Sunday 27 February 2011

Bring back social Europe!

This week's Tribune carries a short report on last weekend's Fabian Europe conference.

How could pro-Europeans seek to close the stark class gap in attitudes towards the EU - and what type of social Europe agenda would be most relevant to the current economic challenges we face?

Claude Moraes, deputy leader of Labour’s MEPs, told a Fabian conference on the future of Europe on February 19 that ending an “austerity first” message and putting social Europe back on the agenda is essential if the European Union is to address voters’ concerns.

Mr Moraes said the last Labour Government had “confused people” by instinctively opposing most social legislation when in power, and said he believed leader Ed Miliband could see the strong case for protecting the rights of agency workers.

A YouGov opinion poll for a Fabian Society/FEPS book, Europe’s Left in the Crisis, reveals a stark class gap in attitudes to the EU, with C2 and DE social groups saying British membership is a “bad thing” by 53 per cent to 13 per cent. The 40 per cent gap compares to a 12 per cent gap among ABC1 voters.

Yet the poll also found strong majority support in Britain for common labour standards across the EU to prevent minimum conditions being undercut.

“What we have got is the Treaty of Versailles and what we need is the Marshall plan”, said David Coats, the former head of economic affairs at the TUC. He argued that “austerity Europe” would not win public support for extending the single market without a strong social dimension.

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