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Corbyn's (Misguided) Deliberation Over the EU

21/02/2016 18:55 GMT | Updated 21/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Jeremy Corbyn has come out in open support of the EU, despite his previous misgivings. Writing in the Guardian, he explained his reasons for supporting the EU as follows.

It's because being part of Europe has brought Britain investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment. We are convinced that the EU is a vital framework for European trade and international cooperation in the 21st century, and that a vote to remain in Europe is in the best interests of our people.

It is quite ironic that Corbyn mentions investment, given his previous comments about foreign companies essentially nationalising British industry. What is the difference, for instance, between foreign investment and the purchase of British electricity by the French state? Corbyn was correct with his initial comments: if a foreign company, owned by a foreign state, takes ownership of British industry - or invests sufficiently in British industry - then that is nationalisation by a foreign state. We can forget about the argument from investment then.

What about the EU's record on jobs? Here there is unambiguous, clear evidence. The EU has been a disaster as far as employment is concerned. One only has to look at Greece, Spain, Italy, or Portugal, to see the results of EU policy. Noam Chomsky, in an interview in 2012, observed that European policy makes "sense only on one assumption: that the goal is to try and undermine and unravel the welfare state." This follows from the fact that in some countries a quarter of the population are unemployed - or half of the youth population. No country can function under those conditions; nor can any welfare state be maintained.

What about the UK? Perhaps the EU got it wrong with Greece, but managed some success with the UK. The difference between Greece and the UK, in this case, is the fact that the EU has no power over the UK. The UK's relative successes are only attributable to the fact that Britain has retained control over its own currency. Greece, on the other hand, must serve the European Central Bank in order to be given scraps from the table. This is because the way the Euro is set up has deprived each member state of any fiscal power. The UK, outside of this EU institution, consequently is at an enormous advantage. The Conservatives have imposed their own austerity, of course, but not because of any inherent property of the pound. Should a progressive government be elected in the UK, full employment would be a real possibility. This is not so should the UK integrate further into the EU, which is the only plausible outcome given current trends.

So that is investment and jobs out. What about protection for workers and consumers? Well, Germany has inflicted massive wage stagnation upon its workforce. This is the only thing Germany can do in order to remain competitive with other EU countries - devaluation of the currency is not an option. As Neil Irwin, in the New York Times wrote, "from 2000 to 2010, after-tax income for people in the middle of the income distribution in Germany increased 1.4 percent. Not per year. Total." Likewise for any other country in the EU that wishes to export goods: the only option is to cut wages. Even more depressingly, there is a serious question to be raised here. Which workers? As already noted, Greece has a quarter of its population out of work, with however many more in precarious and temporary work. What rights have these people been given by the EU? The right to live in poverty.

Is it true, then, that "a vote to remain in Europe is in the best interests of our people"? I have yet to see a reason that it is, and plenty that it is not.