Read Tristram Hunt’s piece from Prospect’s February issue: Should we reimagine our colonial legacy?
Tristram Hunt has little sympathy with Labour MPs who want us to leave the European Union: “many of them have a Bennite vision” that the EU is “run by big banks and companies.”
They have “a tired belief in the nature of Europe” that “fails to appreciate the ways in which it has been a force for social democracy.”
The Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent and former Shadow Education Secretary’s words are highly significant. The Conservative Party’s split over Britain’s membership of the EU—to be voted upon in a referendum on 23rd June—is widely acknowledged. But the Labour Party’s split over Europe has been given less attention. Hunt’s comments shed new light on this divide.
Directly addressing Gisela Stuart, Labour MP and Co-Chair of Vote Leave, who has recently written for Prospect that Labour’s commitment to the EU puts it on the “side of the FTSE 100,” he said: “I disagree with Gisela if she thinks it’s just a reactionary bosses cabal that isn’t a positive force on the world stage.”
“Even with centre-right parties in Europe… I regard Europe as a force for social justice and good.” MPs such as Gisela “like big government normally—but not in this case.”
Hunt does not reserve the criticism for his own side. He argues the “Tory-Ukip dream” of what Britain would be like outside the EU bears little connection to reality. “They think it would be ‘England unchained’ and we would be unleashed again. In fact we’d be blowing our foot off.”
A post-Brexit Britain would, Hunt said, be “an offshore-city state, built around the London economy.” We would be “the Hong Kong to Europe’s China…It’s just not how you build a successful and prosperous economy in the 21st century.”
In April, Barack Obama visited the UK to warn of the dangers of Brexit. Of this visit Hunt said: “It absolutely knocked [Brexit] out of the park. Obama—and every grownup in Washington, apart from Ted Cruz—is saying “you’d be at the back of the queue in trade deals, it’s not what we want. We want Britain in Europe. We think you’re stronger there.”
“We weren’t ensnared by this seductive political option…