One of the responses to the Tory rebellion yesterday on the EU referendum vote has – rather predictably – been a call for ‘pro-Europeans’ to be more assertive. Clegg has said Britain should lead and not leave the EU, and over at LabourList Luke Akehurst has a piece entitled “We need to recapture the passionate European voice“.
There are a serious problems with these sorts of responses.
The first is the Euro. It may look like a battered currency just now, but the work to save it is central to almost every aspect of the future of the EU just now. Sarko could slap down Cameron because of the latter’s categoric rejection of the Euro much more easily than he could attack Donald Tusk or Helle Thorning-Schmidt, PMs from countries that still hold out the option of joining the Single Currency. So any argument about British leadership in the EU absolutely must not rule out Euro membership in the medium term, because without that commitment any attempt to reform anything at EU level proposed by the UK will be rejected at worst, and not taken adequately seriously at best.
Second, the pro-European vs. Eurosceptic fight is tiresome and gets us nowhere. As I argued in the Pragmatic Radicalism pamphlet, this frame only serves the interests of the EU-phobes, and prevents a narrative being developed that would allow a more socially responsible EU to be advocated. The term ‘pro-European’ is just too vague and stodgy to be useful.
In short, we need answers on how we want the European Union to look in the future – how the economic and political future of the EU should be. Just better defending what we’ve got, being cheerleaders for the status quo, is uninspiring and a waste of time.
We need to be able to attack the Common Agricultural Policy while defending and hoping to strengthen protection for workers EU-wide, and to advocate a future of the Euro that promotes growth rather than relying on austerity. That’s a long slog, but at least in the blogosphere we can make a start.