Posted: 22 June 2016
Four local politicians from four different parties were invited to make the case for and against leaving the EU. As leader of the Stroud Labour referendum campaign I wrote the following, as reported in the SNJ:
Seventy years ago Europe lay in ruins and the people and politicians who fought and lived through that horror of war wanted no more of it.
They saw that peace and prosperity were the only way to liberate our bloody continent from the chains of hatred and fear.
It was out of this that the European Union was born. Seventy years on, it is not a perfect project. But are all our problems actually because of the EU?
Is it not the neoliberal ideology that has seduced our ruling political parties for the last twenty years that is the real problem?
Rising inequality, precarious jobs, the slow and insidious move from public to private services – and at the same time, the rise of an ever richer and more powerful elite that squirrels its money away in offshore tax havens.
Many ordinary people feel uneasy in this world. And along comes the EU referendum – a chance to make a protest, to kick the elite and the Establishment.
But if we vote to Leave – will it actually make a difference? Will it solve anything? I can’t see how.
Leave campaigners say the EU is done for and we’ll trade with the rest of the world instead. But UK businesses who already trade in the EU will still want to do so.
That will almost certainly mean paying to access the market and accepting free movement of labour. No change there then. Except now we’ll have no say over the rules.
‘Take back control, get back our sovereignty’, say Leave campaigners. But on our own, we will never control the freedom of international finance to cross borders to where it pays the least taxes.
And our national government seems to have plenty of sovereignty when it slashes help for the disabled, raises tuition fees, forces councils to sell off social housing, takes away trade union rights and invades other countries.
The EU is not perfect. But if we try to walk away, we’ll find that all the problems you’d hoped voting Leave would solve, are still there.
My Labour membership card states ‘by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone.’ I want our country to be more equal and more prosperous and to be a leader in Europe not a leaver – to help make Europe, and the world, more equal and prosperous too. That is why I am voting to remain.