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Labour to put EU at heart of election campaign

Labour party strategists sense that policy on the European Union is the achilles heel of the Tory party. Although David Cameron’s Conservative party has recently presented a united front, Labour believe that deep rifts over attitudes to Europe will be exposed in Conservative ranks.

Ed Miliband does not believe that there is a real appetite for a referendum on EU membership and that attitudes to the EU are more positive than the UK media likes to paint them. Labour also believe that under pressure from UKIP, all Conservatives MPs and parliamentary candidates cannot keep to the party line of not talking about the EU.Douglas Alexander MP, Labour’s  Shadow Foreign Secretary yesterday said that an incoming Labour government will develop a post-Cameron European policy.‎

He said that at a time of introversion amongst the global public, an incoming Labour government will continue to make the case for an outward looking Britain and promote a progressive internationalist agenda.  On the Conservative’s approach to Europe, he rejected those who try to promote a Little Britain – and in some cases Little England – approach that suggests we should simply turn our back on the world.

He argued that the crisis in Ukraine proves the importance of solidarity and shared values across Europe, and he stated that the EU should be considering what more can be done to support Ukraine.    On rebuilding trust at a time of introversion amongst the public, he challenged a politics of pessimism about Britain’s place in the world, saying:      “Here in the UK, over the last decades, we have seen a public becoming increasingly sceptical about global involvement, let alone leadership.     “Claims that Britain – and the West more generally – is on a course of inevitable decline are used to justify a politics of retreat and isolationism based on an assumption that nothing we do abroad could anyway make a difference.

“But I don’t believe that policy challenges can be an excuse for a politics of despair.      “I am confident that the UK, along with our closest allies, does have the capabilities and resources to advance a Progressive Internationalism in the interests of our citizens.      “As progressives at a time of growing introversion, we have a unique responsibility to reject those who try to promote a Little Britain – and in some cases Little England – approach that suggests we should simply turn our backs on the world.     “The return of geo-political competition, a rise in economic warfare, and a growing introversion among the global public are some of the key trend-lines defining today’s foreign policy environment.      “The global financial crisis has accelerated a shift in power away from the West. This has led to a renewed, if not new, struggle for position among different power centres.

“And today, sanctions are increasingly being deployed instead of military strikes, competing trade regimes are mimicking the role of past military alliances, currency wars are at least as common as the occupation of territory, and the manipulation of the price of resources such as oil can be more consequential than conventional arms races.

On Labour’s perceived need for a post-Cameron Europe policy, he said:     “Labour is clear, that membership of the EU remains central to our prosperity and security.     “At a time when great power struggles are once again emerging, and when economic warfare has once again become a central tool of foreign policy, it is clear that our membership makes us stronger and helps promote our interests and values in this changing international context.     “And yet, one of my greatest concerns as a prospective Foreign Secretary, is that too often we are now seen by our European allies not as a leader and contributor, but as a potential problem and adversary.

In a direct attack on the Foreign-Secretary, Philip Hammond he went on to say “The willingness of the Conservatives to open the question of the UK’s continued EU membership – indeed a Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, who seems to support departure – undermines the basic principle of solidarity.     “I am clear that Britain needs a post-Cameron European policy, so in government Labour will set itself the task of reviewing, repairing, and resetting our country’s approach to Europe.”

On applying Labour’s values in foreign policy, he also said:     “For an incoming Labour Government in 2015, Britain’s core interest of defending the economic prospects and physical security of British citizens will be pursued within a clear framework of progressive values and principles.

“First, the experience of the last century has taught us that strength at home has been a contributor to peace abroad. If we are unable to deliver broad based prosperity for our people – built on the foundation of an economy that works for working people – then the attraction of populism and introversion will grow.

“Second, Britain has benefited from organised and sustained solidarity between like-minded states, unprecedented in history, and based on common democratic values. NATO, the EU, the ECHR, the UN and the Commonwealth and our close relationship with the US are not simply groupings of convenience, but deeply rooted communities of fate. These communities need to be defended and nurtured.

“Third, we must enhance the collective weight and impact of the main post-1945 global institutions and treaties – the UN, the IMF, the WTO, the NPT – and their related international norms. And it means demonstrating our commitment to global human rights not just through these global institutions, but by reflecting these norms and principles in the application of our own foreign policy priorities.

“I believe that these three principles – prioritising domestic strength, promoting the principle of solidarity, and preserving global norms – are the basis of a progressive approach to foreign affairs.”

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