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The Tories’ cynical opportunism on the EU

The Tories are ploughing ahead with their plans for a referendum on EU membership. Having been strong-armed by his right wing backbenchers and the rise of UKIP, Cameron is proposing he renegotiates what he calls a “better deal” for Britain in Europe and then puts it to a referendum.

Up to now the debate on the referendum has largely been shaped around the timing of this referendum, an argument which totally misses the point of what is going on. Cameron is using this referendum as a cynical, opportunistic ploy to attack workers rights and consolidate the power and influence of The City.

Make no mistake, when the Tories say they want a “better deal” for Britain they mean a “better deal” for bankers and their chums and a worse deal for working people. Cameron will come out of that negotiating chamber having got an opt out for Britain on any tighter EU Banking regulations, including on limits to bonuses, and opt outs for workplace rights and any increased EU social provisions, whilst still locking us into the EU’s perma-austerity and commitment to the free-market and privatisation. The worst of both worlds!

I sympathise with many on the left who argue that the EU should be opposed and argue for a no vote in any referendum. It is true that the EU has done much to attack working peoples’ conditions in advancing neoliberalism across the continent and is currently engaged in enforcing austerity upon the states of Southern Europe and beyond. However I do support doing our best to reverse this and build a Social Europe based on workers rights and decent public services. What is needed is proper democratic structures in the EU in order to reverse the neoliberal direction that the project has so far been dedicated to. However, current Tory efforts are dedicated to only ruling out elements of the EU that would be progressive and opposing any democratisation of its institutions, whilst binding us into the parts that would be most damaging to working people’s interests.

The European Union in the British context, whatever its political intentions elsewhere, is not in line with the City-dominated economic order of Britain. Despite its austerity programmes the EU’s economic order is not as finance oriented as the UK and has brought in regulations that would curb the excesses of the City of London, for instance the support for a financial transactions tax to which the Tories are so opposed. Therefore the EU is a threat to the particular kind of neoliberalism the tories espouse. Indeed the euroscepticism of Tories and their allies in The City is very much based on atlanticism. They are more willing to look to the United States than they are to Europe and see the future in geopolitically linking up with the big finance in America rather than have the banks’ power curbed in the EU.

The Labour Movement needs to wake up the country to the fact of what’s going on. Cameron’s pussyfooting around the EU is noting but a ploy to lock us out of increased workers’ rights and ensure Britain of the worst of both worlds: the EU’s austerity and privatisation and the City of London’s excesses of bonuses and low regulation. The Labour Party needs to start highlighting this and arguing for Britain’s place in building a democratic, social Europe.

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