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Making the progressive case for Britain in Europe

  • Date(s)
    2 December 2015
Making the progressive case for Britain in Europe

A Policy Network roundtable series – autumn 2015

A distinctively progressive argument for the UK to stay in the EU is paramount to ensure that voters across the political spectrum are engaged in the campaign. The pro-business and pro-growth arguments for Britain in Europe need to be complemented by convincing narratives on other progressive causes – from climate change to social rights and mobility, foreign policy, international development and trade.

Many think that the arguments are there, and that progressives should now spend time shouting them out: the EU has developed social and environmental norms in the Single Market, in particular social rights; it has set up ambitious climate energy targets; it allows us to travel freely across Europe; it is a force for democracy, and it protects us from the hard edges of globalisation.

These claims, nevertheless, face two risks. First, they may not be underpinned by rigorous analysis and sufficient evidence. Facts and figures need to be marshalled together with a set of solid and vivid illustrations. Second, they may fall on deaf ears. As opinion research has shown, rational and general arguments about the EU cannot do much against entrenched perceptions and local/personal experiences.

As a contribution to strengthening the progressive case for Europe, Policy Network will hold a series of seminars in the autumn. Each seminar will look at the strength of pro-EU arguments in areas which have a high resonance potential among social liberal and left-leaning voters.

Each event will involve one policy or academic expert, one opinion expert and one politician. Speakers from abroad will provide a non-UK perspective in order to stress convergences on possible steps towards a more progressive EU. The seminars will target a large community of opinion-formers, as well as specialised organisations that will play a decisive role during the referendum campaign.


1.  What's left from social Europe? The EU's social record and the way forward – with Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, 8 October, 4.30-6pm

Key questions: what are ‘EU social rights’ and are they tangible for the public? Do they have public support? How credible is the threat of social rights disappearing in case of Brexit? What are the most realistic next steps for social Europe?

Confirmed speakers: Catherine Barnard (University of Cambridge), Luke Hildyard (High Pay Centre), Owen Tudor (TUC)

2.    Fair mobility in Europe: How to make the case for EU free movement? – with Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, 21 October, 8.30-10am

Key questions: what should be the centre-left discourse on EU free movement? Are British people aware of existing restrictions on EU migrants coming to the UK, and of their own mobility rights? Can facts and figures make people change their mind? What are the prospects for progressive solutions at EU level given member states’ disagreements?

Confirmed speakers: Martin Seeleib-Kaiser (University of Oxford), Sunder Katwala (British Future), Rosa Crawford (TUC)

3.    What has Europe ever done for the environment? And could we manage without it? - with Green Alliance, 4 November, 12 am – 2 pm

Key questions: what have been the EU’s most significant successes and setbacks in the field of environment protection and climate change in the past few years? Why would the UK not have achieved in that field without the EU? How does this translate in people’s everyday life (quality)? How can the UK best use the EU to advance more ambitious goals?   

Confirmed speakers: Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party), Mary Creagh MP (Labour Party)

4.    The UK and the EU’s global role – with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, 2 December 8.30-10am

Key questions: the EU is often claimed to be a shield against global risks. The “better together” argument has taken over the idealistic narrative about peaceful coexistence in the pro-EU case. Does this claim stand-up? What are recent concrete examples of EU successes in foreign policy, which the UK would not have achieved alone? How can people be convinced that ‘Brussels’ adds value to intergovernmental cooperation? Are there reasonable prospects of resources and investment pooling in defence?

Confirmed speakers: Mark Leonard (ECFR), Bobby Duffy (Ipsos Mori), Nick Whitney (ECFR), Liz Kendall MP (Labour Party) (tbc), Roger Liddle (Policy Network) (tbc)


Further information

  • Main contact
    Emma Kinloch
  • Telephone
    020 7340 2200

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