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Labour’s policy on EU must force Cameron to address public aspirations and concerns

Juncker & Cameron with EU flagIt is fairly clear, even among Europhiles who want to stay in, what most people object to about the current state of the EU and what they would like to see changed.

  • The membership fee is uncomfortably large, some £11bn every year.
  • Free movement of labour works well between countries of similar living standards, but not between countries at very different levels of economic development.
  • The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy still take 40% of the entire EU budget, and cause considerable resentment in many countries, including the UK.
  • Most people, including most businesses, support free trade, but doubt whether the Single Market is worth the bureaucracy it generates.
  • It is widely felt that the EU is too regulatory and too protectionist.
  • Not many people in the UK want to see Britain becoming part of a federal United States of Europe, but that’s the direction favoured by many of Europe’s leaders.

Are these aspirations likely to be achieved in the current negotiations? It seems very unlikely. There may be a declaration that the UK is not fully tied into the EU goal of ‘ever closer union’. The benefit entitlements of migrants from the EU to the UK will be restricted further. There are proposals to strengthen the sovereignty of national parliaments and for the role of the City to be safeguarded against discriminatory EU financial regulation. But none of this is likely to impact significantly on the concerns that most people have about EU membership, and particularly at a time when the EU is running into deeper difficulties.

The austerity policies to maintain the single currency leave EU living standards, as in the UK, still well below 2007 levels. The way the Germans treated Greece has heavily undermined the perception of the EU as a force for tolerance and fairness. Far right parties are on the march across much of the EU and will increasingly put at risk unpopular policies needed to keep the single currency from collapse.

This may explain why the latest polls suggest that 43% of people in the UK wish to leave and only 40% to stay in. So how is a policy to remain within the EU, which most Labour Party members want, to be combined with renegotiation aims that meet the objections of the majority of British people? Cameron and Osborne seem only interested in achieving the minimum changes that will persuade a majority of the electorate to vote to stay in. Nor has the Labour party so far offered a vision much beyond this minimalist goal.


  1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    We need to get out and as quickly as possible, as far as I can tell TTIP and TAFTA, which too closely mirror the predatory and generally exploitative American economic arrangements in South America, Canada and Australia are an unwanted and undesirable imposition that seem to me to make most of current lively, (if sometimes vacuous,) l debates on economic policy completely redundant and irreverent.

    It may not be too much of an exaggeration to claim that once it’s finally in place TTIP will render an independent UK economic policy illegal and will give the dreadful neolibral, (Globalization/Free Trade,) economic agenda the force of international law.

    Certainly the experiences of other countries, (South American for example,) under this type of agreement are not encouraging and the notion that the UK might be able to negotiate any meaningful concessions or accommodations is totally unrealistic in my view.

    This is not the best article on this topic by any means but it serves to illustrate my point at this time in morning:

  2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    “….redundant and irreverent,” irrelevant obviously; once again ouch.

  3. Verity says:

    Whist many drew up a list of policy developments/priorities following Corbyn’s leadership, I preferred to allow for the fact that the vote was for just one person at one point in time. It would be unreasonable to expect one person in the absence of a mass supporting democratic movement without supporting structures to achieve much. However I thought that if he was able to restructure democracy in the Labour Party and appoint the appropriate Chancellor to gather momentum for an economic alternative to austerity, that would be the optimum return for winning and would mobilise mass support. I must admit though I thought there would be recognition that an anti – austerity programme could only be achieved without EU restraints. Disappointing therefore to see that Corbyn has fallen for the trap set by antagonist Labour MPs (especially shadow cabinet members). His opponents will need little other opposition moves as they will rely on the constraints the EU applies to prevent radical changes to economic policy. For him to so easily bowled over therefore requires an equal counteracting EU opposition movement to try to ensure his prospects of success. The referendum does provide that one chance.

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