Eluned Morgan on why, despite the imperfections, our continued membership of the EU is the best way forward
After so many years of sniping and criticism, it is comforting to hear a full blooded defence of the European Union from many quarters of the Government.
Many of us in the Labour Party would have supported the campaign to remain a part of the EU irrespective of the outcome of the Brussels negotiations. We think that our relationship is fundamental for access to our largest export market; critical to ensure safety for our citizens; and key to protecting workers, consumers and the environment. But more than all of this, it sets out how we want our country to encounter the wider world.
Never before have things been so interconnected, whether international terrorist threats, world-wide migration, or the global economy’s impact on all our living standards. So now is not the time to be turning our backs on our nearest neighbours, without any idea of what our future market access would look like. When Russia is posturing in Central Europe and the Middle East is in turmoil, we should not be reneging on EU solidarity and threatening our own national security.
Many would have rubbished any deal the Prime Minister negotiated. Even if he had he promised a decade’s supply of the finest beer in Belgium and a guaranteed place in the finals of The Euros for each of the UK’s national football teams, plus lovely sunny days for the next three years.
“Sovereignty!”, some of the most ardent ‘outers’ cry. But where was such sovereignty last week when the pound plummeted and the markets decided that all this insecurity was a bad thing for our economy? And where will such sovereignty be when we have to go back to our continental colleagues in the event of a ‘No’ vote to beg for access to their market of 500 million consumers and an economy of almost £11 trillion?
Many who have yet to decide may be relieved that we are no longer on an inexorable route to closer integration. They may also be consoled by the guarantee that we have a full say on the rules of the single market while remaining outside the Eurozone. And comforted by the knowledge that EU citizens will have to pay in before taking out of our welfare system.
As a Peer, I sit in a gilded, centuries-old institution replete with its opaque methods of determining membership. Should we really be throwing stones at an organisation that has had less than 60 years to establish itself? Yes, the EU is far from perfect, but it needs ongoing and constant reform to adapt to the needs and requirements of our age.
In the end, the EU has given us cleaner water and air, safer food, anti- discrimination laws, maternity and paternity leave, billions of pounds invested in our poorest communities and £3bn a year for our struggling farmers. 3.5 million UK jobs depend on this relationship. We have seen caps on both bankers’ bonuses and credit card fees, essential health and safety laws, paid holidays and protection for part time workers.
To remain or leave is probably the most important political decision that we will make as a country for some time. Labour will be at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that we retain our membership, so that we can be a powerful voice in a challenging and changing world.
Baroness Eluned Morgan of Ely is Shadow FCO Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @Eluned_Morgan
Published 2nd March 2016