Gordon Brown steps in to launch 'Labour fight-back' in EU campaign
Gordon Brown will make the case later for Britain “leading, not leaving” the European Union, as Labour voices take centre stage in the Remain campaign.
Mr Brown’s speech has been endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Tom Watson and Alan Johnson, while Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn is making his own intervention on the “patriotic” case for cross-border cooperation.
Vote Leave has dismissed today’s focus on Labour voters as a “hastily cobbled-together relaunch”.
Mr Brown’s return to the fore is described by Britain Stronger In Europe as part of the “Labour fight-back”, amid concerns that the party’s supporters will not vote in sufficient numbers for Remain.
The former prime minister will lay out a series of ideas for how the UK can use its presidency of the EU next year in a bid to convince Labour voters they have the “most to gain” from staying in the EU.
“From now until 10pm on 23 June, we will not rest and I will not stop explaining why nine million Labour voters have most to gain from remaining in the EU,” he will say.
“Today I am setting out a positive agenda for Labour voters - reasons why Labour voters should vote Remain and the patriotic case for remaining in Europe.
“Voting to Remain is about a positive, stronger future and is the alternative to a Tory Brexit. It is stronger for jobs, for rights at work and maintaining a British voice on the world stage.
“But we shouldn’t just be a member of the European Union. We must be the leader of the European Union.
“Europe has been responsible for the social chapter which has guaranteed maternity pay, holiday pay, a maximum working week, rights of consultation for workers and rights to be transferred when the company you work for is taken over.”
His reform agenda includes:
a push to extend the single market in the digital, energy, and services sectors – action which Mr Brown argues could be worth 500,000 jobs to the UK over the next ten years;
Championing energy and environmental reforms to reduce fuel bills and meet green targets;
A further continent-wide crackdown on tax avoidance; new protections for workers’ rights;
An extension to cross-border security cooperation;
And a fund to help regions deal with the impact of high immigration.
Mr Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, said the plan meant party supporters “can vote with confidence for what a reformed EU can and will do for working people”, while Mr McDonnell said it was “part of the positive Labour case” for staying in the EU.
In a separate speech, Mr Benn will declare the referendum is reaching its “defining moment”.
“The Brexit train is threatening to pull away from the station with Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove in charge, taking us down a track that can only lead to disaster,” he will say.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary will take on some of the arguments put forward by the Leave campaign and accuse them of failing to acknowledge Britain’s leadership role in international institutions.
“It is the Leave campaign who are doing down our country, even though we lead in the UN, Nato, and the Commonwealth as well as in the EU,” he will say.
“They seem to think that we are not capable of continuing to exert our influence in Europe.”
Mr Benn will argue that the UK has exchanged the hard power of its imperial age for soft power in the EU and other global institutions. And he will accuse the Leave campaign of “mourning for the bygone age in which Britain gained influence through military strength and Empire”.
But Labour MP Gisela Stuart, who is part of Vote Leave, said: “We had an opportunity to get positive changes out of the EU but David Cameron blew it with his failed renegotiation.
“Labour voters have seen through the spin of the Government which is why they are rejecting the IN campaign and no amount of hastily cobbled together relaunches will change that.
“As my own experience with the EU constitution taught me, Brussels only heads in one direction seizing more power and money from member states at every opportunity.
“If we want to take back control of our borders, economy and democracy, if we want to stop handing Brussels £350m a week and if want to create a fairer Britain, we have to Vote Leave on 23 June.”