Remain campaigners need a more ‘inclusive’ message
The House of Lords’ European Union Committee, chaired by Lord Boswell, issued a report yesterday arguing that the Government needed to “set out a positive, inclusive vision of the UK’s role in a reformed European Union ahead of the referendum on EU membership.” You can find the TUC’s evidence to their Lordships’ enquiry in the documents they published (page 265 I’m afraid – that’s the alphabet for you!) and Frances O’Grady and I gave oral evidence which is also in the documents.
The positive vision that the Committee recommends goes beyond the status quo, which was recognised to be of limited appeal to the majority of voters, but the Committee also argues that the Government was wrong to ditch the findings of the evidence-based Balance of Competences review in preparing its renegotiation strategy, and wrong not to consult more widely among stakeholders in developing that strategy – stakeholders like the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh assemblies as well as trade unions.
Frances wasn’t alone in suggesting that – while it was good that union lobbying had prevented the Government using the renegotiation to undermine workers’ rights:
“there are huge missing aspects to what we believe the UK Government should be seeking in terms of a social Europe fit for the 21st century that delivers real gains, good jobs, decent rights and strong protections for ordinary working people as well as a voice, which social partnership is premised upon.”
This would be the sort of inclusive agenda that would have created a more popular appeal for the renegotiation strategy and, ultimately, for the referendum’s Remain campaign.
As Frances said to the Committee (as quoted in the report):
“for those who advocate the UK staying in the EU … there has to be a positive offer to ordinary working people; there has to be a strong story that spells out what is in it for them. It is not good enough simply to talk about the trickle-down benefits that will eventually reach people, maybe.”