Comment: Another Europe is possible

The problems Europe faces won't be solved by Britain turning its back on them

 

The referendum on whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union may still be two years away, but already the campaigns on both sides are gearing up.

We’ve heard a lot from the Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant right, the likes of UKIP who stand utterly opposed to the EU’s basic tenet of freedom of movement and who want to tear up what protections European law offers for British workers.

We’ve also heard from the business lobby and from the mainstream politicians who want to keep Britain in Europe purely because, for all its potential, the EU as it’s currently constituted is run in the interests of multinational corporations for whom it represents a lucrative market. They will lobby to make the EU an ever more friendly place for business, even if that comes at the expense of the rights of Europe’s people, as we have witnessed in the backroom deals being done over TTIP.

There has to be a better way. Not the way of the little Englanders or the big businessers.

We will soon be launching Another Europe is Possible, a cross-party campaign to vote to remain in the EU in the referendum, but also a platform to call for radical reform.

Initial signatories include Caroline Lucas MP, Zoe Williams, Michael Mansfield QC, Richard Murphy and Billy Hayes. Unlike the official remain campaign, we recognise that the EU as it stands today is deeply flawed. It is, at its heart an undemocratic, neoliberal institution. And we will campaign to change that. But we do not believe walking away is the answer.

To leave now, under the current government, would only make things worse for workers for whom progressive measures such as the Working Time Directive can provide protection from the most right-wing government Britain has ever had.

Some on the left oppose the EU on the grounds that it favours profit over people. But David Cameron’s government is among Europe’s leading proponents of neoliberal policies and a key advocate of TTIP. Leaving Europe would not save us from TTIP. We would get the same raw deal under a different name and any protections the EU did afford would be gone.

It was not Europe that imposed the bedroom tax on Britain. It is not Europe that is introducing punishing tax credit cuts. And because we are not in the euro, unlike in Greece, it is not Europe that is tying us into the straightjacket of austerity. As well as campaigning for a reformed Europe, we will be opposing any of Cameron’s attempts to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU that hurt workers’ rights and human rights.

A Brexit would also be at the cost of freedom of movement. The right to work, settle and live in any EU member state. The left has always stood up for migrants against the kind of scapegoating that stands at the heart of right-wing campaigns to leave so that fewer foreign people can come here.

The bringing down of borders between our diverse nations is one of the greatest achievements of a century that opened with the slaughter of millions on the fields of France and Belgium. And it is to our credit and benefit that people from all across the EU are welcome here.

Of course, it is right to criticise the EU for the barriers it has put up to migrants from outside its borders. It can and must do much more for Syrian refugees fleeing the horrors of war. But the answer to Fortress Europe is not to create Fortress Britain.

Finally, leaving would be a blow to efforts to fight climate change and environmental degradation. These are global problems we face. They cannot be tackled by one nation alone. Only through cross-border cooperation can we begin to meet the colossal challenges we face in the 21st century.

We need strict, common environmental policies of the sort only supranational bodies with the power of the EU can properly enforce. When the sea is rising, it won’t help to raise our drawbridge.

The EU is in desperate need of a democratic overhaul. It must be radically reformed to serve the interests of its citizens, not its biggest corporations. But the problems this continent faces will not be solved by Britain turning its back on them. Instead we want to work with progressive movements across the EU so that together we can realise a common dream: that another Europe is possible.

Salman Shaheen is editor-in-chief of The World Weekly. He is writing in a personal capacity.

15 Responses to “Comment: Another Europe is possible”

  1. Mike Stallard

    Salman, have you ever read the Spinelli- Bertelsmann Fundamental law? Or the Five Presidents’ Report? Or the State of the Union Address by M. Juncker? The EU is changing fast into one big unitary State. It is not possible just to “remain” – ask King Canute!
    I enclose the references. You are months out of date. Please get up to speed before writing again.

    //europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-15-5614_en.htm

    //ec.europa.eu/priorities/economic-monetary-union/docs/5-presidents-report_en.pdf

    //www.eureferendum.com/documents/fundamentallaw.pdf

  2. JAMES MCGIBBON

    Salman you must be a youngster and not aware of the original 1976 referendum where we on the NO side said the yes were lying. It was supposed to be a trade agreement and that is a perfectly fine thing. However you do not need a European Parliament to monitor trade.

  3. Leigh Richards

    salman’s comments about the the role of the british far right and
    ‘little englanders’ in the no campaign are pertinent – the anti europe
    discussions on various social networks appear to be infested by
    supporters of neo fascist groups like ‘britain first’ and ‘britons
    united’.

  4. DaveJones

    Lets be BIg World not little failed europeans !!!

  5. JAMES MCGIBBON

    That should not detract anyone from the fact that the EU is a corrupt self serving institution. If we go back to the original trade arrangement and non interference in the member states from Brussels then I will vote Yes to stay.

  6. jj

    Yes there can be a new Europe, a more independent Europe, where countries choose laws within their own borders, not just merely Brussels. We need EU reform ASAP

  7. Charles Jurcich

    “We’ve heard a lot from the Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant right, the likes of UKIP who stand utterly opposed to the EU’s basic tenet of freedom of movement ..”
    Freedom of movement is wrong (that is completely unregulated) because it is against the UN Charter. The charter says that we should pursue full employment. Free movement is a neoliberal policy (free market agenda) as it encourages countries to avoid fully employing its people, and instead expect them to emigrate elsewhere to find a job.
    As Keynes said, we need to take the jobs to where the people are, not the other way round.
    Free movement is right wing neoliberalism consistent with supply-side economics.
    I would however have let most of the economic immigrant come.

