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Labour conference: Douglas Alexander describes ‘total unanimity’ for continued EU membership

1 October 2012

8:23 AM

1 October 2012

8:23 AM

Rumours are swirling at this Labour conference that the party leadership is considering offering a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the European Union. If the party did do as Jon Cruddas hinted it should over the weekend in the Telegraph, we at least know how Douglas Alexander would campaign. The shadow foreign secretary told an Open Europe fringe last night that staying in would be in Britain’s interest:

‘We are struggling to sense any growth as it is, and shrinking our market from 500 million to 60 million would not to help. We should be working in the nation’s interest to return to growth.’

Alexander also made clear his regret over the way British politicians have handled Europe. He said:

‘I think it’s a genuine pity that our country has so frequently dealt itself out of the game in the last few years, when we could have been a genuine force for good.’


One man he believes is such a force is François Hollande, who Alexander praised, saying he demonstrated that there is now a consensus building across Europe against the present dogma of austerity and reform:

‘There is a warning for the centre left – the divide is not about growth vs. austerity….austerity is lengthening the tunnel, rather than bringing the light nearer. It is seen as a shortcut to growth and sustainable public services’

But on the referendum question, well the audience were left wondering. Alexander later attempted to address the issue (without actually giving anything away at all) on the BBC’s Westminster Hour later, saying:

‘Jon is entitled to his position, but that’s a fundamentally different position from the Labour Party position where as far as I can tell there is almost total unanimity for Britain’s continued membership in the European Union from a position in the Conservative Party where you’ve not got a few individuals but you’ve got dozens and dozens of backbenchers who were elected at the last election who sincerely believe Britain’s best future lies outside of the European Union.’

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Show comments
  • uglyfatbloke

    Douglas Alexander – the other Wendy. He’s batting for the European Union, batting for the Anglo-Scottish Union, batting for Miliband despite the fat that e has known Ed for more than 20 years….how wrong can one person be?

  • Owen_Morgan

    Whatever happened to Alexander the Grate?

  • Andrew Smith

    The thought that leaving the EU would prevent British firms from trading there is such a silly one that we must presume Douglas Alexander was aware of it when he stated that leaving the EU would “shrink… our market from 500 million to 60 million”.

    But just in case he or any reader is confused about this matter, Britain trades easily with all the rest of the 198 members of the UN (slightly fewer are in the WTO) despite not being a member state of Australia, USA, Brazil, China, or any of the other sizeable trading markets. And they are not members of each other.

    There is no need and there never has been any need to be in the EU to trade with businesses in its member states. This needs to be repeated confidently and often because the political class are starting to build up to an inevitable referendum on another EY treaty. They are so committed to the EU that any denial of it now would leave an intolerable amount of egg on their collective face, but leave we must.

  • Rollor

    The only chance that Cameron has of being re-elected is being gifted to him by this Labour line of ‘total unamity for EU Membership’. What a foolish idea.

  • Rollor

    What world does Alexander live in? The world market is 5 billion people and growing. The eurozone is a tenth of it, and shrinking. We have a MONTHLY TRADE DEFICIT with the Eurozone of 4 BILLION POUNDS PER MONTH!! 50 BILLION POUNDS PER YEAR ! We break even with the rest of the world and will do much better out of the EU altogether.

  • TomTom

    Thanks for telling us there is a Labour Conference, I simply had not noticed. What do they do ? Are they selling anything besides the country ? Have they run a background check on what offices Keith Vaz held at the Home Office ? Little Douglas Alexander another Solicitor projecting Scottish certitude – can he explain why whenever the Scots have run England it has been an unmitigated disaster ?

  • Martin Alexander

    wee Dougie..Another son of the manse.And we all know who the other one was.

  • Gawain Towler

    45% of Labour supporters want an EU Referendum now, and 35% want one soon, only 20% don’t want one, according to this June poll by Populus

    Does Danny even know his own people, let alone the rest of us?

  • dorothy wilson

    “the Labour Party position where as far as I can tell there is almost
    total unanimity for Britain’s continued membership in the European Union”

    No matter what happens within the EU and specifically with the agenda towards ever closer union?

    • James102


  • Daniel Maris

    Don’t expect any political stories of real import over the next few days…

  • alexsandr

    labour have their hands in the EU trough as much and the current so called tory leadership. The whole westminster edifice is so out of touch.

    • Amergin Selby

      In what way exactly?

