Labour 'complacency' could lead to Brexit, says Caroline Lucas

The UK is at risk of “sleepwalking out of the EU” unless Labour and the wider left do more to campaign in favour of British membership, Green MP Caroline Lucas has warned.

Lucas, a leading member of the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign, said she was concerned about the “relative silence from the Labour leadership” on the EU debate, although the party takes a collective position in favour of remaining in the union.

Stressing that she was not mounting an attack on party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lucas said she was worried that Labour was not making a loud enough case for staying in the EU.

“The views of the Labour leadership matter – and complacency could increase the chances of Britain sleepwalking out of the EU,” she wrote in a Spectator blog. “I’ve no doubt that sitting back and watching civil war in the Tory party is tempting – but to do so in the hope of boosting progressive politics would simply be cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Lucas said the “remain” campaign needed a better, more positive message for young people who were instinctively in favour of the EU, in order to motivate them to vote. She said low turnout in such groups was “a real risk” and the “in” campaign needed to be clear that “nothing is in the bag and the polling shows that”.

“We have got to hear more voices out there who will talk about a vision of the EU that is inspiring and about people coming together,” she said. “For some people on the left, they will look at what’s happened and they will cite [that] as reasons for not getting engaged. But it is so important that we make a distinction between the current incumbents of the Council of Ministers – most governments in the EU are currently rightwing – and the institution of the EU itself, which has done so much to bring about peace and has been at the forefront of promoting workers’ rights and environmental policy.”

Lucas’s arguments echo those of others who have called for a more positive case to be made by the “remain” camp, including the SNP leader and first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

UK prime minister David Cameron has been accused of relying too heavily on warnings that leaving the EU would be bad for the economy and national security – a strategy that Eurosceptics are calling Project Fear.

Lucas made her comments ahead of a speech on Thursday night at the London School of Economics, in which she will stress the EU’s role in delivering peace. “The EU is not an abstract project born of idle philosophising in continental thinktanks,” she said. “The imperative to share sovereignty in Europe, and so ensure economic competition does not again spill over into conflict, was built on the blood and bones of Europeans killed in the disastrous first half of the 20th century.

“The EU is built on the mistakes of Europeans. It is a pragmatic response to our failure to manage the disruptive forces of nationalism and industrialisation.”

Powered by article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for on Thursday 3rd March 2016 19.21 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010