I have received quite a lot of feedback of my previous piece about the coming EU referendum. My position as a pro-Euro-sceptic caused some amusement. I am not a romantic European but someone who looks at the practicalities of our relationship with our European neighbours.
One comment I have to refute is the assertion that it is not possible to reform the EU. The EU has evolved and developed with every treaty change. The problem has been that those evolutions and changes have not been in the direction we would want because the left across Europe is too weak.
The whole world has been in the grip of the “Washington Consensus” the intellectual drive for ever freer markets and privatisation. The EU institutions like those of every other international organisation reflect that neo-liberal economic ideology. We cannot get off the world we have to work to change that dominant ideology in every forum and every economic and political space we can get access too.
Criticism of the EU as undemocratic, which it is, comes a bit rich however from the citizens of a monarchy that is probably the least democratic country in the EU.
The key questions for those of us on the left are not the romantic questions about sovereignty – we are not national socialists or about identity – we know workers have no country.
As internationalists the question we must ask is would the left across Europe be made stronger or weaker by us helping to deliver a victory for Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage?
We should be in no doubt that a victory for ‘Brexit’ would be a right wing triumph that would propel Johnson into Number 10 and put a spring into the step of every right and far-right party across the entire continent. This act of political self harm would be duplicated by a huge level of economic self harm.
Despite its portrayal as “operation fear” the Remain campaign has bizarrely underestimated the scale of economic dislocation that a vote to leave the EU would trigger. I suspect this is because they do not want to admit how little control they have over large parts of our economy.
The level of economic integration that the UK now has with the rest of the EU is so deep both sides agree it would be impossible to unravel in terms of markets, supply chains and investment. This is presumably why even the out campaign wants to try to do the impossible by staying in the single market for capital, goods and services but not for labour.
The mess of red tape that would be needed to replace our existing relationship with the EU would be vast. Despite the Outers complaints about European red tape most of it is to enable the single market to function.
There is no doubt either that agriculture in Britain owes a debt to the strength of the agricultural lobby on the continental mainland for its level of subsidy. Similarly the regions and smaller nations of Europe have benefited greatly from being in the EU sometimes much to the annoyance of the larger states they are part of. It is a similar story when it comes to legislation about the environment individual member states frightened of their domestic industrial lobbies often blame the EU for tougher standards.
I am not going to give you any guff about the EU strengthening workers rights or health and safety laws as we all know at whatever level these have to be fought for.
Migration has obviously become the hot topic of the referendum campaign bringing out some of the least edifying aspects of the campaign. As someone who has no children and wants a pension I am happy to welcome young workers from other parts of Europe. The hypocrisy about migration is staggering without migration Britain would have no economic growth at all. The fact is we need migrant workers but both government and employers are reluctant to pay the costs in terms of housing, education and health care to support them.
Even if we left the EU it would not cease to exist and it would continue to exercise a profound influence over us. Of course some of those seeking our exit hope to encourage the collapse of the whole European Union project such a collapse would indeed be a massive economic disruption but does anyone honestly think that such a collapse would be accompanied by a massive swing to the left?