These are the responses we received from Leadership candidate Yvette Cooper to our questions on Europe and the EU:
1. In the upcoming referendum on EU membership, what are the key steps Labour should take to secure an ‘in’ vote? How can we mobilise support both within and outside the party?
Staying in Europe is vital to Britain’s future.
We need to do four things to appeal to peoples’ heads and hearts to win the argument for staying in.
First we need our own Labour Yes campaign with distinctive arguments based on Labour values. Its great that Alan Johnson is leading that campaign.
Second we need a positive campaign to win over peoples hearts – drawing on our values, our party’s long tradition of internationalism, the vision of Europe as a project for peace after the horrors and tragedy of war, and our commitment to friendship and cooperation with our neighbours
Third we need to focus on the practical benefits – and keep it local. Crime doesn’t stop at the border, that’s why we need Europe wide cooperation. Climate change doesn’t recognise national frontiers, that’s why we need to work together. And every town and city in the country will have factories, businesses and jobs that depend on European trade.
And fourth, we need to argue for a Europe based on Labour values – including vigorously defending employment rights against any attempt by David Cameron to water them down, and arguing for positive reforms before, during and after the referendum.
2. What are your priorities for EU reform?
Europe needs substantial reform. But that’s not a reason to pull out, as we will be affected by decisions in Europe whether we are in or out, and we will have far more impact staying in and working with our neighbours to get the changes we need.
David Cameron has set an artificial deadline for reforms and made the referendum conditional on an unrealistic timetable for change.
We should support staying in, but also argue for reform before, during and after the referendum.
For a start, we need changes to economic policy. The handling of the Greece crisis by the eurozone has been appalling – the latest deal for Greece is unsustainable and will push the country further back into recession. Unless they get growth, they have no chance at dealing with debt. I want to see an EU growth commissioner, to change the focus of the economic debate in Europe and promote growth in all countries and regions.
Europe needs to work for everyone – and that means strengthening employment rights. Right now exploitation of low skilled European migration is causing significant problems. We need stronger rules across Europe to prevent undercutting – including strengthening the Agency Workers Directive and the Posted Workers Directive. And there should be fairer benefit rules so that when people first arrive in another country, they contribute before they claim.
And we need improvements to the markets, to help business operate across Europe so we benefit from trading opportunities across the continent.
3. What is your vision for Britain’s role in the EU, and how would you position the Labour party with regard to this?
I want to see a Britain that is an outward-looking country; one that is comfortable and at home at the heart of the EU.
But people won’t support us remaining an outward looking country if they feel buffeted by global whirlwinds, or they just feel undermined or left behind as jobs go elsewhere.
That means Britain has to be able to use its international position to protect people from international economic risks. Be it banking crises, commodity price shocks or currency crises, we need to not just build resilience here at home, but also engage and increase our influence on the international stage, to reduce those risks in the first place.
That is what David Cameon and George Osborne are failing to do. I don’t want to see a Britain or a Labour Party that is part of the problem, but a Labour Party that is committed to Europe and committed to working in partnerships to find solutions.
And so our approach must be different – we must be the honest brokers. The Greece crisis makes it clearer than ever that opting out of European debates isn’t an option. Isolationism isn’t an economic plan. We will be affected by what happens, so we should always engage to try and get the best deal we can.
Britain should have been trying to broker a deal between Germany and Greece – with more action on debt relief as well as reform, in order to get the Greek economy growing again. Yet instead David Cameron turned his back.
4. What are the key issues that the EU will have to address in the coming years?
Across Europe, political identities are changing and this is a big challenge – as people move across borders, many communities have legitimate questions about immigration; nationalism is on the rise and there’s been a new questioning of what we share in common; and the creaking political structures of Europe have been slow to respond and are struggling to cope.
A key issue for the EU therefore is how to make it relevant for people now – how to renew the common bonds and sense of shared solidarity that forged the Union in the first place. As international socialists, the Labour Party has a vital role to play in this task.
And we need more action from Europe on some of the global challenges we face – on the changing economy and the need to support growth on climate change, where Europe is starting to be left behind by renewed impetus from the US and China, and on the rise of extremism.