Alan Johnson puts the boot into eurosceptics as he launches 'Labour In For Britain' drive
Former cabinet minister Alan Johnson has launched Labour’s pro-European campaign by insisting that “there is no progressive case for leaving the EU”.
The Labour heavyweight also claimed the country's security depends on its continued membership of the EU.
Johnson is chair of the Labour In For Britain drive, which will be will be run separately to the cross-party, pro-EU campaign.
He kicked off his speech in Birmingham with a clear effort to portray the Out campaign as a bunch of backward-looking Little Englanders:
“Which of our causes will it serve, which of our objectives will it meet to turn our backs on Europe? What message will it send about how Britain sees its role in the world? And what does Britain look like outside the EU? Are we hoping to become the 51st State of America? An offshore free-market Hong Kong?
“A nation returned to a sepia-tinted world of the 1950s that never actually existed. From Great Britain to Little England. There is nothing patriotic about condemning our country to isolation.”
He insisted there were big risks associated with leaving the EU and little to be gained:
“There is no progressive case for leaving the EU. It will do nothing to resolve the problems in Greece where they don’t want to leave the Eurozone let alone the EU. It will do nothing to resolve the refugee crisis, although it will incidentally make our borders less secure, and it won’t improve the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership one iota."
In the wake of the Paris attacks, he suggested that leaving the EU would even expose the UK to greater terror risks.
“The first duty of any government is to keep our country safe and I firmly believe that leaving the EU would leave our country less secure.
"From the European Arrest Warrant to cross-border data-sharing on terrorists, the speed of our response is vital and the lesson from Paris is clear: to tackle terrorism we must stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in Europe. The security of Britain is inextricably linked to the deep co-operation that membership of the EU provides.
"We must not cut ourselves off from cross-border efforts to tackle terrorism, keep our country secure and our people protected."
And he sought to reassure left-leaning voters that staying in the EU was best for working people – and consistent with Labour principles.
“When this vote comes, it will be a choice between staying in the European Union or leaving and Labour will defend the rights of working people, by campaigning to keep Britain in Europe.
“And what we are fighting for is consistent with two principles that have driven our movement from Keir Hardie’s Labour Representation Committee onwards. The principles of internationalism and solidarity.”
The Labour In For Britain campaign has also released a campaign film, narrated by Johnson.
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