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Without Social Europe there can be no Social Britain in our lifetime

In his 1988 speech, Jacques Delors changed the parameters of the debate by sharing his notion of a Social Europe — a concept which put the values of collectivism, equality and solidarity, firmly at the heart of the EU. Just over two decades later, Mario Draghi, then President of the European Central Bank, declared Social Europe to be nothing more than a distant memory. Under growing neoliberal pressure for marketisation, the very principles on which Social Europe was built have increasingly come under attack. But does this mean that Delors’s model should be confined to history? Some on the left have argued that a renewed focus on Social Europe could promote equality and social cohesion, reducing the dividing lines that are increasingly present in Europe today. Ahead of the European elections, this paper was commissioned to examine whether a left agenda for Europe could promote a renewed focus on securing a Social Europe and with it a ‘Social Britain’.