I suppose if you run Liberal Conspiracy you’re grateful for pieces from MPs and have to accept them. Today – via this tweet from Sunny Hundal – I read “We need to re-assess our approach to Europe” by Helen Goodman MP. This follows on from Douglas Alexander’s effort to re-assess Labour’s EU policy that didn’t impress me. Goodman’s effort is probably even worse.
It starts in a reasonably predictable manner – we need to move away from the Europhile/Europhobe distinction (something I agree with).
The only problem with the EU’s impact on the UK in terms of policy that she states is the 2001 decision in favour of free movement of Labour from the new Member States to the UK. This she calls a “major change which turned many Labour voters off Europe” – perhaps true, but she then proposes no solution and leaves the problem hanging in the air. No mention that there are no forthcoming enlargements of the EU on the horizon that would have anything like the impact seen in the early 2000s.
She then moves to show the EU has a democratic deficit. Again a valid critique, and yet again no solution. She justifies her statement using words implying that the EU foisted technocratic administrations on Italy and Greece (markets, Helen?), and that a fiscal union will be achieved through the same means. Even if the UK were part of the latter, the fact that it would need treaty change that would have to be agreed by the UK government seems to have escaped her.
She then caps it by saying that the European Commission is “is unaccountable and too powerful” – unaccountable perhaps, but has she seen the Commission’s non-response to the Eurozone crisis? If that’s power then it’s a different definition of power to any I know. She also seems to think the EU has an institution called the Council of Minister (which she writes twice – I think she means the Council of the European Union).
She then has a go at MEPs, saying the constituencies they represent are too large. How – with 500 million citizens and 27 Member States could they not be huge? Perhaps she might instead like to have a look at better selection systems to improve the quality of MEPs. As for scrutiny – what incentive does any MP really have to look at EU matters in depth? Improving it is a non-starter – no-one has the incentive. She of course isn’t a member.
So what do we learn from Goodman’s piece? That she has problems with a bunch of aspects of the EU that we have all known for ages are problematic, and she proposes no solution to any of those problems. Further, she makes no values-based statement to work out how Labour in opposition could position itself on EU matters. Labour must do better than this.
Goodman’s piece is so pathetic, misleading and predicable that I’m surprised you felt there was any need to rebut her arguments. She conveniently forgot to mention that it was the Labour government’s decision to let people from Central and Eastern Europe work in the UK immediately after accession as opposed to excluding them for 4+3 years as many other countries have done (and as the same Labour government did with Bulgarians and Romanians). There was no imposition from Brussels. As for the social security rights, that’s something all EU citizens enjoy so for a Labour MP to argue against it is, to say the least, baffling.
I sometimes wish the EU commission was as powerful as British politicians believe it is, especially with regard to the protection and promotion of human rights….