Labour hardens against Europe as crisis continues

Alexander: Significant changes in Labour policy on Europe
Alexander: Significant changes in Labour policy on Europe

By Ian Dunt

Labour's pro-European position became noticeably more frosty today as Douglas Alexander promised a policy rethink over Britain's relationship with the EU.

In a sign of how damaging the eurocrisis has been to the pro-European cause, the shadow foreign secretary will announce his opposition to any further power transfers to Brussels.

He will also call for Britain to seize on German demands for treaty change as an opportunity to reassess the balance of power between the EU and nation states.

"Schadenfreude is not a wise European strategy for the Conservatives. But nor will Labour simply shout louder or seek to simply defend the status quo," Mr Alexander wrote in the Guardian.

"Our task is instead to tell a new story about Britain and Europe, rooted in the need for reform revealed by new economic and political realities.

He added: "We should engage now with the fact that Germany is seeking treaty change and seize this opportunity to safeguard the rights of non-euro members.

"A hard-headed view of Britain's national interests should be the hallmark of our approach to the coming negotiations."

Mr Alexander drew the line at proposals for a two-tier Europe, whereby Europe's core economies would move towards closer fiscal union while others fell behind, calling the Conservative response to the prospect "worryingly complacent".

The significant Labour policy shift comes as the party tries to accommodate widespread wariness of the eurozone while not alienating europhiles in the party.

Even though Labour has never fallen apart over the issue as spectacularly as the Conservatives, Labour's views on the EU are at least as complicated as those of its opponents.

Indeed, with so many of the new Conservative intake being died-in-wool eurosceptics, it could be argued the Tories actually have a more unified European position than Labour.

Many in the Labour party now want a more vocally critical attitude adopted towards the European project, given the widespread view that many eurosceptic arguments have been partially vindicated by the eurocrisis.

Many left-wing Labour MPs are also firm eurosceptics, due in part to the power the European Central Bank has over European governments.


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