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Ed Miliband speech on why Labour voters must vote Remain

Speaking at an event in central London today, Ed Miliband said:

"I am pleased to be opening this conference.

I want to thank the UK in a Changing Europe for the invitation but also for the work you do.

This is a referendum where people have been crying out for ‘facts’ and your impartial role and the service you provide is incredibly important.

I also feel I should thank David Cameron for me having the chance to speak to you for two reasons.

It was his decision to call this referendum, in the event of him winning the election.

And a second reason I’ll let you in to a secret, he was invited to this event but couldn’t make it.

And so you got me instead.

Today I want to make a different case from the one David Cameron would have made: I want to make the Labour case for Remain, rooted in Labour values and indeed my values.

I want to start 76 years ago in May 1940 with a 16 year old boy and his father walking 100 kilometres from Brussels to Ostend to take one of the last boats out of Belgium.

That boy would write in his diary on Christmas Eve 1940, more than 75 years ago

‘A year ago, I was in Brussels, there was peace (in Belgium) without a blackout...[Now] It’s the War, it’s winter and it’s the blackout in England and Belgium and France and Poland and Norway and Denmark and Holland and Germany. Darkness in Europe’.

That boy was my Dad.

His experience and that of my Mum was to come here and find refuge, start a family and make a contribution to Britain.

It is this personal experience which defines my attitude towards this debate.

My family’s story tells you something profound about the values of Britain.

I would not be standing here without the solidarity of our country.

An extraordinary solidarity, openness, outward looking attitude—displayed throughout our history.

We think of the second world war as the country’s finest hour for good reason—because it showed the best of these values even in the face of extreme adversity.

So, as I have thought about this debate in the last few months, I have come back ultimately not to the facts, figures or the fears on both sides, but those principles---and how they relate to our time and our generation.

The principle not simply of compassion for those fleeing for their lives, but something deeper: the internationalist idea that we as a country pursue our values best working with others.

And I am in no doubt that if we understand this principle of international co-operation, working with others to our own benefit as a country, the arguments in this referendum overwhelmingly point to Remain not Leave.

Indeed, my essential case to you for Remain is that principle of co-operation across borders is even more relevant today than it was 75 years ago.

Think of the great causes of our time and I will tell you why they need international co-operation and membership of the EU.

Climate change is the greatest economic, national security and generational threat we face.

I was the climate change secretary in the last Labour government.

Britain is about 1% of global emissions, the EU 10%.

I negotiated for Britain as part of the EU.

Take it from me, our membership of the EU does not make us smaller, weaker and less significant, the opposite is true.

We walk taller, prouder and have more influence inside not outside the European Union.

We negotiate with China and the United States as one of the most significant players.

And in this example we get an insight into why our membership of the EU matters even more today than in past decades.

Because 21st century problems like climate change cross borders and we are so much stronger in tackling them working with others.

It is this strength of co-operation across 28 countries that has enabled the EU to be truly an environmental union on climate change.

And it hasn’t just acted on climate but on every major environmental issue.

It is true on air pollution, so too on the oceans, nature conservation and the cleaning up of our beaches.

And the explanation for why this has been possible is that coordinating environmental standards across the EU stops polluters playing one country off against the other in a race to the bottom.

And it is not just on the environment.

The same strength of international co-operation is true on so many other 21stcentury challenges.

Take inequality.

Of course we need to trade across borders to ensure good jobs and keep prices low.

And if we want to preserve the best trading relationship with the EU and the rest of the world we are clearly better off remaining in the EU.

But the argument about how we tackle inequality goes beyond that.

A big question if we are to prevent rising inequality is how we are going to get companies and indeed individuals to pay their taxes?

One country like Britain can, of course, have an impact.

But the reality is that we are much more effective in the EU.

For example proposed rules across the EU on transparency requirements for multinationals will make it far easier for each and every country in the EU to crack down on profit shifting and tax avoidance. 
28 countries acting: not just one. 

How also are we going to stop monopoly practices by technology companies like Google and Amazon, the mega corporations of our time?

Not in one country alone.

It is much easier to do with common standards and practices across the European Union.

