We all know there will be a number of crucial decisions taken in 2017. And we have to re-think how the European project continues in-line with the upcoming negotiations.
Let us remind ourselves that we are celebrating 60 years of the Treaty of Rome this year. This marks the moment of Europe coming together, prospering together and setting out our lives based on common values. Modernity would encourage us to take this further still and include knowledge as one of the freedoms in addition to the existing fundamental principles is the free movement of goods, services, capital and people.
In this context it is inconceivable that Europe’s leaders would allow Britain to stay in the single market without accepting the free movement of people, one of the core principles established 60 years ago.
Britain has always been at the forefront of an open, international and fair society and you within the UK Labour party can be proud that historically you have been important pioneers in promoting these values. It remains for progressives today to ensure our international system is fair and equal for all.
The last 60 years of the EU project is our joint work, it’s unique and it has brought enormous economic and social progress to millions of people across our continent. In the 1980s it brought democracy to southern Europe, uniting south and north. Ten years later, following the fall of the Berlin Wall in ‘89 the enlargement process has had many positive effects of bringing East and Western Europe together again. Yet most importantly it has brought peace and security to our continent.
However we have all felt the consequences of ruthless financial capitalism which has brought us to this current situation; worsening social standards, growing inequalities and rising insecurity about the future. This is why we need to defend our vision for a better society, with better living and working conditions for all citizens.
Yet the struggle should not be about returning back to nationalism and protectionism. This didn’t help in the past and it does not resolve today’s issues either. Rather we should be fighting, together, for more equality, more solidarity and doing our utmost to regulate the excesses of the international financial and economic system.
Thinking of tax havens as one example, we need to stop practices of tax avoidance and instead make sure that everyone contributes to the best of their abilities in forging common social progress.
But there are ugly forces that are deeply threatening the successes of the European project and want to destroy developing social standards – in the US of course, but more closer to home, in France, the Netherlands, Poland and Hungary to name a few.
Unfortunately to add to these dramatic political times, there are atrocious terrorist attacks happening all over the world.
This all contributes to people’s growing fears, which in turn affects their trust in politics.
Additionally in my own country, Germany the outcome of the federal elections in September will have a big impact on the UK not least because it will determine whom it will be negotiating with.
So in 2017 there are so many reasons why we need to come together and be united in standing up to these fundamental, common challenges.
Ernst Stetter will be speaking at the Fabian Society New Year conference on 14 January 2017 at Friend’s House, Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ. Tickets