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#LEXIT: The EU is no socialist entity, Corbyn knows this all too well

April 22, 2016

 

Jeremy Corbyn is a hostage on the issue of the EU. His current 'warts and all but let's stay in please' posture is  because he's been forced into such a stance by the corrosive spine of Labour MPs who opposed his election as leader, remain deeply hostile to him and have made the EU the issue on which they would revolt if he didn't bow to them. Nonetheless it's a shame he is making a speech the content of which he doesn't believe and which represents a horrendous about turn on everything he's said and done on the EU since 1975.

 

Britain could survive perfectly well outside the EU. Other countries, such as Switzerland, cooperate with Europe and are on good terms with their neighbours without being EU members. I argue that would be a much happier place for Britain than our current reluctant membership.

 

It's clear that the logic of the Euro is going to drive ever closer integration within the EU and I don't want Britain to be drawn into that. The EU is a fundamentally undemocratic and remote organisation.

The bottom line for me is that I want Britain to retain its national sovereignty and independence. I strongly believe that in the UK the British people are sovereign and that the people who know best how to govern Britain are the British.

 

Yet the EU treaties explicitly give primacy to EU law over Acts of Parliament. That's something I can simply never accept as a price worth paying. It's a pact with the devil in the vague hope of getting our thirty pieces of silver.

 

The EU has made it quite clear that it is not interested in reform. And since once Britain left several other countries would likely follow, and make it possible to return to a simple trading block (the EEC was a fine idea; the "ever closer union" of the EU was not), the economic woes in my view are overblown.


There seem to be two main approaches to reform of the EU:


1. Make it MORE neoliberal and corporate/international bank friendly by stripping away regulation on bad environmental practices, basic human rights, protection of working people, etc., etc. Austerity economics is the current weapon of choice of authoritarians in 'conservative' Europe. That includes Britain.


2. Make it less, if not at all, neoliberal. Work to tame the corporations and banks. 


Much depends on the wording and the terms of the upcoming referendum, but I will vote NO to the first option, for sure, however it is framed. And if you object, ask yourselves why immigration is an issue - not because of the attractions of a former social democracy, but because of the thirst of organisations in this country for cheap labour. 'Driving down costs in the global race (to the bottom)'.


So many of the issues facing us from global warming to corporate tax avoidance can only be tackled internationally. The EU seemed for many years the ideal institution to address these issues. But the treatment of Greece and the fact that the EU is not interested in solving this problem but rather terrorising the population via economic means has convinced me of the need to vote against EU membership. What is required is not a retreat from internationalism but a refusal to participate in a 'community' that would so shamelessley harass and stigmatise one of it's own members rather than work towards a constructive sustainable solution.

 

This is an issue of democracy not of politics or financial responsibility. At present, a vote for the EU is vote for surrendering your democratic rights to a group of unelected financiers hell bent on securing a fiscal discipline that will ruin many countries but ensure German exports remain competitive.


I also don't think the left should be afraid of campaigning clearly on the grounds of supporting Parliamentary sovereignty.If you want social justice the reality is it's almost impossible to achieve if you remain in an institution that is enforcing privatisation.

And if Labour really wants to reawaken, to re-engage with the public, then this is one issue on which they could do it and really put some fire back into the politics of the left.


Eurosceptism was never down to xenophobia - in fact, you don't even have to have a concern about open-borders migration, as that only became an issue in 2004. It's first and foremost about a concern of powers centralised in Brussels, which would be better held in national parliaments (which though not perfect, at at least somewhat democratically accountable).

 

Likewise, opposition to Britain joining the euro was not down to xenophobia, nor "Little Englanders".

So don't worry, being eurosceptic does not make you a xenophobe - glad to see you're waking up and smelling the coffee.


Far from preventing wars, the EU has done nothing to prevent numerous on the part of, at some point, most of its member-states. Not least this member-state, which has been at war for almost the whole of the present century. Whether or not the EU caused those wars, it most certainly did nothing to prevent them.

 

The EU was a key player in, and it has been a major beneficiary of, the destruction of Yugoslavia, a process that events in Macedonia more than suggest is ongoing even after all these years. It is now a key player in, and it seeks to be a major beneficiary of, the war in Ukraine, which is the worst on the European Continent since 1945.

 

That war is a direct consequence of the EU’s expansionist desire to prise a vital buffer state out of neutrality and into the NATO from which the EU is practically indistinguishable.


The Greek crisis has lifted the lid on what the Euro project is really about, entrenchment of the 'free market' dogma across europe and the destruction of all opposition to the culture of banksterism. Syriza's allowed itself to believe it could reform while still within the Euro when its only real hope was exit from the Eurozone and possibly the EU. Podemos may also make the same mistake but Spain being a much larger economy it might be difficult for the neoliberal tin hat gang to crush. What is clear is that the seeds have been sown by Merkel for a huge amount of social conflict across europe. In the UK we have to look at what is happening as a clear warning, leaving the EU would break the tories and free us on the left. It has to be a no vote.

 

We had full employment before we joined the EU. We have never had it since. No job in the real economy is dependent on our membership. Or were trade with, and travel to, the Continent unheard of, because impossible, before our accession to the EU?

 

Not for nothing did Margaret Thatcher support that accession, oppose withdrawal in the 1975 referendum, and go on, as Prime Minister, to sign an act of integration so large that it could never be equalled, a position from which she never wavered until the tragically public playing out of the early stages of her dementia. Her “No! No! No!” outburst was not part of any planned speech.

Those who bang on about her rebate need to ask themselves where any of that money ever went. In any case, it was no compensation for the loss of powers.

 

The case of Greece is a logical conclusion of the prevailing economic system. The unique problem for Greece is that it cannot print its own currency. But life in Argentina after the default in the late noughties was no less severe. The majority of Eurozone countries pursue the same (possibly self defeating) policies of the current UK Tory government. But all of those countries have democratically elected the governments which support these policies.

 

Why leaving the EU would make any difference to the fate of UK citizens, I cannot see at all. The problem is not with the EU, but with neoliberal economics and Jeremy Corbyn has always known this.

 

(Originally published on Saurav's blog here)

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