By Elaine Smith
I will be voting to leave the EU in the upcoming Referendum. I believe that whatever way people vote they should be aware of the true nature of the EU. As the late Tony Benn said: ‘When I saw how the EU was developing, it was very obvious what they had in mind was not democratic.” He went on to say “…. I am in favour of democracy.”
Below is the text of the speech I gave in the Scottish Parliament this morning.
“I’ve been listening to the wider EU debate and one of the worst aspects is the extent to which the debate has been dominated by the right and often with racist undertones.
So it’s important that a legitimate left wing case for leaving is voiced in the debate.
The key argument of the official stay campaign seems to be that things can only get worse if we leave, ignoring of course the role that the EU has played in intensifying austerity and reactionary politics across the EU.
Of course, many of my Labour colleagues are enthusiastic staying in, as outlined by Kezia Dugdale.
But from a left perspective there’s a need to assess what the EU is and based on that, what route is most likely to offer the best prospects to make progress for the working class and employment rights.
Personally I’m not convinced that it is as part of an undemocratic super state with mass unemployment, falling living standards and growing inequality. Look to the Greek tragedy and 50% youth unemployment in Spain.
There are undoubtedly many on the left who are intending to hold their noses and vote to remain in the hope that reforms will come. I understand that.
But with an unelected bureaucracy at its core and a largely decorative parliament I think that avoids the reality that the EU structures are closely bound to capitalism.
The original title of the EU, the common market, told socialists then that it was essentially capitalist and designed to reverse the socialist advances made in Western Europe after WW2.
Those advances were built on public ownership of key utilities and industries, the creation of welfare states, redistributive taxation and management by the state of the economy to ensure full employment.
Of course, Britain was originally locked out of the EEC club by a French vetoes because they believed, correctly, that it would use its influence to advance the interests of US capital.
The interests of workers, by contrast, are important only in so far as their consent, or at least the absence of organised opposition, can be achieved.
At this point someone usually mentions the social chapter of the Maastricht Treaty.
However, the treaty was introduced to develop the single market and monetary union with the social chapter being included as it was recognised that increased labour movement resistance to worsening economic conditions could de-rail the EU project.
In Britain, equality, health and safety laws, the working time directive and a range of other benefits included in the social chapter seemed very attractive due to the aggressive market led capitalist approach of Tory governments.
But, it is important to note the limited nature of the social chapter: key areas in relation to the class struggle - like pay an the right to strike - were not included.
It is the non-EU-based European Court of Human Rights, the ECHR, that has occasionally delivered progressive judgements in these areas. By contrast the EU Court of Justice has directly limited trade union rights.
The reality is that most of the key rights we still enjoy stem not from the EU but from struggles undertaken collectively by trade unions in this country; for example, paid holidays and equal pay.
The EU has provided some individual (as opposed to collective) rights. It legislated for TUPE – but only to limit resistance to EU-imposed privatisation and competitive tendering.
Individual rights for agency workers were introduced to mitigate the effects of casualization which the EU itself helped create.
The EU works on the basis of the primacy of the market and collective labour organisation is seen as an impediment to effective markets.
We have seen endless pro-business directives: ending public ownership of basic services like rail and utilities, introducing compulsory competitive tendering in the public sector and allowing companies to pay workers from other states at rates lower than the locally agreed rates.
This agenda has impacted directly on Scotland.
The Scottish government claims that it was the EU that enforced the retendering of CalMac with the threat of privatisation. This is one of the reasons the RMT union are keen for their members to Vote Leave.
Currently both CETA and TTIP are being negotiated by the unelected commission behind closed doors and if agreed will huge threat to our public services in Scotland. These treaties are a corporate power grab that will undermine our democracy and give business a right to sue governments.
The EU is not Europe: it’s a political construct imposed on the people of Europe to undermine democratic national governments.
It seek the effective elimination of any genuine elective democracy and that runs contrary to the true definition of internationalism.
Since its foundation the EU has had a clear direction of travel, opening up public services to privatisation, eroding collective bargaining and centralising power.
Unfortunately not enough of the debate – on either side – has addressed these fundamental points.
Voting to remain will inevitably allow this agenda to continue in the face of minimum opposition and with little real hope of reform.
Voting leave could help to reassert the power of working people over that of big business. Politically, that would be most likely if we elect a Labour Government in 2020.
Personally, for those reasons I intend to vote leave.”
I'd offer you a beer, but I've only got six cans.