And then take employment protection.

Some people will think the EU’s record on worker protection is somehow an accident of history.

It isn’t.

It is based on an idea that a single market in goods and services must have a social dimension, stopping companies playing one country off against another, eroding rights.

And the evidence is in the record.

Four weeks paid holiday

Laws on sex discrimination

Rights for part time workers

Rights for agency workers

Rules for health and safety

And if anyone doubts my argument that the EU has raised standards on issues like the environment and
worker protection, if they were really making no difference just ask yourself why the Right in Britain has spent so long railing against these standards, condemning them as burdensome.

So cooperation in the EU is a vital tool against the injustices of our time.

And the same principle around the benefits of the EU applies to the wider world in which we live.

Some people say that the high ideals that led to the setting up of the EU  -- learning the lessons of the slaughter of our citizens in two world wars—no longer apply.

In fact, those high ideals of cooperation between countries remain relevant, including as we think about how we deal collectively with external threats.

ISIS, Iran, Russia---how do we deal with these threats and challenges?

Only by acting together not alone.

We only need to look at the example of the nuclear deal on Iran or the role of the European Arrest warrant in bringing suspected criminals and terrorists to justice to see this.

Of course we can all fault the EU for some of its responses to international challenges, most obviously the refugee crisis but that is not an argument for abandoning the crucial principle that we are stronger tackling these challenges together rather than alone.

So my Labour case for remain is one rooted deep in values of solidarity.

And the idea that 21st century problems require co-operation across borders more than ever.

My case is a Labour case too because it is not a case for keeping things as they are in Britain

I see a Britain different from the one David Cameron would have described to you:

Inequality is rife.

Jobs are insecure.

The hopes of the next generation are in question.

The future of our NHS and public services are under strain.

Indeed I believe it is these factors, among others, that mean that this referendum is in question.

Whatever else happens, this referendum should be a wake up call to the government about the real state of the country.

So I am asking people to vote Remain, not because I want to keep things as they are but because I want to change things

And I believe we can do that far better inside not outside the EU.

But just as Britain needs to change, Europe needs to change too.

The EU is too technocratic, too remote and not transparent enough.

But the answer is not to Leave but to change it.

I happen to believe we can change Europe to better tackle the challenges we face as a country.
And the truth is that Britain should be leading in Europe:


Building on what has been done on tax avoidance but going further to tackle the secrecy and tax havens
Improving on its record on workers rights with protections around insecure work and zero hours contracts a problem across Europe.

Tackling unemployment across the Continent to invest in green jobs and creating high quality employment including for the young.

And responding to concerns about free movement by creating a fund to help communities under pressure from migration and by tackling the undercutting of wages, for example through the posted workers directive which governs the terms and conditions of workers sent abroad.

With a progressive government truly committed to leading in Europe, all of this would I believe be possible.

That’s why we need a Labour government in my view.

And the truth is if there is a Remain vote in this referendum the work must begin, straight away, to work with our partners in Europe to make the case for this progressive agenda.

But of course the only way we can implement it is by remaining in and not leaving the European Union.

Having set out my case for Remain, let me say something about the change that the Leave campaign are offering.

It is clear to me that in the last two weeks of this referendum, Labour will need to fight the battle about who really stands for the cause of progress in our country.

Because whether it is the NHS in crisis, schools under pressure, wage inequality or the dwindling chances of the next generation in Britain, Leave during the course of this campaign have tried to appropriate the cause of change and progress.

We’ve seen it over the last couple of weeks.

Some things I never thought I would hear.

Michael Gove says he wants to save the NHS from David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt.
He even says he is the enemy of the elites.

Iain Duncan-Smith, who you will hear from later, says he wants Brexit because of his concern about the gap between the haves and the have-nots

And Boris Johnson said at the weekend he is now deeply concerned about inequality in our country and chief executive pay.

So some people in Leave want us to believe that they have had a road to Damascus conversion.

That they are the hammer of the banks, the scourge of multinationals and the champions of the workers.
That they stand for the decency and compassion of progressive values. 

They have even painted their bus red to prove the point.

