Europe makes Britain stronger as a nation

Tony Blair

Tony Blair returned to his old Sedgefield seat to make a keynote speech on the importance of European Union membership to the UK, and to the North East in particular. He said that leaving Europe would leave Britain diminished in the world.

Ed Miliband has ruled out an EU referendum unless there is a significant transfer of powers to the European Union. He has said that otherwise a referendum would become a distraction from saving the NHS, ending zero hour contracts and increasing the minimum wage.

Indeed, a referendum normally happens because someone wants something to happen, the SNP want Scotland to leave the UK so have campaigned for a referendum. But David Cameron has proposed a referendum on EU membership despite the fact that he believes we should stay in.

He knows that a referendum will cause uncertainty and instability but is willing to risk that to keep the right wing fringes of his party happy. As Blair said "To satisfy the insistent Euro-phobia of a group who will never be satisfied."

Tony Blair was also right to point out that the business case for Europe is obvious. He toured the Hitachi site and stressed the point that they have come to the North East in order to access the European market.

He also underlined the point that leaving is no easy task as we would have created a headache for every European leader which would leave them in no mood to compromise. Plus, it would be to their advantage to freeze the UK out. Trains about to be built in County Durham and cars built in Sunderland could be built in elsewhere the EU and other countries would be keen to take advantage.

But the case to remain in Europe is a positive one. It is about our place in the world. There is a danger that we become an inward looking country which is much diminished on the world stage. Those forces proposing we leave are conservative forces who want to look backwards and inwards.

We need to look to the future and Tony Blair made the case that we are perfectly placed to be leaders in Europe and to make friends and build alliances to shape a future Europe which continues to work for Britain.​


Jude Kirton-Darling is a Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England and is a member of the EU trade committee. 

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