Tuesday, April 5, 2016

#Brexit: The Constructive Case to Leave

I’m opposed to being in the EU, and it surprises me greatly when this revelation is met by surprise by people on the left. The reasons for Euroscepticism, as expressed by ordinary voters are not right wing ones, they’re left wing ones; it’s just that the mainstream left in the UK has failed, on this issues as with so many others, to connect real world concerns with left wing solutions, and have allowed the Conservative right to own the realm of a different Europe.

Indeed, in the whole debacle of a renegotiation which has offered nothing new, we’ve allowed the vision of Britain’s reformed Europe to be led by Cameron’s dog-whistle nationalism, and the referendum debate – and its aftermath whatever the result - is in danger of that too.

But let’s say this, first and foremost: I believe in political union, in social union, and I think those should come first. This union should be a global one, ever increasing, but based on the principle of subsidiarity, where we empower everybody from the family to every worker of the world in an accountable, ordered way for the purpose of bettering the lives of working people. This is a totally new model of European integration (and beyond), and certainly not reform of the old, not a reform of what we have now.

I’ve written two posts – this details the constructive case for why I’m voting out; the other challenges the confused case made by the liberal left in Britain.

So why do I want out? It’s because I reject the fundamental premiss of the EU’s existence, and as such I don’t think the EU can be reformed, much less that the EU on offer is desirable. You can’t turn a donkey into a racehorse, and that’s exactly what any well-intentioned left-wing debate is trying to do.

As an internationalist, I want to see a movement creating institutions and infrastructure to support the working classes wherever they are. This should be the bedrock of a left-wing Europe, and the EU is not fit to do the job. As someone who believes in subsidiarity, I believe decisions should be made at the lowest possible level - starting with the family, the community, local, then regional government, right up to decisions made by the entire global community for the good of all. The EU is too small to do the extreme end, too fractured to do anything in the middle, and so necessarily centralised in order to provide its beloved free market that its indirect disempowering of families, workers and communities is felt the continent over.

Firstly, the EU’s primary and core purpose is the creation of a single, free market for capital. Whenever the lot of working people in Europe is improved by the EU, it’s grudgingly as a result of this desire for standard costs, standard terms. I’d love to see an EU wide-minimum wage and EU-wide central collective bargaining, but if the core purpose of the organisation which delivers this is a common market in capital, any such common terms are at the bottom, and not the top. They are based on the market’s need, not the human need. It’s fruitless to even start to try to get a positive left solution on such questions in the current context. In the EU we’re being asked to back, this looks even less likely, as although Cameron’s deals are nothing new, they entrench this position absolutely.

Secondly, as an internationalist, I don’t think the borders end in Europe. The EU’s protectionism is designed to compete with, and accordingly oppress, non-European workers. When we talk about ‘competing with China’ that’s exactly what we mean. We’re simultaneously driving down our labour costs to compete, and thus protecting our imperialist edge, and, just as distastefully, the aristocracy of our labour.

Leaving the EU is part of making the case for rising labour standards across the world – as well as protecting terms and jobs in Britain. Truly, it would mean we could prefer British products, nationalise British industry, set our own tariffs – but it would also mean being able to offer favourable terms to developing trading partners based on whatever principles we saw fit. It is up to us to ensure these are not just the ‘cheapest first’ model of an economic union, but ‘human first’ – a social approach to bilateral and multilateral treaties.

I focus more on the positive reasons to leave for British manufacturing, and for a British industrial strategy in this ‘blog here [LINK]. But needless to say losing regulation designed to support private industry, prevent governments taking an holistic look at their national and regional economies (against the principle of subsidiarity), is a tremendously positive thing.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly at the current time, the handling of the refugee and migrant crisis is perhaps one of the most positive reasons to leave the EU. The EU has failed human beings repeatedly on this point for the entire duration of its existence, but now moreso than ever. This is because it has a model based on a movement of labour, European labour, over and above a model based on the free movement of people, of human beings, whatever their passport.

Leaving the EU destabilises the idea that we have no responsibility as a country to refugees that wash up on the shores of economically struggling southern and Baltic states just because ‘they’re in Europe now’. It allows us to place human beings first, and the crises in which they find themselves, and not be resigned to having to favour labour from inside a single free market. Instead of participating in colossal brain-drains, impoverishing regions of our continent still further, we can support those who are most meaningfully stateless, or the biggest victims of the worst excesses of capitalism and imperialism from the fifteenth century to the present day.

I can already see the litany of replies to this, laughing at some utopian set of principles that should govern our relationship with the world, impossible to achieve because we have a Tory government.

But the truth is this: somebody arguing to ‘remain’ cannot make any arguments about what a left wing government could do to make these principles even marginally closer to reality – because the EU stops the case. It shuts down the case for nationalisation, for compassionate treatment of humans rather than labour, for the case of protectionism to save a community. If you agree that any of these things are occasionally necessary, or desirable, on whatever scale or metric, you have to argue to leave, because this hulking, undemocratic bureaucracy opposes them at its core.