Pat McFadden's Speech to the East of England Labour Conference - 14th November 2015

Friends, the attacks on the city of Paris last night represent a terrible, needless and appalling loss of innocent life.

We stand together with the people of Paris, the people of France, in their time of grief and mourning.  We stand with them in defence of our societies and our way of life.

This is not a battle of choice.  It is a battle of necessity.  There is no opting out of it.

The people who do this are adults driven by their own ideology.  No one forces them to do what they did.  And we have to confront this terrorism at every level in defence of our societies and of the pluralism and co-existence that we hold dear.

We should say we are proud to live in a country where we have freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to be different and to live together.

And we should pay tribute to the police, security and intelligence services who battle to defend these freedoms every day and to keep our streets safe.  Because attacks like this could happen in any city, any country, at any time.


Friends I want to turn to our country’s future and the decision we will take over our future inside or outside the European Union. 


This will be the biggest decision our country takes in a generation.


It will say a huge amount about how we view ourselves and how we see our place in the world.

And it will have a huge impact on how the rest of the world sees us.

Let me be clear about Labour’s position as we begin this referendum campaign.

We will campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.

We want to see our country leading the process of necessary change in the EU, not walking away from it.

We want to see Britain remain as an open outward looking country engaged with the world not retreating in fear and defeat from globalisation.


We reject the nationalism that says the challenges of today’s world are best met only by individual nation states.

And we also reject the nostalgia that says Britain’s best days were always yesterday rather than today or tomorrow.

Just a few weeks ago our Party conference resolved very clearly to campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union.

This weekend we will publish a list of over 200 Labour MPs including every single member of the Shadow Cabinet pledged to campaign to remain in the EU.

Labour does not take this stance because we are starry eyed or because we believe there does not need to be change in the EU.

On the contrary, we believe Britain is best placed to deliver change by playing a strong and leading role in the EU.

Europe faces more serious challenges than it has for many years.

The Eurozone has struggled to overcome the financial crisis.  Countries on the periphery have been put through painful austerity programmes.  And the recovery still has a long way to go.

And even more urgent and immediate is the refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge from war and some from poverty and lack of opportunity.

These twin challenges raise questions not only of policy but of capacity, of how Europe copes.

Responding to the refugee crisis should not mean a retreat into every nation state running for cover and hoping the issue will go away.  It means MORE co-operation, MORE co-ordination, MORE leadership.

No one puts their family into a small unseaworthy boat unless they are desperate.  Our duty is not just to help those fleeing but to address why they are fleeing.

That means more international engagement not more isolationism.

Britain can and should take more than 20,000 refugees over a period of years when other countries are having to take 20,000 in a matter of weeks.

And the whole world must ask itself what more we can do to resolve the problems of war, failed states and poverty that drive people to leave home.

We are fooling ourselves if we think we can run away from the issues affecting the world.  Nor should that be Great Britain’s role or response.

So Europe today is not just a question of trade, vital though that is.  It is also a question of values.

On economic issues the case for remaining in is very strong.

The European Union is the destination for almost half of our exports – over £200bn worth of goods.

In this region the proportion going to the EU is even more.

Last year the East of England 2,268 businesses in this region exported more than £14bn worth of goods to the European Union.

The EU is the source of around half of our inward investment.

And of that inward investment that comes from outside the EU, much of it comes because we are a gateway to the EU.

But Europe is more than a market.

It has also been the arena where many important employment rights have been agreed over the years, from guaranteed paid leave to equal rights for part time workers, to anti-discrimination measures to fair pay for temporary and agency workers.

This week we warned the Government – do not try to build support for your renegotiation on a bonfire of workers’ rights.  That would be a huge mistake and a huge disservice to the working people of this country.

But if there is such an attack on workers’ rights friends, the answer is not to leave the EU.  Because if we do that then by definition we have access to none of those social protections.  The answer is to build support for a Labour Government which will opt back in to those rights – and we cannot opt back in to them if we are outside the EU.

We did this before when John Major’s Conservative Government refused to sign up to the Social Chapter.  Changing that and opting in to it was one of the first acts of the Labour Government in 1997.

The Prime Minister has embarked on his renegotiation but it has been obvious all along that there is nothing he can renegotiate that will satisfy the many people in his party who want to lead us out of the EU at all costs.  Their only role in this debate is to make demands they know cannot be met in order to justify the stance they wanted to take all along.

On the specifics of his plans, we do need guarantees for non Eurozone nations.  And whatever is agreed on benefits, let us be clear that most people who come from elsewhere in the EU come not to lie around on the dole but to work hard, pay their taxes like anyone else and make a positive contribution to our country.

We will know soon enough the conclusions of this renegotiation but we will not let that process stop us making the broader case based on jobs, investment, employments rights, security and shared values.

It is not a question of whether Britain could survive or not outside the EU.  This is a great country.  Of course it could survive.  It is a question of the better future.

A referendum is a choice of two futures, not an opinion poll on just one.

And those who would take us out of the EU have a duty to answer questions about what it would mean.

What would it mean for our access to markets?  Norway, outside the EU, pays 75% per head of what we pay yet has no say over the rules.  Switzerland has spent years negotiating agreements where they have to obey most of the rules and pay for the privilege too.  These kinds of deals are not the future Britain should aspire to.

Why should we swap a seat at the top table for a future where we continue to pay, yet have no say?

Why should we swap a position as a rule maker for a role as a rule taker, a passive recipient of a system decided by others.

Friends Britain is better than that and can do better than that.  We are a strong country and should forge a future as a strong country.

We know that after election defeat we are a long way from power.  As we vote against measures from tax credit cuts to the trade union bill the price of losing and being faced with the first majority Tory Government for 23 years is brought home to us day after day.

It is a long road back.  Power is where we realise our beliefs and our principles.  Only in power does Labour achieve rather than protest.

But even in Opposition we can have relevance to this European debate.  And even in Opposition we have a leadership role to play.

The Tories are hopelessly divided on this issue.  The Prime Minister continues in the impossible task of trying to appease the unappeasable in his ranks.  UKIP are clear about what they want.

It falls to us to make the case for a strong Britain in a changing Europe.

It falls to us to argue that it is better for trade, for jobs and for our values to remain in.

It falls to us to show we will fight for the best future for Britain.  And in this campaign, that’s what we are going to do.

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