EU referendum mirrors SNP ‘narrow nationalism’

Douglas Alexander during day two of the Labour party Conference. Picture: Getty

Douglas Alexander during day two of the Labour party Conference. Picture: Getty

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SHADOW foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has said that UK withdrawal from the European Union is the biggest “threat to British national prosperity in a generation” and compared Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan for an in-out referendum on membership of the bloc to the “narrow nationalism” of the SNP.

The MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South issued the stark warning in a speech to the Labour Party’s annual conference in Manchester yesterday.

Mr Alexander – who is also the head of Labour’s general election campaign team – suggested that Mr Cameron’s plan to hold a vote on retaining EU membership if the Conservatives win next year’s election represented a similar threat to the SNP’s plan for Scottish independence.

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He said: “The referendum campaign in Scotland was about more than party politics. It was about who we are, what we believe and what we hope for as a nation.

“We can uphold the idea of solidarity. We can work together across borders. We can defeat isolationist ideas and yes, we can defeat narrow nationalism.

“Britain leaving Europe would present the biggest threat to British national prosperity in a generation.

“We understand that sleepwalking towards exit is not just bad politics, its disastrous economics.”

Mr Alexander went on to hail Labour’s role in the referendum campaign and claimed the party’s values of “solidarity” had helped to defeat the SNP, which he accused of promoting a “isolationist” and narrow vision.

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He said: “The referendum campaign in Scotland was about more than party politics. It was about who we are, what we believe and what we hope for as a nation.

“And when, as Scots, we sent out the call to our friends and comrades in the Labour Party you answered that call.

“By coming to campaign alongside us, you demonstrated solidarity in action.”

He added: “What I saw in Scotland this summer in town halls and village halls, in school halls and church halls, from the Highlands and the Hebrides, to the Borders and to our great cities, taught me that we can win back that confidence.

“We can uphold the idea of solidarity. We can work together across borders.

“We can defeat isolationist ideas and yes, we can defeat narrow nationalism.”

However, Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone defended Mr Cameron’s plan for a vote on a possible British exit from Europe as he called for reform of the EU.

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Mr Johnstone said: “Europe has become obsessed with political union and convergence and David Cameron is trying to take Europe in a different direction.

“We need to renegotiate our terms of EU membership and put it to the people.”

Mr Alexander’s claims came as shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy said the World Cup in Qatar “should not be built on the backs of workers misery and blood” in a speech to the Labour Party conference.

The East Renfrewshire MP, who played a leading role in Better Together, also said that the party had to work to “guarantee that we don’t have a divided Scotland” and to fight for social justice across the globe.

Mr Murphy went on to call for action from the global football authorities to prevent the exploitation of workers who are building stadiums in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

He said: “Because I’m an optimist and despite Scotland’s recent World Cup record I love football.

“So as well as demanding Fifa and the Qatari government take action, we’ll extend the work in freedom programme to help ­migrant workers at risk of exploitation on the construction sites of Qatar.

“This was the ugly secret of the beautiful game and we should be clear the World Cup should not be built on the back of workers’ misery and blood.”

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