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    “Shrinking our market from 300million to 60million….”
    How thick can you get. I guess that’s why he’s a Labour Shadow Minister.
    Leaving the EU doesn’t shrink our market, it allows it to expand to the 95% of the world that isn’t in the EU. We will regain the ability to enter into trade agreements with whichever countries we choose – as well as the EU.
    The EU is a sclerotic, bankrupt and increasingly dictatorial Oligarchy. It’s share of world trade has plummeted since we joined the EEC in 1972. It’s Asia and the emerging economies where growth is found – and that is who we must trade with.
    Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty REQUIRES the EU and any seceding nation to agree a Trade Treaty within 2 years. We won’t lose trade. But we will lose the interference; the squandering of our money and our Sovereignty will be returned.

    • David Lindsay

      “increasingly dictatorial Oligarchy”

      There is nothing “increasingly” about. It always was. As Tony Benn pointed out 40 years ago, while Peter Shore was making that one and the one about trade. But you listened to Margaret Thatcher instead.

      I expect that you are old enough to have voted in 1983, when one of the two major parties was in favour of withdrawal, while the other was against it. Which way did you vote?

      • Andy

        So you voted Labour in 1983 ? What a surprise.

      • alexsandr

        general elections are a crap way of decifing something like the EU. Something as far reaching needs to be tested in a referendum on a regular basis (15 yrs)
        Remember GE’s cover a basket of policies so you cant really expect me to vote for a party that I disagree with except for the EU.
        The only time I think I voted on the EU was the 1975 referendum. And I was leid to then (I was a little facile then only being 19)

        • TomTom

          So true. The 1997 General Election never mentioned Tuition Fees and the 2010 Election mentioned only that they might be abolished not Trebled

    • Daniel Maris

      Moreover, you can leave the EU and stay in the EEA if you want – whihc means you don’t lose any access to the EU markets.

    • Nicholas

      Quite. I wish someone had asked this idiot about the markets of all the other countries that trade successfully globally but are not in the EU. Besides, it is not just about markets. You don’t need to create a socialist federal super state in order to trade successfully but that is the deception these muppets are promoting.

      Still waiting for the cost benefit analysis of membership in real rather than propaganda terms.

      • Andy

        You’re wasting your time. The little idiot has never had a job, so what does he know about anything ? Answer: bugger all.

      • James102

        This is the narrative that has been agreed by our political class, it is nonsense but nonsense, as we know from history, if constantly repeated by the establishment becomes fact.
        What is needed is the repetition that we run a deficit with the rest of the EU so, if we are to debate this at the level they want ,it would be in our interests to stop trading with the EU.

        This is about political culture and when we have come to the situation where someone is given a suspended sentence for using ‘Darkie’ on his blog then we need to regain control. How the media can go on about Russian repression and Pussy Riot when our own courts are giving these sentences out shows how bad it has become.

      • Augustus

        Agree entirely. China and India are booming, Japan and the US are on the road to recovery, but continental West European countries’ economies remain stagnant. If continental Western Europe does not change its policies, its relative impoverishment today will soon turn into absolute pauperization. Its tax structure is not adapted to the challenges of globalization. They double Europe’s production costs and, in doing so, halve its productivity. Like protectionism they lead to distortions in world trade, but they do so in the opposite direction. Ever more rapidly, continental Western Europe is losing its semi labour-intensive sectors to countries where productivity is even lower than in Western Europe. In the end, of course, all this negative growth can only lead to one thing: More people who need government support. In the long run, there will be equality, but it will more resemble equal poverty rather that equal wealth.

        • James102

          Demographics mean Europe will inevitably decline anyway.
          We have adopted a social model with a built-in destruct.

  • David Lindsay

    Define “EU membership”.

    Define it in a year’s time.

    Define it by the spring of 2015.

    This was a very clever choice of phrase.

    • Amergin Selby

      It could be politically astute maybe, to commit to a referendum before the Tories are forced to do so. It would embarrass Cameron to campaign alongside Milliband for a stay in vote.Then fight like hell to get the stay in vote. It could be argued with the electorate that you are giving real democracy an opportunity to use its voice. You would be a little surprised at the result i think. I like Daniel Maris’ suggestion of a partial membership via EFTA but it does move us away from the top table and destroy our vetoing rights I imagine.
      Watch the Mail and Express get going on straight bananas and Stilton cheese and of course Cornish Pasties not to mention the good old English pork sausage..

      • James102

        The Top Table has seating for only two: Germany and France.