Sunday 11 October 2015

Green's Lucas and Jones take opposing positions on EU Referendum

It was announced yesterday that Green MP Caroline Lucas is joining the board of the EU 'In' campaign. This came shortly after it was reported on Friday that  Green peer and retiring London Assembly member Jenny Jones was supporting the 'Leave' campaign.  Jones' position is not new as she wrote an article on the case for withdrawal back in July LINK

The Green Party's current official position is the 'Three Yeses' : Yes to a referendum, yes to reform, yes to staying in the EU with more detail in an Emergency Motion passed at Autumn Conference (added at end of article). The crux of the matter for some Green Party members is whether a failure to reform (or a worsening of the social benefits after Cameron's negotiations) should convert into a 'No to the EU'.  The treatment of Greece, TTIP and perceived failures over the refugee issue are key elements in the current debate.

As with the last EU referendum and the Scottish referendum people on either side of the debate can find themselves with some strange bedfellows - agreeing the ultimate aim of staying in or withdrawal but for very different reasons.

This is an extract from Jones' article in the Ecologist:
A pro-TTIP European Union, eager to impose the imperatives of capital against people, determined to evacuate democracy in Greece and other member states of its meaning, is not an EU we should wish to be part of.

Just in case you hadn't noticed: something is rotten in the state of Europe.

The EU is becoming a dictatorial imposer of austerity and deregulation, uncaring about its impacts on the wellbeing of people and planet, and determined to derail any elected government that dares dissent from its neoliberal ideology.

I write as a Green who has stood for the European Parliament on a mission of EU reform. I acknowledge that the EU can be and has been a powerful force for good - for example, in keeping the peace among member states, and in its impressive role in social and environmental regulation - now tragically at risk from the drive to 'deregulate'.

But I believe that the general support of the EU by the Green Party, and the Left, and bien-pensant intellectuals, and 'progressives', needs to come to an end, to be replaced by a more honest willingness to face up to the very serious flaws besetting the EU.

The two key events of the last few days that have made starkly clear that something is rotten at the top of our continent are first, the EU moving a big step closer to backing TTIP, the starkly anti-democratic and pro-corporatocratic 'TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership'.

And second, last night's imposition on Athens of a programme for privatisation and savage cuts even worse than that rejected by the Greek people in the referendum last week onto Greece with its decisive 'NO' vote.

Secret corporate lobbying over the heads of the people

The TTIP is the EU-US 'free trade' agreement currently being negotiated, to which the European Parliament, tragically, gave its provisional approval last week.

The Green Party is united against TTIP. And the Green Party argues strongly in favour of the EU. Is there any tension between these two facts? We think that there is. The TTIP

My case is simple: this should not be viewed as some kind of aberration from EU standard practice. It is EU standard practice.

The EU has been from the beginning (but also increasingly, the key examples here being the Lisbon Treaty and the 'Stability and Growth pact') a pro-business front, a vehicle for organisations such as the European Roundtable of Industrialists to get their way.

There is far too little democracy in the EU: for example, the Council of Ministers operates almost entirely in secrecy and holds the whip hand over the Parliament on most issues; Brussels is dominated by corporate lobbyists who outnumber NGO lobbyists by about 15:1, while wielding immense powers of hospitality and patronage. EU rules would make it very difficult for (e.g.) the railways to be brought back into full public ownership in this country.

It is an illusion to think that TTIP is anything other than a natural extension of the logic of the EU as it is currently. Greens, being serious about our outright opposition to TTIP, need to be serious also about radically reforming the EU.

Anything less than truly radical reform - democratisation, an end to the culture of lobbying and secrecy, prioritisation of public service over private profit, prioritisation of one-planet ecological sanity over business profit - would leave the EU more of a hindrance than a help to Green objectives.

Greece - you call this 'negotiation'?

The imposition on Greece of harsh and unwanted measures that eliminate its sovereignty and strip the people of the democratic power they exercised last week in the referendum is not a departure from business as usual for the EU.

It is, on the contrary, a manifestation of the EU's long-standing disrespect for democracy and the sovereignty of its member states, and the determination among EU elites to impose a business-friendly vision onto any recalcitrant government and people.

