The Fabians are running an event tomorrow entitled “Britain and Europe: In, out or somewhere in between?” I can’t attend the event as I’m in Austria at the moment, so I’ll raise a few points here instead.
Frankly, the very title of the event makes me annoyed.
Why can we simply never move on beyond discussions about in or out of the European Union in the UK? OK, if you’re UKIP or Bill Cash then maybe you have the incentive to talk about this, but where is the incentive for an organisation linked to the Labour Party to pose a question this way?
For Labour, Britain’s membership of the EU has been a reasonably undisputed fact for a long time, and it’s about time the discourse caught up.
The old pro-European vs. eurosceptic frame is broken (as I’ve previously argued) and while debate is stuck on that issue there’s no way to discuss what those on the left – in the UK and elsewhere – should really be talking about, namely what a more social EU would actually look like, and how the UK can play a role in that.
A related discussion would be about how parties on the left – in the PES at EU level, and nationally – find a compelling message to get themselves back into power.
The two people I know in the UK in Labour circles who could give some compelling answers to these questions – Henning Meyer (of Social Europe Journal) and David Schoibl (chair of Labour Movement for Europe) are not even on the programme…
It is also vital that the debate does not start at the event about whether Labour should advocate a referendum on in-or-out of the EU, a matter I raised earlier this week. Yet with Wayne David on one of the panels, and Sunder Katwala chairing a panel, I fear this issue will raise its ugly head.
On balance I’m happy that the event tomorrow is taking place, and that the Fabians are starting to talk about EU matters. But it’s going to be a long and slow process before that debate in any way becomes meaningful.