orthodoxy has failed — Europe needs a new economic settlement
David Cameron is traversing Europe, apparently without much idea of what
he wants to achieve in his much-feted renegotiation ahead of a
referendum in 2016 or 2017. If the prime minister thinks he can weaken
workers’ rights and expect goodwill towards Europe to keep us in the EU,
he is making a great mistake.
Mr Cameron’s support for a bill that would weaken the trade unions, and
the cutting of tax credits this week, show that employment rights are
under attack. One can imagine that the many rights we derive from
European legislation, which underpins paid holidays, working time
protection and improved maternity and paternity leave, are under threat
There is a widely shared feeling that Europe is something of an
exclusive club, rather than a democratic forum for social progress.
Tearing up our rights at work would strengthen that view. Labour will
oppose any attempt by the Conservative government to undermine rights at
work — whether in domestic or European legislation.
Our shadow cabinet is also clear that the answer to any damaging changes
that Mr Cameron brings back from his renegotiation is not to leave the
EU but to pledge to reverse those changes with a Labour government
elected in 2020.
Workplace protections are vital to protect both migrant workers from
being exploited and British workers from being undercut. Stronger
employment rights also help good employers, who would otherwise face
unfair competition from less scrupulous businesses. We will be in Europe
to negotiate better protection for people and businesses, not to
negotiate them away.
Too much of the referendum debate has been monopolised by xenophobes and
the interests of corporate boardrooms. Left out of this debate are
millions of ordinary British people who want a proper debate about our
relationship with the EU. We cannot continue down this road of
free-market deregulation, which seeks to privatise public services and
dilute Europe’s social gains. Draft railway regulations that are now
before the European Parliament could enforce the fragmented, privatised
model that has so failed railways in the UK.
The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is
being negotiated behind closed doors between the EU and the US, against
which I have campaigned, is another example of this damaging approach.
There is no future for Europe if we engage in a race to the bottom. We
need to invest in our future and harness the skills of Europe’s people.
The treatment of Greece has appalled many who consider themselves
pro-European internationalists. The Greek debt is simply not repayable,
the terms are unsustainable and the insistence that the unpayable be
paid extends the humanitarian crisis in Greece and the risks to all of
Europe. The current orthodoxy has failed. We need a new economic
We should be grateful to Gordon Brown who as chancellor kept the UK out
of the single currency, when other cabinet members were arguing that we
should join. From our position outside the eurozone, we can and must
influence EU economic reform. We must work with the 11 EU nations that
are co-operating to bring in a financial transactions tax. Unlike the
current chancellor, who wasted taxpayers’ money in a failed legal case
to block the tax, we would participate in negotiations to discuss how we
can better regulate the financial sector and raise revenues.
Labour is clear that we should remain in the EU. But we too want to see
reform. Last week farmers from across the continent protested in
Brussels. The common agricultural policy needs reform so that it does
less to subsidise landowners and more to help farmers and rural
economies. Europe is the only forum in which we can address key
challenges for our country, like climate change, terrorism, tax havens
and, most recently, the mass movement of refugees from the violence in
Syria seeking sanctuary and hope in Europe. We will not win friends and
influence in Europe if we refuse to pull our weight.
Labour wants to see change in Europe that delivers for Europe’s people.
We want to be better partners, and put our demands to make Europe
better. We will make the case through Labour MEPs in the European
Parliament, and our relationships with sister social democratic parties,
trade unions and other social movements across Europe.
If Mr Cameron fails to deliver a good package or one that reduces the
social gains we have previously won in Europe, he needs to understand
that Labour will renegotiate to restore our rights and promote a
socially progressive Europe.
The writer is the leader of the British Labour party 本文作者是英國工黨領導人