My message at the 2019 Labour Party Conference

30 September 2019

Over the past three years, we’ve seen the start of the debate on our EU membership that should have been had during the referendum campaign in 2016. One thing I hope everyone has understood is that there are multiple and unknown consequences to leaving the EU. There is no such thing as a 'clean break' after a 40-year relationship.

Leaving the EU wouldn’t solve our problems at home or make it possible for us to solve them on our own. But I’ve got a message from Brussels for those willing to hear it: the EU can help us get our house in order if we remain actively engaged. Three years ago, I campaigned for our EU membership in the North East for five key reasons: it creates jobs and growth locally, it channels funds to our regions, it protects our rights, it keeps us safe and it improves our environment. Three years on and these remain valid. Britain needs Europe.

But Europe is far from perfect. Conservative and Liberal forces dominate in Brussels as they currently dominate in Westminster, and this is reflected in some of the policies coming from the EU negotiating table. That’s why we need to remain, reform and, crucially, rebel. Since we voted, important progress has been made to tackle multinationals' dodging their taxes, to address the exploitation of zero-hours workers and to support the transition to a carbon-neutral world.

In the next three years, we can achieve more, and support our future Labour government with EU policies that will turn our ambition for this country into a global roadmap: tackling inequality, addressing the climate emergency and harnessing globalisation. That’s why Europe needs Labour.

Your Labour MEPs have a seat at the table - a seat that Boris Johnson has unilaterally abandoned. Together with our socialist and social democrat allies from across Europe, we are making the EU a better place for our communities. And in the new Commission we’ll have more socialist Commissioners than the conservatives for the first time in over 15 years. This is a historic opportunity. An opportunity that Labour must embrace.

So never mind the politics of Brexit, the chaotic scenes in the House of Commons and the dereliction of duty from the government: the Labour party stands for internationalism and Europe needs us back at its core.

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