Now is the time to make the case for a progressive Europe

15 Jan 2016

Last week, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Pat Glass as Labour’s new Shadow Europe Minister, who has been the co-chair of the Labour Yes campaign launched this year. Pat is the MP for North West Durham, and a longstanding GMB member and supporter of trade union rights.
Pat will be persuasive advocate for Europe and a progressive, social Europe, including with what our often termed ‘traditional’ Labour voters, who need to be convinced not only that staying in Europe will be to the people of Britain’s benefit, but that once back in Government Labour will also change Europe for the better.
Having a woman spokesperson on Europe may also provide new opportunities to help Labour put forward our case to undecided women voters. In the run-up the referendum. Rachel Sylvester wrote for The Times last week that “women have the power to decide the EU vote” as women are twice as likely to be undecided on the referendum as mean, making “them a crucial group of swing voters open to persuasion,” meaning “these are votes that are up for grabs” and yet (Sylvester argues) “nobody seems to be trying to seize them.” In this regard, Pat is not only a new female voice in the debate but we can also articulate a political agenda that can appeal.
Indeed, it’s particularly important in the months ahead that we articulate to Labour voters and the population as a whole some of the progressive benefits of being in Europe, such as in the areas of:
* Workplace protections: Where limits on weekly hours, guaranteed breaks at work and minimum amounts of annual holiday are key rights that are protected at a European level.
* Human rights: Here, membership of the European Convention on Human Rights secures precious freedoms. We need to be clear that in the current political context leaving the EU places our human rights at real risk because many of those who advocate British exit also want to abandon the European Convention.
* Environmental safeguards: Key safeguards protecting wildlife and tackling climate change have also been won at a European level. By establishing a level playing field they stop a ‘race to the bottom’ on environmental standards across Europe.
In terms of international development it is clear that on issues such as tackling climate change and its impacts globally, the ongoing refugee crisis, or tackling world poverty and inequality, the best outcomes require European co-operation.
Affirming Labour’s support of Britain’s membership of the EU and a yes vote in the upcoming referendum at a recent meeting in Brussels, Jeremy Corbyn recently argued that “people across Britain and Europe know that the EU needs to change if it’s going to work better for the majority of its people, not just its banks and corporations,” saying that Labour will be working with other European parties to push for a more accountable and democratic Europe which prioritises jobs, sustainable growth and workers’ rights.
To this end, beyond the referendum, Jeremy laid out his ambition to “build progressive alliances across Europe for real reform” in order to “shape a better European future”, and called for “labour market reform to strengthen workers’ rights” and “for new rights for elected authorities across Europe to support public enterprise and halt the pressure to privatise services.”
Now is the time for the Labour Party to turn our fire on the Tories, who are in increasing disarray on Europe. If elected in 2020, we can make a better Britain and Better Europe a reality. Let’s make it happen.Diane Abbott MP is the Shadow International Development Secretary.

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