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Pirate Party UK: only Labour running shy of a referendum on Europe

The Pirate Party UK is backing a referendum on European Union membership because it believes in democracy, writes Andy Halsal

If you had to pick the one issue that has dominated the run up to the European Parliamentary elections in the UK, you could really only pick one.  The question of a UK referendum on the European Union.

That’s is a little odd given that EU membership isn’t a matter for MEPs, yet almost all the UK’s major parties, and quite a few of the minor ones, have tried to define their campaigns on whether they are a party of in, or out. The only party that seems to want to have it both ways, and as a result not really managing to have it either way, is the Labour party.

All the major UK parties (with the exception of Labour) and many of the smaller parties including the Greens and Pirate Party, have committed to an in/out referendum on the EU.

The Pirate Party UK has too.

The Pirate Party wants a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. We do not want the UK to join the Eurozone or use the Euro. We do want the UK to remain part of the EU.

The UK needs a referendum. Our membership of the EU has an impact on our lives, work and opportunities within the UK in a way that us very different to when we joined the EC.  We need a referendum because people deserve a say and our party believes in democracy. We need a referendum because the debate will give us a better idea of what we want in the future and the momentum we need to make radical changes to the EU.

We need a referendum because it is long overdue.

This isn’t a new position for the Pirate Party, it isn’t one the party arrived at because others made it popular to talk about, it has been our position for as long as we have had a full manifesto.

The Pirate Party supports continued membership of the EU.  But not unconditionally. We know that positive change is vital. It is time to make the partnership reflect the wishes of people in the UK and the EU. That does mean changing how the EU works, and by that we mean more than just ‘repatriating powers’. We need a more open and democratic union. We need more power with our elected MEPs.

It not about being Euro-sceptic, it’s about being sceptical of power full stop.  We need transparency from EU institutions and we have to increase accountability. I’d like  to see a relationship between European states where the EU is an enabler, where it can help in focusing the power that such a large bloc represents in a way that benefits member states, while allowing for the resilience that different implementations provide.

The EU should be there to set out the minimum required and all members should aim to do better. We would be aiming to meet and exceed the standards set by the EU and not see it as some sort of added burden.

Of course when setting out a vision for the EU, we start to have problems. Instead of seeing the EU as a way to cooperate and work together some people seem to see EU legislation as a tool to sidestep national parliaments.

The EU should not be a way to get unpopular reforms implemented without being held accountable. Some groups seem to think that the EU can be used in that way and frankly, it is that kind of activity that both erodes confidence in, and support for the EU.

It is incredibly important that the principle of subsidiarity, the idea that decisions should be made at as local a level as possible is retained and strengthened. After all, that ensures we all have a say, and the ‘faceless eurocrats’, blamed for apparently ridiculous ‘dictats’ won’t be quite so faceless or distant or misrepresented.

A partnership requires trust. There has to be a common purpose, but it cannot be dictated by one or a few major players.  If we cannot build that trust across all EU states, then we will not be able to deliver positive change.

It is unacceptable that those who claim to want real progressive change in Brussels have allowed the debate to be hijacked by xenophobia, fear and misinformation. Too many of the parties that could bring about a public debate don’t want to. We are not afraid of public debate.  We want to see the UK as a vital part of a new more democratic EU.

We can set the direction for the largest economic block in the world, and make sure everyone gets their fair share. We have a rare opportunity to make a real difference to the direction of a union that should be a benefit to hundreds of millions of people, including all of us.  We can’t waste that opportunity out of fear that it might not please everyone.  We need to make the case and convince as many people as possible of what is right.

Andy Halsall is campaigns officer for the Pirate Party UK

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