Europe: FAQs

Why can’t we just have a free-trade relationship?
Britain will always be heavily influenced by whatever happens within the European Union due to our geographical and economic proximity to the continent. It is therefore in our national interest to have a seat at the table when EU policy is determined. The example of Norway is often trumpeted as a country in Europe but not the EU, but what is not mentioned is that Norway has to comply with most EU rules and regulations to trade with it, but has no say in how they are made. It would not be in Britain’s national interest to find ourselves in a similar position.

Surely we could still trade with Europe even if we weren’t in the EU?
It is in Britain’s economic interests to remain within the EU not only because so much of our trade is done with the EU, but because so many international businesses choose to base themselves here because of our unique position as the bridge between Europe, the Commonwealth and America.

Don’t you think there should be any reform in Europe?
Of course. We believe Britain should be leading in Europe and shaping Europe. This happened when Labour was in Government and we have won votes in Europe, for example on financial services. Under this government we have lost votes and our influence has waned. We also want to make sure Europe works better, making it more growth orientated, making Europe more competitive and stopping waste, like the EU Parliament operating in two different places.

Why are you scared of giving the people the final say?
We know from recent experiences in Scotland that referendums rarely settle these questions. Britain voted to stay in the EU in 1975 but this didn’t stop opponents of our EU membership continuing to campaign for withdrawal.

This is why consulting the public at the time of direct treaty changes seems a more sensible approach than calling a general referendum at an arbitrary time. Labour is committed to offer a referendum should there be a proposal coming from the EU to transfer further powers to Brussels.