Kelvin Hopkins has been the Labour MP for Luton North since 1997. He worked as an economist for the TUC, is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, was one of 16 signatories of an open letter to Ed Miliband calling for opposition to further austerity, and was one of 36 Labour MPs who nominated Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate for the 2016 Labour Leadership contest.
The European Union is anti-democratic, anti-socialist and failing economically. With low and negative economic growth, 25% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment in some member states, living standards cut by a quarter in Greece, forced privatisations and restrictions on collective bargaining rights as conditions of bailouts, the true nature of the EU is now plain to see.
Free movement of labour is designed simply to reduce wages and reduce wage bargaining strength. The Laval and Viking Line cases where the European Court ruled in favour of employers and against trade unions made a nonsense of the supposed EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and were a clear indication of the direction of travel being steered by the EU’s masters. Raising up the market and market forces against elective democracy was evident from the start in its original name, the Common Market, and was opposed at the time by British socialists including Hugh Gaitskell, Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan.
The EU’s Economic Ethos
In a Commons debate in 1989, Tony Benn MP said, “I was brought up to believe, and I still believe, that when people vote in an election they must be entitled to know that the party for which they vote, if it has a majority, will be able to enact laws under which they will be governed. That is no longer true. Any party elected, whether it is the Conservative party or the Labour party can no longer say to the electorate, “Vote for me and if I have a majority I shall pass that law,” because if that law is contrary to Common Market law, British judges will apply Community law.”
Labour’s policies of public ownership such as returning the railways to the public sector will not be possible if EU free-market rules are implemented. The franchising of Britain’s railway operations as supposed ‘privatisation’ is especially bizarre when Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway owns much of Britain’s public transport services, with British passengers effectively subsidising Berlin commuters.
Kelvin Hopkins at the Cambridge Brexit Campaign
The European Union project moved slowly and by stealth at first, later accelerating following the 1980s Single European Act. It was clearly intended to promote the dismantling over time of the post-war social democratic structures which brought such massive benefits to millions of working people across Western Europe.
The current secretive negotiations to impose TTIP, the proposed EU/USA trade deal which would give massive power to the giant private corporations to be able to prosecute democratically elected member state governments is conclusive proof – if proof were needed – about the true nature of the EU.
Irish citizens will have no illusions about the EU having felt the heel of the European Central Bank on the economy which is poignant in the centenary of the Easter Rising and the struggle for independence. At the same time the grants Northern Ireland receives are UK taxes recycled via Brussels. By voting to Leave, grants could be increased. And the UK’s membership of the European Court of Human Rights is not under threat as this comes under the umbrella of the 55-nation Council of Europe, not the EU.
The brutal way the Greek people have been treated is an affront to all socialists. Working people in Spain, Portugal and Italy are also feeling the effects of EU austerity. We only have to look at French workers to see how austere recessionary economic policies are even being forced on larger member states. It is time for democratic member state governments once again to stand up for their peoples and to reject the EU. The United Kingdom has an opportunity to take the lead in that process by voting “Leave” in the coming referendum. Working people across Europe will be enormously invigorated by a British Leave vote and change will be forced on the EU.
That being said, I always emphasise that the European Union is not Europe. Europe is a sub-continent of great peoples, beautiful countries and superb culture. Democracy, socialism and trade unionism were all created in Europe. The European Union is simply a political construct covering many of the countries of Europe. We can have a great Europe without the EU, a Europe of international friendship and solidarity which will not sell out working people to the global corporations