The EU isn’t perfect, but it is so much better than the alternative

by Jackie_South on June 20, 2016

Eu-campaign-wolfgang-tillmans---between-bridges10Of the All That’s Left gang, I was the one who hadn’t made my mind up on the day the EU Referendum was called.

After all, the criticism that the EU is not that democratic and instead is a club where deals get made behind the scenes is a fair one. What is worse, it is in the interests of its member governments to keep it that way.

Even the British Government. Particularly the British Government.

The Conservative Party in particular have been a bastion against meaningful reform of the EU. It has fought against any extension of the European Parliament’s powers in relation to the other EU institutions so that the EU’s decisions can remain a cosy conversation within the club of governments rather than something more accountable.

It has not only prevented any further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, it has criticised the last Labour government for securing some reforms to it. That, after all, is what their sacred rebate is all about: it is part and parcel of the CAP, so when the CAP kitty shrinks (as it did in the Labour years) the rebate falls. When the kitty becomes more engorged, so does our rebate.

So, the British in particular are crap Europeans.

And of course the whole referendum itself is a dance we are having to go through to help Cameron fight off criticism in his own ranks. We are going to the polling stations to cast a vote to prop up the Prime Minister who has presided over the most economically right-wing government since World War II in circumstances of his own making – no wonder there has been a lack of enthusiasm on much of the left.


But the reality is that we have another four years, perhaps nine years, perhaps even longer of Conservative governments. What is worse, our lack of written constitutional safeguards, an American-style Bill of Rights or proper system of checks and balances, means that there is little to stop them doing as they like. That only becomes worse if, as a result of a Leave victory, Cameron is replaced by a Johnson, a Gove, a Duncan Smith.

The Leave campaign have been keen to tell everyone how much of our legislation ‘originates’ in Brussels. They are slower to tell us whether any of it would still happen without the EU – most certainly would. And of course if the EU decides on, say, safety requirements for toasters, it helps our manufacture and export business for toasters if ones made here comply. Is it not better to have a say in that?

But a far bigger issue is what these right-wing Tories mean by ‘regulations’. They are not really worried about the EU telling us how straight our cucumbers and how curvy our bananas should be. That was illustrated last night on Channel 4 News by pro-Brexit businessman Luke Johnson. Johnson is an entrepreneur involved in the shady-sounding Risk Capital Partners and also chairs Patisserie Holdings – perhaps someone forgot to tell him that patisseries are a rather French idea.

Luke Johnson was asked what regulations he objected to. His list? The working time directive, working agency directives, environmental energy laws and health and safety laws. A list that the professional politicians of the Leave campaign have been keen not to give out.

Those are what the right of the Conservative Party want to strip away: employment rights and measures to protect the environment.

The right to have sick leave a holiday if you are a temp, maternity and paternity rights, the right not to get maimed at work, the right to have some sort of work-life balance.

Of course Johnson (Boris and Luke), Farage, Gove and Duncan Smith want to strip those fundamental rights away. Of course they want British employees to have lower levels of protection than employees in the rest of Europe.

And there will be nothing to stop them if the UK decides to leave the UK for four, nine, or maybe more, years.

No, the only thing that we can rely on to protect people’s rights in the workplace for the foreseeable future, barring a miraculous turnaround in Labour’s fortunes, is the EU.

To my mind, that far outweighs any concerns about how decisions are made in Brussels. That is why I’ll be voting Remain on Thursday and why I’ll spend the day persuading others to do so as well.

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