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The EU Conundrum: Cameron’s Conviction and Corbyn’s Chance

Europe is the one issue that divides the Tories. Is the ball finally in Corbyn's court?

William Spencer

Naked Politics Blogger 

To say David Cameron should be praised for his actions is a contentious issue these days. However his attitude towards the sticky issue of the impending referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union is one that should be admired to a certain extent. From what I can see, Britain’s membership of the EU seems to be the issue most important to Cameron. Whilst many in the public don’t bat an eyelid when the debate is once again sprawled across a tabloid front page, for the Prime Minister, he appears to be fighting with all he has to impress upon the population, not only how vital this vote is, but how important it is for our membership to continue.

His conviction should be applauded. He is not campaigning to remain simply to appease Tory Europhiles, there certainly appears to be more Eurosceptics in the party. He cares not for the support of the many anti-EU figures in his party, such as the grassroots of the party or the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. There is nothing holding him back from his argument, he has no election ambitions in 2020. As the Prime Minister has stated, ‘he has no other agenda’. In fact he has said this on two separate occasions in the space of 24 hours since the referendum announcement, and will surely become an irritation if he says it again. That aside, there is nothing holding him back and he is fighting for something he truly believes in for the British people.

Having praised Cameron far too much than I should like, caution should be drawn. Whilst he continues to highlight the deal he negotiated, more so dragged out for nine months, and how it now provides a better form of membership for Britain, we should not get distracted from the EU’s wider role. The EU is so much more than emergency brakes on immigrant in-work benefits, to state one of Cameron’s so-called ‘achievements’. We should not be side-tracked into thinking this deal is a ‘deal-breaker’. The significant advantages the EU brings to Britain should be remembered, such as the convention of human rights, jobs, protection of workers’ rights, lower cost travel and free trade.

But what I find most compelling is the opportunity that has presented itself across the Commons dispatch box, to Jeremy Corbyn. Unlike many issues facing the Leader of the Opposition, he has been won over by the masses of the Labour party and vows to campaign to keep Britain in. Interestingly, Corbyn’s speech in the Commons made him appear as if he never had a doubt in his mind when faced with the EU question, but let’s not dwell on Corbyn’s past views. Corbyn has called the Prime Minister’s deal a ‘theatrical sideshow’ and he is right to distance himself and his party’s campaign from viewing this deal as major factor when considering Britain’s membership. The opportunity to capture a massive political victory is striking. Whilst the Conservative party is immensely divided over the EU, the Labour party, aside from a select few, is largely united on British membership. That is certainly a phrase that hasn’t been associated with Labour over recent months.

Corbyn needs to drive Labour’s position forward on this issue, highlighting the positives of the EU such as British jobs at home and abroad, the protection of workers’ rights, the growth of the economy, free trade, investment, tackling climate change and combatting terrorism. However Corbyn should not disassociate himself from issues such as immigration, which Cameron has attempted to ease with his deal. Last May 3.8 million voted for UKIP, largely based on immigration issues emanating from the EU. Corbyn needs those votes back and must not shy away from addressing the issue during this campaign. Explaining the EU can be reformed later on to aid their immigration fears, as well as highlighting the EU’s positives, Corbyn has a serious chance at winning them over. As Labour remains united, they appear as a party with a clear vision for Britain’s EU membership, as opposed to the muddled Tory position. The British people, undecided on how to vote, see the Labour party with clear arguments, in favour of the safe option of remaining in.

Should the referendum produce a majority in favour of EU membership, Corbyn and Labour emerge victorious. Cameron does likewise, yet his party remains in disarray. Corbyn must simply enjoy this spell of unity in his party and use it to his advantage. Such opportunities don’t appear to lining up at his door right now.

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