Should Britain remain in the EU? Yes or No?
Pretty soon we will be asked that question in a referendum. As someone who feels European and is proud of the fact that we live on this wonderful continent of huge diversity and culture, my heart will always be towards as Yes vote.
Increasingly however, I have some nagging doubts on our EU membership. We should not be subjected to exclusive ownership of such doubts as expressed by the extreme right wingers in the Tory Party or UKIP – who have a series of anti-EU narratives framed by all the wrong reasons, such as the flow of migrants to the UK or British returns on EU investment. The argument against the EU should come from both sides. There is also a strong left-wing argument why Britain should leave the EU.
Left-wingers such as Reverend Giles Fraser and even the late Tony Benn and Bob Crow have expressed huge misgivings about the legitimacy and credibility of EU membership. Sadly however, very few left wingers are brave enough to raise their heads above the parapet and highlight their doubts on the EU – quite possibly because they would be seen to be in an ideological agreement with the right-wingers. If so, this is a lazy and cowardly approach to take. Being pro-EU because the likes of Nigel Farage or John Redwood are against it is inverted and narrow minded political snobbery. An open opinion on the EU should be so much bigger and bolder than this. It shouldn’t come down to deep rooted tribalism. It should come down to an individual deciding what is the correct thing to do.
Being anti-EU is not about being a xenophobic right-winger. Being anti-EU should be about a progressive campaign for democracy, accountability and freedom. It should be about highlighting when something isn’t working, and offering a better, more progressive alternative path.
There is compelling evidence to show that currently, the EU just isn’t working.
The EU is an increasingly plutocratic neoliberal network that will potentially destroy many public assets for private sector gain – such as the threat from TTIP to the NHS. The EU (as shown in their debt bullying of Greece) adopts an austerity-on-steroids approach to fiscal policy. Currently, the EU is yet another massive governmental organisation controlled by the puppeteers of big business. A slow coup towards EU corporatism and yet another plundering opportunity for multinationals has occurred. Again, TTIP gives off more than a strong whiff of this. Through the slow corporately influenced dynasty of the EU, we have all been sleepwalking towards another vehicle for corporate globalisation.
The pro-EU spin is that the EU is somehow the same thing as being European. This complete propaganda, hoodwinking and utter nonsense. The same nonsense also applies to the perceived wisdom that being anti-EU is to be “anti-European”.
There is actually a counter-argument that by opposing the EU, it makes you pro-European. If Europe is fundamentally about people, culture and the celebration of a continental diversity, then surely it would be more in keeping with this ethos that each member state becomes a proper democracy again. Better that than having a secret decision making process that is often undemocratic, unaccountable and offering up zealous neoliberal policies such as TTIP and austerity bullying on economically weaker Eurozone States such as Greece.
The EU has huge flaws which are unlikely to be resolved, or indeed successfully renegotiated by the likes of David Cameron. It is currently culpable for poor democracy, the public sector asset stripping threat from TTIP, EU helping to stir up the crisis in Ukraine, the massive fault lines in the single currency and subsequent debt repayments that have caused millions of people to suffer across Europe.
The referendum will see another version of Project Fear whipped up by big business and certain sections of the UK media. UK/EU Trade being one of them. It has long been argued by pro-EU supporters that our ability to trade would be diminished by leaving the EU. Really? Currently, 15% of our GDP is linked to exports to the EU. Even in the advent of a No vote, this trade is likely to continue, and also we will hardly lose the ability to develop stronger trading links with the rest of the world – the freedom to trade through an ever increasingly globalisation process will ensure this.
But, we need to flesh out all the arguments with due diligence and an open mind on this huge issue. Right-wingers should not be allowed to exclusively own this space with their own worst arguments on why we should leave the EU. Their arguments are actually counter intuitive reasons why we should stay in the EU. The progressive anti-EU arguments that really need to fleshed out are the ones that most left-wingers are still not elaborating upon. Whisper it, there is a progressive case for leaving the EU – based on open-minded left-wing concerns rather than just insular right-wing concerns.
The EU does however have many benefits – in terms of freedom of migrant movement, security, human rights and funding mechanisms for poorer regions. These are a fantastic set of values that reflect favourably on the EU. It is these values that I cling to when I think of the EU and if I were voting on the in/out EU referendum today, I would hold my nose and vote Yes….just.