This deal forced onto Athens - on pain of a forced crash out of the Euro - is a massive wake-up call to democrats everywhere. It is increasingly clear that the EU, far from standing up for Europe's people against overweening corporate power, are doing the exact opposite: ganging up with corporate and finance capital to suppress democracy and popular aspirations.

Above all, the huge power of business lobbyists in the EU - who can usually get what they want, unless the European public puts its foot down (as happened, thankfully, over ACTA -  but that is a very rare event) - simply must end.

Moreover, systemic problems are caused by the 'four freedoms' that are at the core of the Treaty of Rome: the freedom to move capital, products, services and labour all over the EU. The four freedoms add up to a 'bosses charter' giving capital one great supranational freedom - that to exploit labour anywhere in Europe on the most favourable possible terms. There is no Leftist case for an unreformed EU.

That referendum - in or out?

There are tremendous structural difficulties in the way of reforming the EU to address these problems and recreate it in a Green image. But unless they can be achieved we may have to support withdrawal in the UK's 'in or out' EU referendum.

Just as Syriza's negotiating position has been fatally undermined by its refusal (in my view deeply mistaken) to countenance leaving the Euro, so we - Green and progressive voters - will lack any leverage so long as we tolerate a bad EU, for fear of something even worse.

Meanwhile we have to contend with David Cameron's own campaign to 'reform' the EU, backed by other right-wing governments like Poland's: for them, the EU's main problem is that it is not pro-business enough, and imposes intolerable shackles on the pursuit of corporate profit as a result of its social and environmental legislation.

Leave the reform agenda to Cameron and friends, and the EU will only become an even more anti-democratic, anti-ecological, pro-growth, pro-big business centralising organisation than it already is. We must be forceful in opposing and denouncing that dystopian vision of a corporate Europe.

And make no mistake: a pro-TTIP European Union, eager to impose the imperatives of capital against people, determined to evacuate democracy in Greece and other member states of its meaning, is not an EU we should wish to be part of.
As if to underline the point about strange bedfellows despite Jones' stricture on the 'pro business front' the  'Vote Leave' campaign she is supporting is also supported by 'Business for Britain' , former Chairman of Dixons Lord Kalms, former Channel 4 Chairman Luke Johnson and millionaire donors to the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP LINK
Caroline Lucas made the case for staying in the EU strongly at the recent Green Party conference and released the following statement yesterday on her website about her decision to join the board of the 'In' Campaign:
I’ve joined the board of the ‘In’ campaign because I believe we are stronger when we work across borders on the challenges we face.

In particular I want to give young people a reason to engage with a referendum that will shape their futures, both in terms of protecting our shared environment and our basic rights, and by helping define the kind of country we want to be. 

Britain in the EU is open and forward looking. It's about our identity: confident, vibrant, inquiring, open minded. A community that welcomes opportunity, celebrates diversity and is passionate about the power of collective action."

Though I don’t see eye to eye with every member on the board on every issue we all share a commitment to Britain remaining in the EU. I will make a truly progressive case for a more democratic and accountable European Union. 

A different kind of EU is possible: one where power is held locally whenever it can be, where citizens have a real say in decisions made in Brussels and where corporate lobbyists are banished from the halls of power.

This referendum campaign is a chance to reimagine what democracy looks like, reshape what having a say really means and reinvigorate our politics. 

I look forward to working with people across the political spectrum and across our communities to make a positive case for our continued membership of the European Union.
As the debate develops inside the Green Party and on the left it is clear that the issue of the party's position may need to be revisited at the 2016 Spring Conference.  The Emergency Motion called for a 'run a distinct Green campaign in favour of the EU in addition to cross-party campaigning.' Whatever positions leading members take on the EU it is the members who eventually decide. There may well be arguments put forward that a vote at conference is not enough as people's attendance is limited, by both time and money, and that a vote of the whole membership is needed. There is also a difficulty that the Green Party has a two year limit on discussion of motions that have been passed or lost at Conference if the new motion reverses principles of the original. A motion modifying the Green Party's position could be ruled out of order on that basis so would need to be subtly worded.

