This article by Steve Barnard was first published in South Yorkshire Politics.
The Green Party was quick to respond positively to David Cameron’s largely negative speech on Europe last month. National Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, summarised the view as the ‘Three Yeses’:
Yes to a referendum but why wait as it should be called today;
Yes to a reformed EU; and
Yes to Britain remaining within the Union so we can lead and influence on the reformation.
There are a number of reasons why the Green Party has taken this position.
The referendum should happen sooner rather than later because there is a democratic deficit. Europe is such a big issue that voters need to be given the opportunity to vote on it. This is a crucial debate and the electorate needs to hear the discussions and either renew our vows of European marriage or look for a divorce settlement that does not do too much damage to either party. The arguments should be around whether a new Europe can be forged which offers positive benefits to all citizens and not a slanging match between pro-Europeans versus anti-Europeans.
The Green Party is an internationalist party. We value developing solidarity between peoples, and building peace through co-operation. We also have a pragmatic view that our geography means we are part of Europe. We believe in the possibilities of Europe, but not in a European superstate or the current set up.
The potential influence of a reformed European Union cannot be ignored by Greens. Many of our ideas and policies would be more successful if implemented trans-nationally. Issues like safeguarding human rights, reducing carbon emissions, banning GM food, reducing pesticide use in farming and animal rights legislation are more effective at this level. The EU should continue the important work of sharing culture and understanding between peoples. There are opportunities through the EU to re-regulate the financial and banking systems so we can avoid a repeat of the 2008 credit crunch and subsequent world financial crisis. Tackling tax avoidance by multi-national companies also requires the sort of international cooperation the European Community should provide.
For the EU to do this work effectively, fundamental reforms are needed. The Green vision for Europe seeks to change the way the Union works. The EU currently represents unsustainable economics of free trade and growth. It should be about building common interests between peoples; seeking new ways to tackle poverty, social injustice and environmental issues like climate change; and developing peace and security across the globe.
The Green party wants to transform this tired union and reinvigorate it for the challenges for the 21st century. It needs radical reform to the treaties and articles that govern it and changes to the institutions that manage the process. This is something that can only be done from within so we support reforming it and staying within it.
European Union membership can be attractive to the British public but we need to be building a new Europe that can face the issues of the 21st century without the burden of outdated 20th century bureaucracy and outmoded institutions. As Caroline Lucas MP said, the Green party has a “compelling vision of the EU’s role and purpose, which aims to inspire people about an EU which can genuinely spread peace and sustainability, and promote democracy and human rights.”