Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
7 June 2016updated 11 Sep 2021 8:08am

Labour must not let the Brexiters turn the EU referendum into a right-wing coup

The Leavers' libertarian ideology would mean a bonfire of social, environmental and legal rights. 

By Cat Smith, wes Streeting and Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock

The clear and unequivocal view of the Labour Party is that, whatever its shortcomings, we must vote to Remain in the European Union. No major UK party is as united on the issue as ours. Ninety four per cent of the Parliamentary Party support Remain, and we have been campaigning week in, week out in our constituencies for continued British membership. Moreover, 83 per cent of Labour members support Remain (only 10 per cent want Britain to Leave). No other major national party can boast such a united front.

Yet as was reported last week, Labour voters are “uniformly uncertain” about whether our party is campaigning to Remain in the EU. Our supporters seem to be saying that they either don’t know what Labour MPs think about the EU, or, those who know that we are for Remain believe that our “heart isn’t in it”.

Jeremy Corbyn has been clear that, though the EU has its flaws, a vote to leave would harm the interests of the majority of people: leaving our country less safe, less secure and less able to tackle the big challenges of this century – whether it’s the threat posed by climate change or the impact felt by some of our poorest communities when globalisation is left unchecked. That is why we are today urging every Labour supporter who is committed to Remain to stand up and argue the case with the same persuasive passion that we channel into our election campaigns.

As three newly elected Labour MPs, we know only too well that the key to a stronger, Britain in Europe rests upon having a Labour Prime Minister in Downing Street and at the negotiating tables in Brussels. A Labour Prime Minister and Labour government working shoulder-to-shoulder with our EU partners and allies towards a fairer, more sustainable and balanced world.

But before we get there, we must ensure that the UK continues to be a member of the EU and to do that we must all make it crystal clear that we wholeheartedly support Britain’s membership. Not only because it makes us a better, fairer, greener, more just, prosperous and influential country, but also because it speaks to our Labour values of solidarity, and to our commitment to common endeavour.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A weekly round-up of The New Statesman's climate, environment and sustainability content. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

If we look at what is on the ballot paper on 23 June – jobs, opportunity, workplace rights and our status as an open, tolerant and trading nation – the Labour case for Remain could not be clearer. The British people want to hear us spell out the clear choice in this referendum: between economic security, growth and global influence within the EU, or an irresponsible leap into the unknown outside it.

The outcome of this referendum is too important for us to allow it to be dominated by the internal melodrama of the Conservative Party. We know that the Brexiters are driven by a hard right, libertarian ideology that seeks to make a bonfire of the social, environmental and legal rights that are guaranteed through our membership of the EU. Their not-so-secret plan is to turn this referendum into a populist, nationalist, right-wing coup.

We also know that it is the very people who we were elected to represent who would suffer most from the economic chaos and recession that would be caused by Brexit, which is why we cannot allow it to happen. Labour’s voice will prove decisive in the next few weeks. Let’s make sure the voters hear it.

Content from our partners
Polling on the protocol: Westminster is a long way from Northern Ireland
How smart energy can deliver for smaller businesses
Smart energy and the road to net zero

Cat Smith is Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood and shadow minister for women and equalities.

Wes Streeting is Labour MP for Ilford North and a Treasury select committee member.

Stephen Kinnock is Labour MP for Aberavon and PPS to the shadow business secretary.