Phil Hall writes:
Continued membership of the EU is now a serious obstacle to the success of a future Labour government and for this reason we should get out of the EU as soon as we can and leave the single market.
After the debacle in Greece, whereby the once radical Syriza government was made to introduce an extreme austerity programme and privatise large parts of the public sector, it became difficult to see the EU as benign.
The EU in collaboration with the IMF forced Portugal, Italy and Spain to introduce cuts which hurt their citizens and depressed their economies.
Within the European Union, the plans of any future Labour government to renationalise the railways and energy industries, increase public spending, provide a reflationary stimulus, subsidise British industry, or prevent labour flows from undercutting the wages and conditions of British workers would be blocked and opposed.
Within the European Union it is clear that a Keynesian-socialist approach is not permitted. Voting for Jeremy Corbyn with Britain still in the EU would have been as disillusioning as voting for Syriza.
However progressive Syriza’s policies seemed, the EU forced it to implement privatisation and cuts.
The European Union has generated a tangled ball of legislation which, on the whole, reflects a post-Thatcherite monetarist consensus on what constitutes “good” economic policy.
Full employment, a Keynesian goal — and also a socialist one — is not seen as a worthwhile objective. Instead, governments are obliged to operate “efficiently,” with low levels of inflation — euphemisms for austerity.
Reflationary measures, government investment and activation of the economy, are banned by the Stability and Growth Pact and the European Court of Justice has ruled against trade union action aimed at stopping workers’ wages being undercut by bosses importing foreign workers and paying them less. EU competition rules prohibit countries from supporting local industries.
The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union blocks state aid to industry or nationalisation because: “A company which receives government support gains an advantage over its competitors.”
And here’s the kicker: legislation promoted by the EU business lobby and adopted by the European Commission is ratified much more easily than if it were to go through a national parliament.
The EU is a back door for “business-friendly” legislation that might otherwise be opposed and stopped in a national parliament.
The infamous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a case in point.
The main, and unconvincing, argument of the soft left for remaining within the EU is still that the EU acts as a break on the more extreme neoliberalism of the Conservative government in power.
According to the defenders of the EU, being a member of the organisation helps guarantee the protection of the environment, human rights, labour rights and privacy.
But after the last British election, we see that this argument for remaining in the EU was really always only a counsel of despair.
Clearly none of the “leftists” who voted for remain, who fully understood the reactionary nature of the European Union, imagined that Corbyn would get so much popular support or that Labour would currently be so far ahead in the latest opinion polls.
A Labour government in Britain, the fifth-largest economy in the world, would represent a threat to the neoliberal EU.
Labour Britain outside the EU represents the possibility for the establishment of a strong European-wide alliance of socialist parties and a brake on neoliberal policy making within Europe.
What could never be reformed from within may very well be reformed by the constructive example of a successful socialist country outside the EU and outside its single market.
And the Morning Star editorialises:
Twelve top big business leaders marched into 10 Downing Street last Thursday afternoon to give Theresa May and her Brexit ministers their orders.
Representatives from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Directors, City gamblers Risk Capital, weapons manufacturers BAE Systems, corporation tax dodgers Tesco, the privatised multinational National Grid company and other firms told the Prime Minister and her Cabinet members that they must make the necessary concessions in order to reach a deal with the EU.
As the Finanical Times reported matters, May “was bluntly invited to back away from the cliff edge.”
CBI director general Carolyn Fairburn, formerly of Lloyds Bank, demanded a lengthy transition deal and continuing close involvement in the EU customs union and single market “feeling that the political tide was moving in her favour.”
These and other business leaders have made little secret of their hope that spinning out Britain’s exit process from the EU will create the conditions in which last year’s referendum result can be frustrated and reversed.
New Lib Dem leader Vince Cable — formerly of the Shell oil corporation and the privatiser of Royal Mail — has volunteered to lead the struggle politically, although the most he can hope for is a return to the post of Business Secretary in another coalition government.
Last Thursday’s corporate missive was received, understood and acted upon immediately.
The following day, Environment Secretary and leading Brexiteer Michael Gove began sounding the retreat by revealing that free movement of people between the EU and Britain could continue for at least two years after March 2019, the deadline for reaching a deal.
Other concessions on this sticky point and others in the exit negotations will follow.
The Morning Star welcomes continuing rights to travel, study and settle across Europe where these can be negotiated on a fair, humane and equitable basis.
Indeed, free from “Fortress Europe” restrictions, British governments should extend those rights to non-European partners and families of British citizens already living here — although it remains to be seen how the EU would respond to such an extension of free movement as part of any future arrangements with Britain.
A shared and major concern of May’s new EU business advisory group and Michel Barnier’s fellow unelected negotiating team is that big business should remain free to move (or “post”) workers around Europe where they can be super-exploited regardless of national or regional legislation and negotiated trade union agreements.
During last week’s negotiations, Barnier made it clear that “posted” workers must be classified as “service providers” and therefore covered by “free trade in services” or “right of establishment” rather than the potentially more restricted “free movement of people” principles.
This is the basis on which legislative and trade union action to enforce equal treatment for them has been outlawed by a stream of EU Court of Justice rulings.
The recent GMB conference was right to sound the alarm about any deal with the EU which allows such super-exploitation to continue.
As Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded television interviewer Andrew Marr yesterday, free market fundamentalism is no friend of the workers.
The labour movement should oppose any “single market” or “customs union” deal with the EU and leave a future Labour government free to outlaw super-exploitation of labour, regulate trade and the movement of capital, invest in strategic industries and insist on progressive procurement contracts between the public and private sectors.