  8. Zarniwoop

    Well in the last 40 years Britain has singularly failed to do anything to alter the course of the RMS Eurotanic it steams full speed ahead in to the ice field and it’s ice bergs ahead.

    So how on earth do you Salman think it will possibly change in the next 40?

    When we have that crazy ass buffer Merkel cozying up to the Turks with their dubious recent history of human rights abuses to cut a deal which dumps 3billion in to the Turkish coffers and potentially allows 75million Turks freedom of movement within the EU?????

    Even the most leftist of the left must surely realise that this is the course of madness!

  9. Zarniwoop

    That is disingenuous and denigrates the vast percentage of the No campaign who are not far right.

    But that is how the Yes campaign will portray it; lots of Oswald Moselys stomping around saying no.

    It could something as simple as watching the EU disasters one after the other come marching over the hill. The fact the EU is not the common market we joined but a power mad organisation trying to compete on the world stage and puffing out it’s chest in the direction of Russia while letting all and sundry come piling in the back door.

    Where democracy is now in the hands of Merkel and crew it is time to get out.

  10. Mann T.

    You do not say even one thing about how you would address the EU’s many anti-democratic problems. NOT ONE.

    Burt you think free movement of labour is a ”basic tenet”. WHY? How does it benefit labour more than employers? Please do tell.

  11. Polleetickle

    Left-wing mindset: use other peoples money to fund entitlement and discourage wealthy from investing.
    Right-of-centre mindset: maximise opportunities for everyone and provide aid beyond British shores.
    Europhile mindset: use other peoples money to drip-feed entitlement and exploit multiculturalism for votes.
    Eurosceptic mindset: utilise skilled productive employees plus create robust trade deals for global exports.

  12. steroflex

    “But the problems this continent faces will not be solved by Britain turning its back on them. Instead we want to work with progressive movements across the EU so that together we can realise a common dream: that another Europe is possible.”
    I totally agree with this statement. It is a noble aspiration. There are indeed other progressive movements and we ought to work with them.
    As to all the rest I cannot agree.
    Down here, when the lights go out and the news is full of nice hardworking men being sacked in all heavy industry because of lack f electricity production without coal, when the big businesses simply stamp out the EU workers’ rights, when the current Conservative government finally borrows too much (austerity! He has trebled the debt!) then I shall know that your article is dangerous rubbish.

  13. steroflex

    This morning I read a document by Andrew Duff saying almost exactly what you are saying. But he is an insider’s insider in the EU.
    What he wants is for the Frankfurt Protocol to give the Eurozone one united government and for the other nine members of the EU to fit in with that. He wants more power to the (unelected) Commission, one taxation policy under a European Union Minister (unelected) and a parliament which is centrally picked by European parties. Which means that your MEP for the North East could easily by German or Cypriot.
    You might like to reform the European Union: you are behind the curve.

  14. Lamia

    A Brexit would also be at the cost of freedom of movement. The right to work, settle and live in any EU member state. The left has always stood up for migrants against the kind of scapegoating that stands at the heart of right-wing campaigns to leave so that fewer foreign people can come here.

    Many people who are from Britain like European countries a great deal, and like to holiday there. Only a very small proportion actually want to live there – about 1 in 35 people.

    The inability of a tiny minority to settle in other European country is not likely to be a big concern of most people still living here. In most cases – and this applies to pretty much any nation you care to name, not just Britain – actually going to live and work in a foreign country is either not desirable or not feasible.

    Most people in the world live fairly near where they were born, are attached to that place, and don’t much want to live anywhere else. It’s familiar, it’s comforting. It’s where their friends and family are. And one can characterise that as unimaginative, even narrow minded if you wish, but that is how most people are and have always been. In general, only a very small minority really want to go and live in another country.

    This is something that relatively well-heeled and relatively free to
    travel Europhile professionals don’t seem to grasp: most people are not like them.

    In any case, it was possible to travel to Europe and even work there and settle there long before the EU came into existence. Leaving the EU would not mean a complete and utter end to that for many of those who want to do so.

    But this comes back to a plea for Britain to remain in the EU for the benefit of those British citizens… who don’t want to live in Britain. To which the answer of many who live here and like living here will be: “So… why should we care?”

    The British people actually living in Britain have to live with the downsides of other people using their freedom of movement and are not personally seeing the upsides. The same goes for the majority of people in any country.

    Unless you forsee a situation where the majority of the entire population of Europe at any one time is itinerant, then it’s hard to see why you expect most people to feel they are losing out if they are not part of some open EU borders system.

    The title of your article is quite telling:

    The problems Europe faces won’t be solved by Britain turning its back on them

    Guess what, Salman: ‘the problems Europe faces’ are not all the responsibility of Britain – indeed arguably a number of them have been brought about by the incompetence and naivety of people who ploughed ahead with the EU ‘project’ without thinking properly, and while denouncing those who advised caution and a slower place as unimaginative and even as bigoted (as you are predictably doing here).

    So long as there are no signs of EU-philes admitting that they’ve got some things badly wrong, and showing a willingness to address this (and very quickly) then you can’t reasonably expect people to want to remain in the EU. And you can’t just browbeat them into line by calling them ‘racist’ for the thousandth time.

    The EU is in desperate need of a
    democratic overhaul. It must be radically reformed to serve the
    interests of its citizens, not its biggest corporations.

    Okay, so let’s see that reform. Quickly. Impress us.

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