We want to reform the EU, not leave it

Britain’s top priority must be to push for a more flexible Europe.

Related Topics

Labour is, and will remain, an internationalist party, committed both to Britain’s future in Europe and to the reform of Europe.

But these changed times require a changed approach to making that case in Britain. In today’s challenging fiscal environment, we must not, and will not, allow our pro-European credentials to be solely measured by the amount of money we are willing to spend on Europe.

True, aspects of the EU budget contribute to Europe’s prosperity and progress. True also that Europe’s recovery and reform will not be achieved through austerity alone. But to ensure solid foundations for the European project, it must reflect the priorities and concerns of its citizens. Which is why it was right for Labour to support both restraint and reform in the EU budget.

Labour sees budgetary reform as necessary but insufficient – only one element of a broader reform agenda that Europe needs. And rather than simply adapt to these changes, Britain must play a role in shaping and directing them.

Britain’s priority must be to push for reforms that would bring about a more flexible EU. This is vital because Europe’s future will be characterised by differentiation in the speed and extent of integration. This was not always the case, but now Europe needs a unified institutional structure that can accommodate these varying levels of integration.

With France and Germany preoccupied with the recovery of the euro, it falls to Britain to push this agenda. But a flexible Europe will only be delivered through wide-ranging reforms, advanced in partnership with other European allies.

For those of us who are committed to Britain’s future within the EU, the Government’s narrow focus on repatriating powers risks undermining, rather than advancing, our interests. It has no support from our partners, and, by pursuing a repatriation agenda to the exclusion of a reform agenda, Britain’s influence risks being even further undermined at the very time when it is needed most.

But more importantly, it falsely assumes that bringing decision making powers back from Brussels will also take us back in time, to an age where power, threats and economics were clearly delineated within national borders. That is why a Labour government would advance a Europe strategy of broad reform rather than simply narrow repatriation.

The Nobel Peace Prize reminded us that Europe’s day-to-day struggles can, too often, obscure decades of progress. The foundations of peace and prosperity are a legacy to be proud of. But while the foundations may be stable, the structures face new pressures. In the months and years ahead, Labour will continue to make the case for reform of Europe and not exit from Europe.

Douglas Alexander is shadow Foreign Secretary

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas