The Spectator reports that Ed Miliband set out a dividing line with the Conservatives today by declaring that ‘his party would never, ever leave the EU’. His actual words were:
‘We must demand reform from Europe—a European Union that works better for Britain. But make no mistake: exit from the EU would be a dramatic mistake for our country and our economy. So, whatever the politics, I will not join those who cynically offer exit as a realistic plan for our future or the future of Britain’s working families.’
This is disappointing. I haven’t quite made up on my mind on whether I’d vote to stay or leave but at the very least any true call for reform has to be backed up by the threat a referendum. Without this, the EU have no reason to take any demands of reform seriously, and Miliband knows this.
But what is more disappointing is this continued one-way love affair between the British Left and the EU. To me it seems this is more borne out of a knee-jerk opposition to the Right’s Euroscepticism than any actual examining of the facts. When you actually look at how the EU operates, you see it has pushed crushing austerity on Greece, Italy and other poorer nations through its demands that EU countries ‘balance their budgets’. The ECB demanded the privatisation of Italian and Greek water companies under the extremely thin veneer of increasing economic growth. Marxist geographer and sociologist David Harvey recounts how Swedish conservatives pushed the country to join the EU to cement in place and accelerate neoliberal forms that they failed to make headway with at home. Furthermore, all this is taking place with no real democratic element or transparency about the role of lobbyists and capital.
The British Left need to wake up and stop pretending the EU is some cosy, liberal dream of harmonious countries holding hands in a circle of stars and see that it is following in the footsteps of the IMF and World Bank and becoming a neoliberal institution pushing austerity and privatisation in return for loans while denying the people who live within it a say. This practice ruined South and Central America, is ruining southern Europe and the reach of this will only increase if no one from the Left is prepared to stand up and call it out. Sorry Ed, must try harder.