Sunday, 12 June 2016

Remain for change: Building European solidarity for a democratic alternative - June 15th

I, like I am sure many readers, have felt manipulated by the EU Referendum debate: manipulated into taking sides into what is basically a dispute within the Conservative Party (and a leadership contest), and within British neoliberalism.  The manipulation of the media by the two main camps has meant that the left alternatives for Remain and for Exit have been scarcely heard. In the process the debate has licensed the expression of openly racist views seldom heard since the 60s and 70s - albeit directed against Eastern Europeans rather than East African Asians or people from the Caribbean.

Economists for Rational Economic Policies sum up the problem in the introduction to their new report due to be discussed at a launch on June 15th.   I think the report makes an important contribution to the debate so have posted it at the end of the article.
The economic arguments over the UK’s EU Referendum have generally followed the Conservative government’s own philosophical lines of deregulation and freedom for globalised finance, in which the only true imperatives are the removal of all barriers to trade and capital flows, and the weakening of social and employment protection. This has been the main thrust of the economic arguments put forward by the Conservative “Remain” campaign, in particular the Treasury’s two reports on the long-term and immediate impacts of Brexit

Since much of the leadership of the “Leave” campaign shares the same economic philosophy, but wishes to deregulate still further (save on the issue of immigration), the choice often resembles that between tweedledum and tweedledee. In consequence, many who believe in a more managed economy which looks after the interests of working people and offers decent social protection, and who instinctively consider themselves to be European and internationalist, have felt excluded from the debate.

And alas, the European Union itself has in recent years adopted disastrous economic policies, in particular in relation to the single currency and Eurozone, which have severely damaged working people across much of the continent. Unemployment in the Eurozone has been above 10% since mid-2009, save for one solitary month. Worse, these policies are legally embedded in the EU’s Treaties, making democratic choice for change extremely difficult.

So the natural supporters of the European Union from a politically progressive perspective find themselves faced with a difficult dilemma, notably in relation to economic policy.
Economists for Rational Economic Policies (EREP) has therefore put together this series of articles which, in different ways and from differing perspectives, unite in arguing that for the UK to vote to leave the EU would be a serious mistake – both in economic and political terms. It would tend strengthen right-wing forces both in the UK and across Europe, and weaken the rights of working people. It risks a fragmentation of Europe along nationalist grounds which could even ultimately threaten the peaceful cooperation we have enjoyed across most of our continent for 70 years.
We need a strong EU for the future on a wide range of issues – not least climate change. But we also need to work in solidarity with all those across Europe who can see that Europe has to change the basis of its economic ideology and strategy if it is to fulfil its Treaty commitment to the peoples of Europe to work for “full employment and social progress.. a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment”.
I have posted the full report below:

The free launch event takes place at the University of Greenwich on June 15th. Follow this LINK for speaker details and to book your free tickets.

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