The Leeds NW Meeting in Otley on 27 November was a full and important one.
The meeting passed a resolution on terrorism and the bombing of Syria – and heard an excellent talk from our Yorkshire and Humber MEP, Richard Corbett, on why and how Labour should be preparing for the EU referendum campaign.
The resolution – which you can also find and like on our Facebook page – reads
‘Leeds NW Constituency Labour Party condemns the recent terrorist attacks by IS/Daesh in Paris, Mali, Turkey, Beirut and elsewhere, and recognises that the majority of victims of IS are Muslims and other communities in the Middle East.
We believe that military action should always be the last resort, and that more effort should be deployed in depriving IS of its sources of finance – including discovering how they are allegedly benefitting from oil revenue.
Leeds North West Labour Party urges Labour MPs to oppose airstrikes in Syria.’
This resolution has been sent to Jeremy Corbyn, Hilary Benn and Maria Eagle.
A resume of Richard’s talk can be found below.
Why & How should the Labour Party be looking forwards to the EU referendum campaign?
The Tories are currently split down the middle on Europe. Cameron promised his right wing before election that he would negotiate reforms, & hold a referendum; he now has to deliver.
In trying to do this, he has to tread a fine line between the trivial & the impossible. The issues he’s trying to address include
a) The question of “ever-closer union” as alegedly claimed in the EU charter. As Richard pointed out, this is a typical misrepresentation. Further down the document talks of the union of peoples, not states. Aims for decentralisation with several levels of government.
- b) Length of residence of EU citizens before they qualify for benefits etc. Cameron is trying to restrict access to benefits, by e.g. extending the period of residence necessary to qualify to 4 years – a populist move to appeal to potential UKIP voters. But not well thought through. If this were reciprocal, it would have implications for the very large number of UK citizens resident in Europe.
- c) Abandoning the Social chapter. Again this is a populist, designed especially to appeal to the retired age-group – the majority age group supporting leaving the EU. But the Social chapter has many advantages for working people – common rules in the workplace, such as the working time directive. Cameron is not in fact supporting changing the social chapter in actual reform documents.
- d) Improving competitiveness. It is a dearly-held right-wing myth that the EU reduces competitiveness. In fact EU rules & regulations aid smooth working of the European market & reduce exploitation.
The EU is a market with rules, & both the right wing Tories & UKIP would like a free-for-all. But it is misguided to think that a UK standing alone outside the EU would benefit. Norway, e.g., in exactly that position has to pay into the EU to be part of themarket, but has no seat at minister’s table, no part in decision making.
How are the Tories approaching the referendum – and how should Labour act?
The Tory right wing & UKIP are very difficult opponents for Cameron. The pressure from both is towards Brexit. The Tory right wing is obsessively anti-European, & UKIP aremgeared up for a campaign with little regard for truth & accuracy.
Cameron’s concerns are to re-unite Tory party. He has announced that the party machine will be “neutral in the campaign”. There will be no use by the pro-EU of party resources or manpower to campaign.
The way the electorate is defined may be crucial.
British expats living in EU cannot vote, nor can EU nationals living in the UK.
Yet, commonwealth citizens can vote, including citizens of countries which have only recently joined the commonwealth e.g. Ruandan nationals.
The Labour national campaign to stay in the EU will be led by Alan Johnson .
There will be an umbrella organisation of different groups, including e.g. Greens & Lib Dems. There will be numerous grass roots pro campaigns, including e.g. those led by Universities. But it is essential that the Labour campaign should keep its own identity.
As well as national-level organisation, the Labour Euro-campaign needs local co-ordinators; every Constituency Labour Party should have its own.
Why should we stay in:
Idealistic reasons. The EU has meant negotiating round a table, not fighting on a battlefield. Those born since WW II are the first generations for over 1000 years not to be fighting on a European battlefield.
Pragmatic reasons: the EU consists of a highly interdependent network of countries.
Selfish reasons: we are a trading nation; 50% of that trade is with the EU, worth 3-4 million jobs . Membership gives us an all-important seat at the negotiating table.
Leaving the EU will cost £3-4000 for each British family per year.
And the favoured right wing argument about immigration? The majority of migrants into this country are not from the EU. Moreover EU migrants are generally in work, and pay at least 1/3 more in taxes than they take in benefits. This is a sharp contrast to British nationals living in the EU as migrants. The ‘grey edge’ of retired British nationals around the Mediterranean cost France, Spain & Italy more in health care than they contribute in taxes.
Richard’s talk was followed by lively discussion – raising questions about the financial sector’s opposition to EU regulation, the impact of the EU on wages and labour conditions, and – of course – TTIP.
It was clear from Richard’s talk and from discussion afterwards that we all need to be better informed about the EU and debates surrounding our membership – and that we need to be ready to campaign.
Richard has produced a great Doorstep App to help us do just that http://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/app/
It has instant answers for those of us on the doorstep.
Richard is the first MEP to have one. Just another indication of how lucky we are to have him as our local MEP!