I have to wonder: where were these people at the last general election?

But there is a reason they are doing this and it is deadly serious.

Because they need to persuade Labour voters if they are to win this referendum.

And they know their real agenda will have no appeal for these voters.

So they are trying to perpetrate what I can only describe as a fraud on the British people

And they can't be allowed to get away with it.


In the remaining days of this campaign, let’s have the argument about where the progressive case lies.
Because let us be clear what the real Leave agenda is, an agenda they have in fact been pursuing for decades.

And let’s be clear about what that agenda would mean for working people:

They want out of Europe so we can be out of the social chapter, as Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith and many others have said.

That is their competitiveness strategy for Britain: deregulation and the erosion of rights of working people.
And they should be open about it

They want to win for Britain through a race to the bottom in taxes for the richest

As Boris Johnson has said about the super-rich “we should be offering them humble and hearty thanks”

And  “Europe's problem… is attacking London's bankers..”

They should be open about it.

They want a bonfire of regulations on the environment, health and safety and basic rights that people take for granted.

And they should be open about it

And as for the NHS, I can’t do better than John Major.

Never thought I would say that.

As he said at the weekend: “I seem to remember Michael Gove wanting to privatise it. Boris [Johnson] wanting to charge people for using it. And Iain Duncan Smith wanting a social insurance system.”
And as well as all that it is working people who have the most to lose from the recession and other economic consequences that the vast majority of independent experts say would follow from leaving the EU.

It is not the richest, the top 1% who would suffer the most from this economic shock, it is working people who would pay the price in losing their jobs, lower wages and cuts to public services.

And let’s take head-on what Leave say about immigration.

Of course, it is a concern for voters, including many Labour voters

But false solutions are no solution: and that includes leaving the EU with all the economic consequences it would have would have for working people.

Instead we should act here at home to tackle the exploitation and undercutting of wages, which we can do.

And we should tell the truth: which is that the problems of the NHS, housing, schools and the next generation are much less about people coming here and much more about a Conservative government.

And to cap it all, Leaving is a recipe for Britain being a spectator when it comes to major decisions about our future: from financial regulation in Europe to climate change to foreign policy.

There is nothing progressive about that.

So this is not an agenda for working people, it is a bleak future for working people.

I want to be clear with the nine million people who voted Labour at the last election.

They need to know where we stand and understand the two sides of this argument.

On the one side, every living Labour leader, the leader of the major trade unions and 95% of Labour MPs.

On the other, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage.


Labour believes you should vote Remain because it is the right choice for jobs, social justice and Labour values

And Leaving would set back the cause of social justice and progress for decades to come.

I say to Labour voters don’t be taken in by the fraud of the leave campaign. Tories who in the last days of this contest are trying to disguise themselves in Labour clothes.

I also say to Labour voters: you are angry about the direction of the country under David Cameron.

So am I.

But this is no by-election, or chance for mid-term protest.

This is a decision for a generation.

To those who want to see David Cameron lose his job, so do I.

But not through Brexit, at the price of the jobs of hundreds of thousands of working people.

We need to stay in the EU not for David Cameron, but for you and your family.

For the opportunities for young people

To protect workers’ rights.

And to avoid the dire consequences for working people that would follow from Brexit.

And I want to end where I started.

With the big choice facing the country.

This is a bigger choice than a general election.

The biggest choice of my political lifetime.

All round the world people are deeply concerned about the direction of politics and the way countries are being run.

They feel their countries don’t work for them.

But in the end we all face a fundamental choice—here over the question of Europe.

Do we believe we solve these problems through openness, working with others and reaching out? Or do we solve them through retreat into isolation, abandoning our traditions of solidarity and cooperation.

I know the right course for Britain is now –as it has always been—to build bridges with others not build walls.

That is the best of our past

And it is the best way we secure our future

To join hands with others not go off on our own.

Let’s not play our part in inflicting darkness on Europe.

Let’s unite with our European allies to solve the problems we all face together

Solidarity is a British value, a Labour value.

Our history, our values, our traditions as a country say we should Remain.

And I urge everyone to vote Remain on June 23rd."