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Photo: Wikimedia

At the Green Party’s Autumn Conference this past weekend, I stood up and spoke, for the first time, to a mass of assembled party members.

12077417_10153295722692901_1930204019_nI was proposing an emergency motion on the Green Party’s role in the forthcoming EU referendum debate – a motion to instruct the party to use our distinctive voice on the issue to campaign for the UK to remain in Europe.

I firmly believe that Britain is better off inside the EU than outside it, and that the Green Party has a vital role in the forthcoming campaign

In recent months, it hasn’t only been UKIP and others on the right pushing for a Brexit, but some on the left too: we’ve witnessed the appalling treatment of Greece by the Eurozone and the attempts to rush through the dangerous and anti-democratic Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and understandably many are growing concerned that the EU isn’t the kind of institution we want to be part of.

However, the EU itself is not the problem.

It’s governments like our own, represented in the European Council and Commission, pushing Europe in its current pro-austerity and pro-free market direction. Our own government is strongly in favour of TTIP, and has signed similarly damaging trade deals outside of the EU; our government, too, has been fighting for the UK to be exempt from vital workers’ rights legislation.

Meanwhile, left-wing movements are growing across Europe, from Syriza and Podemos to Green Parties across the continent – challenging the prevailing centre-right policies of the current EU establishment. Our place is in that movement, not outside it.

I believe that the Green Party has something unique to bring to the forthcoming debate.

Unlike other pro-EU parties, we won’t focus on the advantages for big businesses, or the benefits for trade, of remaining in the EU. Instead we’ll be talking about the importance of shared solutions to climate change, the refugee crisis, and other cross-border challenges we face.

And we’ll be talking, too, about the kind of Europe we’d like to see: more powers for the democratically elected Parliament (and less for the unelected council and commission); a greater commitment to decentralisation and local decision making; and stronger action against the dominance of powerful corporations.

But it’s vital that it’s not just people at the top of the Green Party making this case.

While it’s Green MEPs who fight for a better EU in Brussels, it’s activists like me who will be getting that message out to members of the public every day in the upcoming campaign. For that to happen, it’s absolutely fundamental that the membership of the party is 100% behind the campaign.

And it seems that that is the case: my emergency motion passed with only a few votes against. This marks the beginning of what I’m sure will be a fantastic, energetic campaign – and I can’t wait to get started on fighting for the Europe of solidarity, democracy and integrity which I – and so many others – desperately want to be a part of.