Labour MPs backing Brexit were branded ‘insignificant’ by the shadow Europe minister on her recent visit to Tunbridge Wells.
Pat Glass made the remark during her tour of the town with local party members, which saw her speak to pupils at St Gregory’s Catholic School, view the new Childrensalon warehouse and meet volunteers providing aid to refugees.
The shadow minister insisted her party was ‘united’ on the issue of Europe and dismissed suggestions that Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back Remain by pressure from his cabinet.
“I personally think Jeremy is closer to what most of the public think than many politicians,” she said. “He
is not ideologically committed to the EU in the way someone like (Peter) Mandelson is. He is pragmatic
about it and can see its benefits, he is not a reluctant supporter at all.”
These ‘benefits’ are quite different from those in the Conservative Party who want to remain in, she said, which is why Labour will not be sharing a platform with the government.
“We are looking for structured reform within the EU, which is quite different from the Tories. They are talking about big business but we’re talking about jobs because we want the EU to become a much more social union.
“So we want to see the EU take further action on things like exploitative zero-hour contracts and support for part-time workers, who are mainly women.
“The EU can also help us with things we cannot do well alone, such as tackle tax avoidance from the Googles of this world, fight climate change and protect against terrorism.”
In addition, Labour will focus on the ‘emotional issues’ rather than just economics, with an emphasis on the ‘peace dividend’. “Since I started this job I have realised how large the EU role is in conflict resolution and Britain often leads the union on it – from within,” Ms Glass said. But regarding David Cameron’s warning that Brexit could trigger World War Three, she said: “I wouldn’t have put it like that.”
Despite Corbyn opposing EU membership prior to becoming Labour leader, his views – like many in the party – have ‘evolved’ since the days of Tony Benn and Michael Foot, she insisted.
“Like them, I actively campaigned during the 1975 referendum to leave the European Economic Community [forerunner to the EU].
“At the time it was an issue which divided our household, with my father and I wanting out while my mother and brother campaigned to remain. But it is totally different now, the Labour party has evolved alongside the EU and this is what Jeremy has done.
“Who’s to say either Michael Foot or Tony Benn would still be in favour of leaving today?
“There are just five Labour MPs campaigning for an Out vote, which is so insignificant. No matter what problems we have as a party, on this issue we are united.”