Yesterday, European Council President Donald Tusk published the proposed deal he has reached with UK PM David Cameron, ahead of the European Council in two weeks. The pace is quickening towards the UK's referendum on whether we are better off in the European Union or whether it is time to cut our moorings and drift free. However, we will not vote on Cameron's deal but on whether we are remain or leave the EU.
Last week, despite a unanimous resolution at Labour Party Conference in favour of our EU membership and strong support for that position from Jeremy Corbyn, a small group of MPs launched a Labour Leave campaign. They claim to represent the true socialist voice in the EU referendum debate, which seems incompatible with the fact that their offices and website are provided by the right wing think-tank the TaxPayers Alliance. That aside, the disingenuous arguments they are using to back their campaign are misinformation.
At the same time, new Labour Shadow Europe Minister Pat Glass was in Brussels discussing the upcoming EU referendum with Labour MEPs. A total of 213 of Labour's 231 MPs have signed up to the Labour's official pro-Europe campaign, Labour IN For Britain. It was not always so. Pat was up front that in 1975 she voted not to join the European Economic Community. The Labour Party at the time was opposed to the Common Market and campaigned against UK membership. There were many relevant arguments made, but times have changed. The EU today is not the EEC of 1973. Just like Pat, the Labour Party's position has shifted on our EU membership. It has not happened overnight.
It has come through the principles of redistribution and solidarity shown by the EU budget, in which resources are transferred from wealthier to less advantaged regions. For us in the North East, this is just one example of how we directly benefit from our EU membership, literally pound for pound. It has come through the changes in geopolitics brought about by the emergence of billion-person countries and trillion dollar economies. Despite these changes, cooperating with our neighbours has brought us over 70 years of peace - a fact that should not be taken for granted. It has come through the advances that working people have made through EU rules, fought for by trade unions across Europe: rights like a minimum four weeks' paid holiday; parental leave; flexible working; equal protection for part-time workers. It is a victory for Labour and our sister parties across Europe that the undermining of these rights is no longer under discussion as part of the EU renegotiation.
Labour's EU referendum campaign is unambiguous - it is clear that we get more out of our EU membership than it costs us to be a member - we are for IN! IN: to create jobs and growth. IN: to continue investment in our region. IN: to protect hard won workers' rights and extend them to address today's exploitative workplace practices. IN: to protect our environment as pollution knows no borders. In: for our collective security and safety in an increasingly turbulent world. Our EU membership is crucial not just for economic reasons, it provides safety at work and at home, and helps to make our world more secure.
As the granddaughter of a refugee from war in Europe and a committed trade unionist, I strongly believe in internationalism and solidarity, and therefore a message of division between the peoples of Europe and isolation of the British runs counter to my very being. I'm for IN and hope that you will join me!