Despite our recent defeat, Britain needs the Labour Party now more than ever. Our values and our objectives remain central to making Britain better: tackling low pay, insecurity, low productivity, threats to domestic security, job creation, and climate change.
All these issues and more will be central to the leadership election now underway. And of course the forthcoming European referendum will be one of the major issues of this parliament and one of the first challenges facing Labour’s new leader.
But too often in our politics, the question of Europe is seen as separate to achieving our core values. The issue of the European referendum is too often seen as about foreign policy, or about providing investment opportunities for business. Both of these things are of course vitally important, but Britain’s place in Europe is about so much more than that.
Britain’s place in Europe – and indeed Britain’s place in the world – has far reaching implications for the people and the communities we in Labour seek to represent.
The simple truth is that none of our domestic goals would be achievable if Britain were to pull out of Europe. We must all acknowledge that Labour cannot succeed domestically if we lose the argument about Britain’s place in the world.
It is simply impossible to improve the lives of the British people, in any part of the country, if we were to cut the UK off from the rest of the European Union. The eurosceptics in the Tory Party and the whole of Ukip are peddling a monumental falsehood to suggest otherwise.
The fact is that in today’s inter-connected, interdependent world, job creation requires Europe to enable companies to link up across borders. Tackling low pay requires Europe for networks and linkages to create new and better-paid jobs in research, innovation and science. Tackling terrorism and national security requires Europe for quick and effective extradition as well as union-wide arrest warrants to bring criminals to justice wherever they flee. Tackling climate change requires Europe to create common and binding standards to ensure we maximise our impact collectively. Improving productivity requires Europe to safeguard rights and protections at work across the single market.
That is why campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote must be at the heart of every leadership campaign – not as an add-on, but as a fundamental part of achieving social justice in this country.
To begin to provide answers to the problems facing Britain we need to think beyond these islands. It is a myth that international standing and influence are irrelevant to most people’s lives, or that we can exist happily outside of the European Union and still enjoy economic and social security. To wilfully divorce ourselves from a say in how the world operates would be a disservice not just to us but to future generations.
The next Labour leader must lead from the front and make the positive, optimistic and unashamedly patriotic case for Britain’s leading role in Europe.
Seb Dance MEP