by Julian Priestly

Almost any attempt to fill the blank page that is Labour‘s current European policy is welcome, and Douglas Alexander‘s critique of the government’s cackhanded Euroscepticism is well-founded (Our mature patriotism, 14 November). But he makes a mistake if he thinks that a negotiation of a treaty to beef up economic governance in the eurozone will have the leisure to “look at the balance of powers between Europeand member states”, which at first sight seems not so different from the Tory agenda. In fact, precisely because Britain has such an overwhelming economic interest in strengthening the euro’s structures, it would be harmful to Britain’s growth prospects were we to seek to complicate the intergovernmental conference necessary to agree treaty changes.

A Labour policy for Europe can surely not be limited to strengthening the internal market and an “amplification of Europe’s voice” on the world stage. A progressive policy for growth should be at the heart of Labour’s strategy, which means far more than extending the internal market to services. It requires using the European Investment Bank and the EU budget for infrastructure and social investment on a scale much greater than recent commission proposals. It means much more visible support for EU R&D and innovation. It means the EU taking a tougher line against distortions in world trade from competitor countries, which respect no acceptable social and environmental norms. It means tougher EU-wide controls on irresponsible practices in our financial services. And it means a Europe-wide transactions tax.

And so far there is not a word from Alexander about methods. Labour’s great strength in Europe is that, unlike the Tories, it is not in a political isolation ward. European socialists have had two years of retreat: there are now the first signs of a recovery – not least in France, Germany and, of course, Italy. Labour’s leadership should be at the forefront of a social democratic fightback in Europe, based on a practical European-wide programme for investment and jobs.
Julian Priestley
Waterloo, Belgium

first published here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/nov/14/way-forward-labour-europe