; THEY are what he wants gone and WOE to Britain when they’re replaced with Cameron’s ‘bill of rights’ = no money = no rights. The guy’s an utter idiot and actually, a criminal; who voted for him I do not know. I think the last election was rigged.


    For a thousand years these islands have survived and thrived and have defended against extremism and tyranny across Europe and the wider world. Our nation has influenced and shaped every corner of the planet. My grandparents fought and gave their lives to ensure we maintained a self-governing, sovereign and democratic nation. We were only sold a European ‘Common Market’ of TRADE only for which we voted to join. We have NEVER been asked our permission to surrender our sovereignty to what has now become a foreign power called the EU that has supremacy over our own government law-making, parliament and justice. How in God’s name could we have been so deceived? THAT is the reason for leaving the European Union – to take back our birthright that our forefathers gave their lives for and to enable our OWN politicians the ability to make our OWN LAWS that WE can choose to keep or change when they suit us and BEFORE any foreign power.
    There is a whole bigger, wider world beyond a stagnating, fractured Europe full of greater opportunities that would benefit from our re-engagement with once again. A wider world that, this time, and free of obsolete colonial intent would benefit from the great social progress that British left-wing politics has contributed to.

  3. wg

    Who is this “we’re” – I and the people around me see absolutely no benefit of belonging to the EU at all.

    The sheer volume of cheap labour that has trodden us underfoot has left my friends and family fighting to get a foot on the work ladder – let alone be the beneficiaries of these “rights”.

    I’m disgusted by the Labour party signing up to this corporatist club, they’ve abandoned their own people – seemingly for personal ambition and greed.

  4. Gordonbp

    I notice you are like all the others – all the “benefits” are about workers rights and conditions – what about the red tape on creating the wealth from which your “workers” are paid? How much more do we pay in than get back for example? Give us CONCRETE numbers as to why we should stay in, instead of wooly socialist dogma…

  5. Perry525

    Several hundred years ago King Henry the 7th passed a law ensuring that raw materials were imported to Great Britain and manufactured goods exported. This ensured employment. We grew to a great trading nation exporting round the world. In return we imported food, and had the cheapest food in the world. Our government gave all that up to join the common Market, in doing, we lowered import duties on goods from Europe, eventually down to zero, and raised duties on goods from outside Europe. Our government gave away our fishing industry, our right to keep all of our North Sea gas – agreed to share, in effect we lost out on many things, to enable the Corporation of the City of London to make a profit. Gradually, the original idea of a Socialist Europe, working for the peoples benefit has changed, to a neo liberal idea where profits move to the already rich and the workers become slaves, with all manufacturing moving abroad to lower wage countries.

  6. Wilfred Brown

    The European Common Market must become transparent, we have non elected commissioners discussing policy for our people when policy should be debated in the European Parliament through the Elected Chamber. Senior Ministers from any Country must be held accountable for policies that impact on the living standards of the sick, disabled and low paid. The European Union should not be discussing trade agreements in secret, if I live under the European Banner I demand transparency and a European wide Referendum on any deal negotiated, TTIP and CETA benefit Multi National Companies and for Europe to allow these deals to take away eorking peoples right is totally wrong and unjustified.

    It should be the people who Elect the Senior Officials and not the Council of Europe amd only then can we stop the corruption within Europe, at the present moment Europe is a headless chicken being run by cheats and tax evaders.

  7. Vince

    We are much better off in the EU look at all the positives and not the negatives like going back in time the world has changed since 1975 and we have moved on both in economic terms and consumer terms. The EU creates jobs & growth with companies like Nissan and Hitachi to name just two Protects or rights at work. Keeps us safe helping to bring criminals to justice and creates peace and stability the EU improves our environment

  8. The Lyniezian

    Few amongst those of us who are Euroskeptics give a toss about David Cameron’s “deal” or “renegotiation”- as it is so inconsequential it kind of proves the opposite of what the author is saying. There are too many things which seem non-negotiable. (And why isn’t anybody trying to renegotiate on the basis of anything from nonexistent CAP reform to using the recent crises the EU has faced to fundamentally re-evauate what the EU is actually about? Nope, not happening.)

    We can argue ’til we’re blue in the face about the economic, political or other benefits of being in or out of the EU. Neither side seems to give an argument that really sways one way or the other, which makes me think it’s all swings and roundabouts. I think though that being part of ann organization which is limited in how democratic it actually is, and in which our own government has to balance our own needs with that of 26 other member states? I think to suggest that the Tories, UKIP and like right wing elements are using this as leverage is tangential to the central question of whether we should be in or out of the EU. There are left wing arguments for leaving too, and there is nothing to suggest that worker’s rights, the environment or anything else cannot be done on the UK level without needing imposition from what is essentially a higher level of government.

  9. Robert Petulengro

    “Our European partners value and respect us, and they are willing to give us a deal which is not on the offer to anybody else. They are bending over backwards to try to meet our needs.”
    Have you really not listened to the language from Europe at all?
    The State of the Union speech by M. Juncker for instance where he assumed that Europe was in difficulties and that the only way to face up to them – immigration, Greece, the Euro, unemployment, the Ukraine, the Baltic States – was to call for More Europe?
    Have you not looked at the Spinelli Fundamental Law of the European Union where the 28 states are to unite into one big superstate with one parliament, no nations, and an unelected commission running the whole thing?
    Have you not read the Five Presidents’ Report where the Euro crisis is “solved” once and for all by making Europe the Eurozone?
    The “colleagues have given us nothing because that is what we are asking. They simply want to look after their precious Union.
    PS They do not give a monkeys about workers’ rights.

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