Points to be made in EU referendum debate
Some points that Labour MPs might make in the EU referendum debate in the Commons today:
First, why now?
Many of the Treaties that define the UK’s relationship with the EU were signed by Conservative PMs, e.g. Maastricht Treaty. We didn’t have referendums when these Treaties were signed. Are Conservatives now saying that we should have done? And should now retrospectively do so?
The priority for all MPs and MEPs should now be economic recovery. Almost everything else is a distraction. Resolving the euro-zone crisis would significantly improve the economic prospects of the EU and the UK. This is, therefore, a more pressing issue for debate than whether or not the UK should have a referendum on EU membership.
Second, how do Conservatives propose that the euro-zone crisis be resolved and how would this impact the UK’s relationship with the EU?
The UK’s interests here are: That the euro-zone members find a durable solution to their crisis, while properly allocating responsibility within this solution to EU and euro-zone members and ensuring that the benefits of EU membership continue to be enjoyed by non-euro EU members.
What matters, therefore is: encouraging and supporting euro-zone members to find a durable solution; requiring that euro-zone members properly face up to whatever responsibilities are created for them in this solution; and guaranteeing that this solution does not forego the benefits of EU membership enjoyed by the UK. We, for example, must insist on UK access to and involvement in shaping a deepened single market, even in the context of further consolidation amongst the euro-zone members.
Third, do Conservatives not accept that we should return to this debate on an EU referendum in the UK after these pressing and profound issues with the euro-zone have been properly and fully addressed?
We should be focusing all of our energies on resolving these issues in a durable manner, which protects the UK’s interests, as a non-euro EU member, both in the near and longer-term. It may be that these solutions necessitate changes that are constitutionally significant to the UK. In which case, a referendum would be entirely appropriate. But we are a long way from resolving the euro-zone crisis. Until we get to this stage, all debate about the EU amounts to shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic.
Fourth, why can the Conservatives not work constructively to resolve the euro-zone crisis, instead of re-hashing debates of the 1980s and 1990s?
Let’s return to the here and now, as this could not have more serious questions to answer. These are questions that will impact the incomes and wellbeing of all British citizens. It ill behoves any elected representative to create distractions to the resolution of these questions.
When these questions are resolved, with the euro-zone crisis behind us and the UK’s interests protected, if this resolution has necessitated a constitutionally significant change in the UK’s relationship with the EU, let us then return to this debate on a UK referendum on EU membership.