Pro-EU organisation building in the UK

Screen Shot 2013-07-13 at 15.15.52“I don’t want anything to do with the European Movement. They are federalists!” Those were the words a British friend of a friend in Brussels said to me this week as we were discussing what sort of organisations would be needed in the UK to make sure any eventual in-out of the EU referendum could be won by the pro-EU side.

At one level I quibbled that the European Movement is even in favour of federalism – the f-word is not even mentioned in its Constitution, nor in its Aims & Activities, and as a former President of JEF-Europe, I know what federalism is.

But whether the European Movement is federalist or not is not actually the main issue. The essential point is that any pro-EU campaign in the UK needs to find a place for the European Movement. And a place for Federal Union, for British Influence, for the Labour Movement for Europe, for the Liberal Democrat Europe Group, and a place for whatever other other pro-EU causes of whatever colour might be created. And a place for the CBI, the TUC, the Royal College of Nursing, and the likes of the British Potato Trade Association (I don’t know whether the latter two are pro-EU, but you get the idea). There cannot, and nor should there be, one single pro-EU campaign in the UK. If there were to be just one campaign then the danger is that campaign becomes something akin to Yes to AV – i.e. a stodgy disaster.

But what if anti-EU people raise a problem that the pro-EU campaign is hence inconsistent, or that it contains unlikely bed-fellows? Well, hit back with the counter case. You think Bob Crow and Nigel Farage are anti-EU for the same reasons? Or the people that support the Bruges Group and the RMT Union oppose the EU for the same reasons? That is just as preposterous a suggestion as to assume that all pro-EU people are pro-EU for the same reasons. Look too at the 2008 Irish No to Lisbon – the No side was totally incoherent, but each of its component organisations found resonance with a part of Irish society, and No emerged victorious. The pro-EU side in the UK needs to learn from that.

So why then does the gentleman I was talking to in Brussels feel so damned defensive? It’s time to abandon that defensiveness, and be ready to live with a diverse pro-EU cause.

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3 comments

  1. Mind furniture

    It might be worth focusing on the actual lie of the land as far as public opinion is concerned more than campaigns per se. Apart from anything else pro-Europeans – or perhaps we should say anti-Eurosceptics, so much easier to be opposed to something than in favour of it – should simply be more populist in an in-your-face. I am sick of the poisonous, half-basked xenophobic nonsense spouted by UKIP, most of the Tory party and half the press. It is bonkers, deluded recipe for economic suicide peddled by well-funded vested interests andextremists. Take the gloves off.

  2. Ralf Grahn

    Quite right, Jon, there are many more interests at stake than the City, internal and external trade.

  3. Alun Williams

    You make a good point. Each side of the pro-euro could appeal to each class of voter, just as long as the co-ordinate well, it would work I think.