Apocalypse later

Free ChoiceI’ve already (postal) voted “Remain” – but I certainly don’t share the apocalyptic fear of several of my friends if the vote is for “Leave”.

Whatever the result, we’ll still have cuts to (= slaughter of) welfare and living standards. Whether Cameron, Johnson or Gove is Prime Minister, the Tories will still be robbing the poor to enrich the already rich.

The scaremongering of both sides of this dispute means that neither can ‘deliver’ their promises. In contrast, Labour’s campaign to remain in Europe has been far more balanced with, in particular, Jeremy Corbyn being wholly consistent and principled (click for link).  So whatever the outcome of the referendum, it will provide us with many opportunities to remind people of Tory falsehoods.

In reality, a Brexit vote will not mean an immediate exit or that more money is available for the NHS, or that immigration stops or that MEPs return home amidst financial chaos.  Every claim made during the referendum campaigns, whether of doom or joy, will be subjected to renewed scrutiny and will be opportunity to expose the arguments (of both wings of the Conservatives) as unprincipled scaremongering.

Labour, and Jeremy in particular, can reap great political dividends from all this. Whilst I will be saddened for sure if Britain doesn’t vote to remain, I don’t see this as an “Apocalypse”.  That will come later if Labour does not win the 2020 General Election. All our efforts should be directed towards electing a progressive and anti-Tory government.

The EU Referendum

I’ve written on this topic before and remain unpersuaded.  The ‘left case’ against the undemocratic and built-in anti-socialist structures of the EU is as valid today as for the last referendum – but the consequences of “Brexit”are frightening.

I agree with “Attila the Stockbroker”, writing in the anti-EU Morning Star, that the “Exit Left platform demanding a vote for Britain to leave the EU is a very powerful, indeed almost watertight, argument…. The EU in its present state is a bosses’ cabal, a device to ship cheap labour around Europe and a facilitator for the odious TTIP agreement which will give a free rein to bankers, increase online surveillance of ordinary citizens and allow multinationals to sue elected governments who threaten their profits. What they did to Greece is unspeakable.”

But he then goes on to argue that “withdrawal from the EU will put this country in an even worse position. Exit Left is a watertight argument for a country with a socialist government, or even a middle-of-the-road, social democratic one. But withdrawing from the EU under this evil bunch of Tory bastards will mean we will get the worst of all possible worlds. They will hand the UK over to TTIP and the bankers with glee, the few half-decent protective measures the EU have put in place to defend workers’ rights will be stripped away and we will be left at the mercy of scum. Out of the frying pan into the fire.”

I agree with his pessimistic assessment. If the vote is for Brexit, it will be because xenophobic arguments have won the day and, instead of the nasty Messrs. Cameron and Osbourne, the even nastier Messrs. Johnson and Duncan-Smith will be in the driving seat – whipped on by the even more nasty Farage and UKIP. So my contribution to the referendum debate, will be to counter the xenophobic, anti-immigrant and racist arguments most likely to determine its outcome.

I don’t have illusions that voting to stay in the EU and fighting for a “reform” is realistic. But, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, there is now a genuine possibility of a left Labour government in 2020.  Hopefully the Tory Party will tear itself apart over Europe and make a Labour win in 2020 more likely.

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EU – yes or no?

I wrote about the EU and TTIP on the 21st and the 30th March – sitting on the EU fence (there are arguments both “for” and “against”) but firmly opposing TTIP. 

We now know for sure there will be a referendum on EU membership – and I agree with Jeremy Corbyn that we ought not give David Cameron a blank cheque to negotiate away workers’ rights.

Jeremy’s arguments are similar to those agreed by the TUC and – rather than reword their clear explanation of the issues – I commend the TUC statement: 

https://www.tuc.org.uk/about-tuc/congress/congress-2015/general-council-statement-eu-referendum

TTIP must be challenged

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement being negotiated in secret between Europe and the US to ‘harmonise’ trade.

TTIP will benefit big companies at the expense of ordinary people. It will open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies and, effectively, lead to the privatisation of the NHS – because US Companies will be able to sue the British government if they can claim to have been prevented from competing for contracts.

It also will mean lower standards – currently a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used in Europe whereas,  in the USA, any substance can be used until proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US just 12. These lower standards will be imposed on Europe if the TTIP is endorsed

The EU accepts that TTIP will cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower – and has advised that  European support funds are needed to compensate for the extra unemployment.

Another change, if the TTIP is approved, will be the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) to allow companies to sue governments for “loss of profits”. This will mean that unelected transnational corporations may dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.

ISDSs are already operating elsewhere and, for example, have enabled a Swedish energy company to sue the German government for billions of dollars over its (welcome and correct) decision to phase out nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

This is anti-democratic and totally at odds with the capitalist ethos that profits are a just reward for risk-taking. With TTIP and ISDS, investors will be guaranteed a profit however stupid the investment and whatever the danger to the public and their workforce.

If elected to Westminster, I would oppose implementation of TTIP.

Europe – in or out?

This is not a simple question. For many on the political left, the EU is simply a rich man’s club – there to bolster the dominant position of banks and finance capital and to put pressure on member states that attempt to expand the state sector or resist EU-imposed austerity measures – as the people of Greece are finding to their cost. If Britain were to elect a left-wing government, the EU would not be helpful.

On the other hand, many on the political right (notably UKIP and right-wing Tories) view the EU as an interfering creation of the liberal left, imposing human rights and environmental legislation to prevent big business doing  whatever it pleases to do to maximise its profits.

Both viewpoints contain more than a grain of truth and it is hard to decide whether the overall impact of the EU on our lives is for better or worse.  Living as we do in Wales, we are net beneficiaries of EU funds designed to assist poorer regions – if we lived in London and the South East (UKIP-land) we might well be net losers.

I know that candidates for an election are supposed to have a ready answer for every question but, on this one, I admit to being a “Don’t know yet”. If there is to be a referendum based on xenophobic prejudice, it’s likely I would vote to stay in. If there is not to be an in/out referendum, we need to make the most of the many good aspects of the EU and do whatever is possible to minimise its bad aspects.