Watch this space. 

Emergency motion on Green EU campaign

Conference notes:

·      That the Queen's Speech in May announced that a Referendum will take place by the end of 2017.
·      That the EU Referendum Bill is currently being debated in Parliament.
·      The Green Party has a long standing policy of wanting a referendum on EU membership, remaining in the EU, and pushing for major reforms.
·      The European Union is in urgent need of reform to make it more democratic, sustainable and accountable.  
·      The Green Party is an internationalist party. We believe in working across borders to solve the shared challenges we face.
·      The recent members survey stated that 78% of members consider the UK’s membership of the EU ‘a good thing’ while only 6% think it ‘a bad thing’.
·      That Green MEPS use their position in the European Parliament to make EU institutions more democratic and accountable – and to vote against damaging policies which harm workers and the environment.
·      That the Green Party has been at the forefront of the fight against damaging free trade deals – including TTIP.

Conference instructs:

·      The Green Party to run a distinct Green campaign in favour of the EU in addition to cross-party campaigning. The Green campaign should highlight our support for an EU which, among other things, helps protect workers’ rights, tackles climate change and promotes peace.
·      GPEX and elected representatives to use the referendum campaign to highlight the major reforms we need to the EU, and to bring about a better understanding and engagement among members of the public of how the EU works and how they can influence it, including through the election of MEPs
·      GPEX and elected representatives to work together with Green Parties in other EU countries and other partners to build the campaign for real reform in the EU both during the referendum campaign and after.
·      GPEX and elected representatives to look at forming campaigning partnerships with grassroots organisations, like-minded politicians and others.


Alan B said...

I am pleased about the strong balance in this article-although a lot can change in Britain and also the EU within the next two years, and I believe voters need to be more informed about what the EU does, what EU membership really means for Britain etc, so I am not taking a definite stance on whether Britain should remain a member of the EU just yet.

Martin Francis said...

I have received this comment via email:

The Scottish Greens have come out in favour of staying in but seem to be cleverer than both CL and JJ

The campaign will be separate to any official campaign for EU membership, but the Scottish Greens will seek to collaborate with progressive allies from across parties and groups. - See more at:

Anonymous said...

The problem with the 'reform' that David Cameron is going for is that it is to i) get a more favourable arrangement for bankers and ii) enable his government to shirk social responsibility. Hardly the type of reforms that The Green Party has suggested.

Whilst the EU has had many benefits for the environment and for human rights, I think TTIP overshadows the whole project as it poses a fundamental attack on democracy. Transparency International has been warning for ages over the power of unregulated lobbyists throughout the EU ( and edging towards unaccountable corporatocracy is worrying.

With all the faults of UK Politicians, If we use an example of Dawn Butler - at least we know where she lives (both addresses). We also know where her office is on the high street (that she got for a remarkable rate) and we know where she works. If our politicians do anything we disagree with, we can make our voice heard loudly and clearly. Whereas if we're honest about things UKIP vote against each and every policy of the EU to absolutely no effect and as a nation, we are not going to be able to travel in enough numbers to Brussel's to make our voices heard.

Green Party Democractic policy PA100 says we should be governed by the principle of subsidiarity that nothing should be done centrally if it can be done equally well, or better, locally.

What if we've attained maximum gain from the EU now - we certainly won't lose what we've got. Perhaps we should be looking at the opportunities that can be provided on the devolution front. Hence support for Scottish Independence and also a Cornish Assembly. Perhaps we should even need to look towards Queens Park Parish Council as a way that power should reduced to the lowest possible level and distribute the £18bn budget of the GLA to try and make up for the cuts to local authorities across the region - but that's a different subject.


Scott Bartle.

Doug said...

"The Green Party's current official position is the 'Three Yeses' : Yes to a referendum, yes to reform, yes to staying in the EU"

Is it?

Can you find this anywhere in the parties quite extensive policy publications? It's not in Policies for a Sustainable Society (which details long term policy) it's not in the Record of Policy Statements (which details short term policy).

It has certainly been part of the campaigning which the party has run, but it is not an "official policy" of the party by any stretch of the imagination.