Message to the Fabian Society ‘Europe for us all’ conference

Here is Julie's message to the Fabian Society on bringing the EU closer to citizens.




Most of you probably already know of the enormous benefits to the UK from EU membership – the millions of jobs, and billions of pounds of revenue from trade with the EU, our place at the table at international negotiations, or our ability to tackle such pressing global issues as the refugee crisis or climate change.


It is clear that if we would like Britain to remain relevant and prosperous in the 21st century, we must remain in the EU, and we must strive to make the EU stronger, more effective, and bring it closer to its citizens.


The type of reforms we need in the EU are not about protections for City bankers, but about how we can bring about greater social justice and inclusion, with a stronger connection between the EU and its citizens.


This is the question I would like to speak to you about: how do we bring the EU to the kitchen table, as you put it.   


British citizen have been exposed to years of anti-EU stories in the tabloid press, with various myths and outright lies about straightening bananas or vacuum cleaner regulation.


Although we did not ask for this referendum, it is an exciting opportunity to reshape the way we see Europe, and talk about it, re-shape our national discourse from one of disgruntlement, to one of solidarity.


It is up to each of us during this campaign for Europe to make the case for Europe, and why we are better off in it, addressing the common concerns that we all have:


First of all, we need to be reminded that the European Union is a project of peace. It has brought about an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity after hundreds of years of bloody wars. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the European Union managed to bring the Eastern bloc dictatorships into the fold of democratic nations. Europe has created a space where values of human rights, democracy, and social justice are fought for and protected.


The European Union has impacted the lives of every British citizen and worker: from equality legislation and anti-discrimination laws, to health and safety at work, paid holidays, parental leave and environmental.


We must also be diligent in debunking the myth that the EU is un-democratic. Although it appears complicated at first, the EU works in a very similar way to a national government:


The Commission is the executive, proposing and implementing laws, and it is elected by the European Parliament and Council together. The European Parliament represents European citizens through direct elections, like a lower chamber of Parliament, and the Council of Ministers represents Member State governments, like an upper chamber.


The European Union has democratic infrastructure in place. But it needs to come closer to its citizens. It must listen to them, and they must speak.


Let us use this period of campaigning to re-engage our fellow citizens, and tell them the story of Europe as we see it, and let us listen to their concerns and address them.


We must have this conversation now, for the sake of our common future.