The opposition Labour Party launched their campaign manifesto in Manchester on Monday (13 April), pledging to stand up for Britain’s interests in the world, and in Europe.
Labour said they want to “re-engage” after five years of “being sidelined in Europe.”
The party said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine “demonstrated the importance” of international cooperation and that EU membership was vital to the UK’s “prosperity and security.” They called the economic case for membership “overwhelming”, adding that all sectors of the economy benefited from competition and opportunities brought about by the single market.
The manifesto also laid out the areas where Labour would seek reform within the EU.
Labour says there is a need for greater budget responsibility at the EU level, with the Common Agricultural Policy specifically mentioned as in need of reform.
The party also said it would look to reform immigration rules abd social security, and push for stronger transitional controls to “manage the flow of workers for longer when new countries join”.
Labour confirmed that it backs the so-called “red-card mechanism” that would allow member states to club together to block EU legislation.
The party also reaffirmed its commitment not to hold an in/out referendum on EU membership, except in the case of additional transfer of powers from London to Brussels.
Labour said its manifesto represents plan to help hard working people.
Staying in the EU is the best option for the UK. Today's manifesto reiterates that we will work to reform the EU to benefit all UK citizens.
— Glenis Willmott MEP (@GlenisWillmott) April 13, 2015
The Conservatives, who will publish their manifesto tomorrow, called Labour’s plans “dangerous”.
— CCHQ Press Office (@CCHQPress) April 13, 2015
The Tories and the Liberal Democrats attacked Labour’s spending plans. The Lib Dems said Labour were not being honest about the amount they would have to borrow. The Conservative’s George Osborne said Ed Miliband “failed to provide a credible economic plan.”
According to Open Europe’s Pawel Swidlicki, the announcement highlights the similarities between the parties approach to Europe.
“Once we get past the rhetoric, there is a substantial degree of cross-party consensus on the substance of EU reform,” said Swidlicki. “Nonetheless, the single biggest difference is in terms of strategy; the Tories favour a tough and direct renegotiation backed up by a referendum while Labour favour a more piecemeal approach.”
“While David Cameron’s pledge to hold an in/out referendum ‘by the end of 2017? has its own risks, it does have the advantage of forcing reform onto the EU agenda. Even with an approach more attuned to other member states’ sensitivities, Labour might struggle to deliver concrete results if it finds itself in office next month,” said Swidlicki.
The Labour Party have long been the more pragmatically European of the two major parties. In the current climate of Eurosceptism, it has tried to be clear about the need to seek reform, and the type of reform it would prefer to see.
The Conservatives, who will publish their manifesto on Wednesday (15 April), have already promised and in/out referendum by the end of 2017.
7 May: UK general election