The Reluctant Left-Wing Case for Remain (For Now)

21/06/2016 11:38 | Updated 21 June 2016

When deciding how to vote on this awful, ghastly neverendum, all of us must weigh up the risks and benefits to leaving, and then factor in the very out of fashion idea of principle - do we believe in the essence, the ideas, the principles, that underpin the EU? I can say quite firmly that I do not believe in the EU as it is an undemocratic, unaccountable, monolithic, neoliberal, secretive, bureaucratic, bullying set of institutions that are incapable of reform (how can it be reformed? it's so big and complex that the only people who understand it are the ones who have overseen its massive expansion and corruption), and therefore must at some stage be overthrown; not just in Britain but across Europe.

Or, to put it another way, the EU is a slowly burning building that we in Britain must at some stage leave, but the question then arises: how do we ensure that everyone else makes it out alive too?

This is why I do not believe that this is the right time for Britain to leave. To continue the analogy, the refugee crisis combined with the rise of the far right across Europe would mean in the event of a Brexit, there is a very real risk that the rest of Europe would not make it out of the building alive and, indeed, the fire may well spread across the channel into our new post-Brexit house (or hovel, depending on who you believe).

In short, Britain leaving would cause shockwaves across Europe that could turn the continent into a very nasty place. Our decision does not happen in isolation and there are profound consequences for the rest of Europe, which we have to take into account when casting our vote. The far right across Europe is gaining momentum and they will take great encouragement if Britain leaves the EU.

Soon other countries may have their own referendums, soon these countries could be led by some seriously nasty governments, and soon huge swathes of Europe could turn inwards and scapegoat the millions of refugees across the continent. It has been suggested by some leftist Brexiteers that the perseveration of the status quo is counterproductive and only benefits the far right - this argument is seductive, helping to justify a leave vote for those of us on the left who believe the EU is beyond saving.

It is problematic, though, as when you begins to weigh up the benefits of leaving, it is evident the benefits are very few and far between. For instance, in the event of voting to leave we would still have a Tory government, who will probably hold onto power at the next election as winning the referendum would most likely be perceived as their success. Any ensuing economic downturn (although I am sceptical there would be any, beyond an initial shock) would be spun as another reason not to risk Corbyn and his pesky socialists with power.

The main benefits, it seems to me, come down to basic principles of democracy and accountability, but as Britain is outside the Eurozone and possesses relative economic and political independence, the actual material benefits are quite narrow. That is not to say we shouldn't take seriously the issues of democracy and accountability, as the cloud of secrecy covering the EU makes it maddeningly difficult to express discontent with its institutions, but as the EU doesn't really have too much control of British politics, the importance of being able to express discontent is somewhat moot.

Essentially, until we have a government in this country that is committed to a radical restructuring of the economy, the benefits of Brexit are few. But the risks of a resurgent far right sharing the continent with millions of vulnerable refugees are so vast, that there is no logic for Brexit at this moment in time. Brexit (and Grexit, and Frexit etc) will have to happen at some stage because, after all, it's a flawed set of institutions incapable of reform (or slowly burning building, if you will), but right now a British vote to leave is likely to set in motion a chain of events that would cause mayhem across the continent.

What's more, when the socialist revolution does eventually come (please excuse my optimism), leaving the EU will be such a side issue as compared to other aspects of the social, political and economic revolution, that leaving now really serves no purpose except to give us a slightly renewed sense of living in a democracy, which regardless of the referendum outcome, we don't really live in any way - but that is perhaps another story for another day.