John McDonnell issues rallying cry for a democratic Europe
John McDonnell has thrown his weight behind a left-wing remain campaign, saying a democratic Europe is "urgently and vitally" needed.
In a mix of left-wing political perspectives, Labour's Shadow Chancellor joined former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour MP Clive Lewis and journalist Owen Jones, among others, to make their case for remaining in, but overhauling the current European Union.
They were speaking at a rally called Vote In - Another Europe is Possible, at London's Institute of Education on Saturday.
Mr McDonnell told the gathering that there is a movement across Europe to respond to the challenge of democratically transforming the EU, and also attacked the Tories for dragging the referendum debate "into the gutter".
He said: "We have the opportunity to regroup the referendum debate away from Tory Brexit and into a debate on a democratic Europe.
"A Europe that is not just possible but is urgently and vitally needed - where we can say yes, we are proud of being British, but we are also proud of the European future we have created."
He also lambasted the Tories and said the EU referendum debate on the right is "disfiguring political discourse" and causing people to become "tired of the ranting hysteria".
"(Boris) Johnson's comparisons of the EU to the Third Reich and (David) Cameron's claims of impending World War Three, they just beggar belief," he said.
"We cannot let the right drag this debate into the intellectual gutter."
He said it is the job of those on the left, and the progressives, to now "step in and save the debate".
The Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington also said the problems faced by the UK are transnational problems with transnational solutions.
"How can we turn a blind eye to the City of London effectively acting like a funnel to offshore tax havens for the taxes of transnational corporations and super rich?" he said.
"Public funding is not just needed in this country but right the way across Europe," he added.
"We know that if we clamp down here, the tax evaders will avoid us and will move elsewhere.
"That's why European agreements are necessary and which form the basis for global agreements to track down and confront tax evasion and avoidance.
"That's why we need to stay in."
Addressing the humanitarian crisis, he said the UK's conscience "does not end at the Channel".
"If the European Union was established for anything, to be frank, it was to ensure that we could come together effectively to rise to those humanitarian challenges on our shores," he said.
"We should do nothing that puts at risk the institutions that enable us to take this co-ordinated response to the refugee crisis - that's another reason for staying in."
Mr Varoufakis said that as people who come from different political backgrounds and parties they are standing united, "working and campaigning together" to achieve the change they crave across the continent.
"It is impossible for the European Union to become democratised without democratic Britain participating in the process," said Mr Varoufakis.
"Voting to leave the European Union will only benefit a national oligarchy and class which is particularly keen on ruling over the British people completely and utterly undemocratically."
Organised by openDemocracy, the event brought together hundreds of left-wing supporters in a bid to form an action plan ahead of the June 23 vote.
Brighton Pavilion MP Ms Lucas told the crowd another Europe is possible, and that those on the left have been "too quiet" for too long over their support for the union.
"Europe needs to be more democratic, accountable and transparent - but so does Westminster," she added.
"We need to be in it to change it."
Ms Lucas said that issues such as climate change affect all EU countries, and "do not wait at borders for their passports to be checked".
She added: "This is not just about how much we put in and take out, it goes to the heart of the kind of country we want to be.
"To what kind of people we are and the future we want."