The debate about an EU referendum in the House of Commons on 24 October 2011 brought to light just how far the delusions of the Eurosceptics in the UK have gone. Extremists from the old guard were joined by new Conservative MPs. Together, they painted  the EU as the enemy which damages the UK by causing dwindling fish stocks in the ocean,  the closure of hospital wards, and overall, the global financial crisis.

Today, many citizens rightly feel threatened by the dynamics of the world economy. With its globalised companies, which cannot be regulated and held in check any more by national regulation and negotiation, new pressures on jobs, social and workplace protection are making life more competitive than ever before. The EU, despite its internal issues which are to be expected in a partnership of 27 countries with different cultures and economic positions, has been highly effective in being an intermediary and legislative power which actually is able to protect European citizens in this increasingly scary world. At EU level, member states have negotiated laws and directives which make sure certain social standards are adhered to in the workplace, environmental rules are in place so we have a planet to live on in the future, and individuals human and consumer rights are protected.

In short, the EU is the most effective organisation in the world which is actually able to mitigate the effects of globalisation on the citizens of its member states. Ironically, since it is more visible than ‘the world economy’ and faceless companies and global trade agreements, the EU itself has come to be seen as the cause of, not the protector from, many threats citizens feel acutely.

The EU referendum debate made it clear that a significant part of the Conservative party would like to free the UK of this mitigating influence. This would, in one fell swoop, allow the Conservatives to get rid of Labour core ideals such as social protection, health and safety legislation, and to undermine high environmental standards and strong consumer protection which at the moment are guaranteed by EU legislation. This is their real agenda, and it is sad to see that a few Labour MPs failed to see the big picture and joined the Europhobic ranting session.

The debate also made obvious that Labour needs to develop policies with cooperation across the EU in mind to ensure that UK workers’ and citizens’ rights and business interests are sustainable and secure in the future. The Labour Movement for Europe (LME) has established itself as the platform which brings together Labour activists from across the Labour spectrum, MPs, MEPs, European sister parties in the UK and other campaigners to develop thinking and to improve the quality of the discourse about Europe.

But the LME is not an EU fanclub, nor is it a mere talking shop. As an active campaigning organisation, we offer a platform on which people who see the importance of Europe from different angles can come together, and we offer members the opportunity to get European news and analysis from a different angle than commonly available in the UK. We invite Labour members and other progressive individuals in the UK to become LME members to help us improve the understanding of Europe in the UK. www.labourmovement.eu

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Further reading:

We need a decent Capitalism not an EU Referendum

Good Politics, Now All We Need is a Policy

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by David Schoibl – originally posted on Progress Online on October 26, 2011 – http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2011/10/26/why-labour-needs-europe-and-europe-needs-labour/