All on the left know the EU is a flawed institution – which is why we need to be part of it, to make it more democratic and transparent, says IAN LAVERY
TO MILLIONS of voters the debate about the future of our country has become overly dominated by two privileged right-wing cliques.
Each led by out-of-touch former Bullingdon Boy rivals, both cabals see the future of our country in very similar terms, two very Tory Britains — one inside and one outside the EU.
Until very recently, the media has allowed the debate over Britain’s place in the European Union to be hijacked by a Tory civil war.
The debate has been seized upon by Boris Johnson, the darling of the Tory right who seeks to replace David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party, and a ragtag bunch of right-wing zealots.
These vicious ideologues have built their political careers on right-wing politics that would see institutions cherished by the British people swept away in their free-market utopia.
They now advocate spending a seriously misleading EU membership fee on everything from healthcare to farms and regional subsidies, depending on who they are speaking to.
This has been a debate built upon a disgusting deception being perpetrated on the British people.
The sight of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and Priti Patel, among others, advocating increases in public spending, while voting for, presiding over and enthusiastically championing the exact opposite, is enough to make your skin crawl.
Are we really to believe that on leaving the EU, an institution that enshrines protection against people like these, that these extremists would abandon their lifelong beliefs and in the glow of so-called independence bestow new-found riches on the British people?
Or is it more likely that these sickening opportunists are using the likes of the NHS as the crumb of cheese on the Brexiteer mousetrap ready to snap the necks of the very people who need it most?
Even the Tory former prime minister John Major, hardly a militant himself, described the NHS in the hands of the Tory Brexiteers as being as safe as a pet hamster with a hungry python.
The relentless drive to focus the debate on the topic of immigration has seen it at its worst.
This is a referendum on our membership of the EU, not on the positives or negatives of migration, and the Leave campaign’s move in this direction is a cynical and calculated ploy.
A withdrawal from the EU will not settle the immigration debate that this country so badly needs.
For too long we have been quiet on immigration and Britain is badly in need of a sensible debate on the issue. However, it cannot and should not be left to a racist media and those seeking to supplant David Cameron with their Establishment clown to hold it.
We need to consider the positives and negatives on communities in Britain and across Europe.
We must also consider the global nature of the push and pull factors on movement of people.
To do this I firmly believe the answers lie in more co-operation across the continent and discussing how sensibly to tackle this global issue, not trying to pull up the drawbridge and pretend everything will go away.
Those who champion Brexit are no friends of working people and we should not let them con us into pushing Boris Johnson into Downing Street on the back of the referendum.
The golden-locked Establishment embarrassment has already been endorsed by Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
Farage himself only left the Tory Party over Europe. Could a Johnson-led party see this highly divisive figure welcomed back with open arms, given safe passage into Westminster and a place at the top table?
The impact of Brexit on working people should not be underestimated. An unfettered, Johnson-led, Conservative government with no European protection would be a disaster.
Let us be clear — we should not place the future of our country in the hands of these right-wing rogues.
There can be no denying that the European Union is in need of fundamental changes.
Citizens of the 28 member states need to feel like they have a say in the institution and the power to affect its decision-making process.
The organisation needs to become more democratic, more transparent and operated more in the interests of the working class than the bosses.
For all of its flaws, the EU is still good for Britain and north-east England, home of my constituency.
It protects our rights both at work and as consumers. It creates jobs and growth with access to the world’s largest single market.
It keeps us safe, bringing criminals to justice and fostering peace and stability. It improves our environment.
This is the most turbulent of times, with crises on a continental and global scale.
These require solutions that are bigger than Britain alone. Isolation from the rest of Europe is no way to face the issues of the present or the future, and would bring no solution either for ourselves or for our partners across the globe.
We are faced with an aggressive world of corporations free to move across the world in their own interests.
Leaving Europe would make worse not strengthen the position of workers affected by globalisation and countries crippled by aggressive tax avoidance.
We are faced with severe weather fuelled by climate change that threatens life for millions across the globe. Leaving Europe would reduce Britain’s influence and worsen the situation.
The rise of the far right across Europe, including here at home, is a worrying development in modern times. Leaving Europe will only foster hatred and worsen this.
We cannot let the future of our country, our continent and our world be put at risk by a Ukip-Tory desire to wind back the clock to a golden age that only ever existed in their imaginations.
We need to remain in Europe. To take our place at the top table and to build a progressive alliance across the continent to rebuild the EU in the interests of working people.
As a trade unionist and former miner, I am reminded of many of the colliery lodge banners in this debate.
The old slogans promoting co-operation, socialism and internationalism. But most one sticks out more than all: “The past we inherit, the future we build.” Vote Remain.
Ian Lavery is shadow minister for trade unions and MP for Wansbeck.