Why are Labour MPs letting ‘Open Europe’ set the anti-Europe agenda?
Matthew Barrett has an interesting piece up at Conservative Home introducing the work of Fresh Start, the initiative of three Eurosceptic Tory MPs, including one Chris Heaton-Harris:
The Fresh Start Project is in the process of comprehensively researching the different options for renegotiating and reforming – ie taking back – the areas of competency Britain currently cedes to the EU.
So far, so normal. Studying how best the UK can freeload on Europe as-it-is-now, rather than contribute to ‘research’ into how European institutions might be reformed/renegotiated so it benefits the whole of Europe, is a traditional Tory stance.
But then we get this :
The wider campaign for a new relationship with the EU takes the form of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for European Reform, which is open to all MPs, and which was set up in order to ensure that pro-reform voices from across the parties could be heard…… The pro-reform European think tank Open Europe acts as the APPG’s secretariat (my emphasis).
Regular TCF readers will remember Open Europe, and its relationship to Chris Heaton-Harris:
He [Chris H-H] doesn’t like regulation. Especially EU regulation. Especially things to do with workers’ rights. His main source of evidence is the not-entirely-unbiased Open Europe:
“Based on over 2,300 of the government’s own impact assessments, an Open Europe study (2010) found that regulation has cost the UK economy £176 billion since 1998, a sum roughly equivalent to the UK’s entire budget deficit.”
It looks like Chris H-H may have got as far as the press release on this report. Otherwise he might have seen that this is a study of benefits/costs, not just costs:
“We estimate the benefit/cost ratio of the regulations we studied at 1.58. In other words, for every £1 of cost introduced by a regulation since 1998, it has delivered £1.58 of benefits” (p. 1).
Put simply, Open Europe is a rightwing attack job, happy to send out misleading press releases on the basis of twisted reports. Just look at the website.
Why, then, would a solid leftwing MP like Kelvin Hopkins agree not just to sit on this All Parliamentary Working Group (alongside the odious Frank Field, naturally), but also accede to Open Europe as its ‘secretariat'; surely Labour MPs sitting on this group simply legitimises Open Europe’s pernicious policy influence within Westminster.
There is a whole leftwing rationale out there for the reform of the European Union: rebalancing power between the Council of Ministers and Parliament, challenging neoliberal assumptions built in the EU treaties, ensuring that free trade development takes human rights into account, and so on. In advance of any EU Referendum, it is vital that the left rises to this challenge.
Unless I’m missing something, allowing Open Europe free reign in parliament is the opposite of seeking to achieve this.