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There's Nothing 'Radical' About Wanting to Stay in the EU

02/06/2016 11:03 | Updated 02 June 2016

Recently some notable figures on the left - including shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Green MP Caroline Lucas, and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis - have joined forces to make the "leftwing" case for staying in the European Union. The three have teamed up for the Another Europe is Possible campaign, and are now trying to sell us the "radical" approach to the Remain argument.

My immediate reaction upon hearing this news was one of surprise; surprise at the audacious claim of three fairly respectable leftists that there was something "radical" about wanting to remain a part of the EU. "Radical", a term I would normally associate with anti-establishment movements - movements urging for a decentralisation of power, and a revolt against bureaucracy - has now been adopted as a term for those who would vote for Britain's continued membership of a politicised trade union with little to no regard for the democratic process.

This is - in my view - unhelpful. Yanis Varoufakis of all people should know the undermining of democracy which comes as part and parcel of membership of the EU. In the summer of last year, the people of Greece voted against bailout conditions set out by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. But the referendum, held under Greece's leftist Syriza-led coalition government, was inevitably rendered null and void after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was forced to agree to the bailout conditions, whilst under significant pressure from eurozone creditors. What Greece has been reduced to - from the foundation of democracy to the victim of the behemoth that is EU bureaucracy - should be regarded as nothing other than a politico-historical tragedy.

Varoufakis himself has spoken of the near-dystopian nature of the Eurogroup, which holds its meetings in camera (closed off from the public eye), and has a significant impact on the economies of countries which have adopted the euro as their official currency. In the five months Greece's ex-finance minister tried to "renegotiate" the bailout conditions with Eurogroup, he was persistently ignored. He has gone as far as to say that he thinks German control over Eurogroup is "absolute", and that "the group itself is beyond the law." But despite his first-hand witnessing of the EU's undemocratic and often clandestine nature, the "rock-star" economist still naively believes in a "democratisation of Europe", in which all meetings of the Eurogroup will be livestreamed, and European citizens will be given the chance to hold directly democratic constitutional assemblies. There is no harm in idealism, and that is surely the "radical" element that Varoufakis and others have emphasised. But this idealism will never become achievable within the EU.

In an attempt to defend both the leftwing and ecological case to stay in the EU, Caroline Lucas has lauded the "international rules to control big business and finance, and to ensure that people's rights are protected" which the EU has provided. This is a point which the Remain campaign - particularly Labour In for Britain - has held on to over the past few months. Politicians such as Angela Eagle, Alan Johnson and Lucas herself have frequently expressed these warnings over the vulnerability of workers' rights if we leave the EU. It's certainly not a concern which I think should be downplayed. There are vital elements of legislation on rights of employment - such as the maximum 48-hour week, four weeks of paid holiday leave and equal pay for agency workers - which must be defended within the UK legal framework if we leave.

But various leftists are not content with the idea of a Tory government in the event of a "Brexit", with some having gone to Twitter spouting the words "I don't want to be left alone on a small island with the Tories." I myself would ideally not want to be governed by a Conservative government, but nor would I want to be governed by Brussels. And regardless of this, the likelihood of David Cameron comfortably retaining his role as Prime Minister is increasingly dwindling, with angry backbenchers threatening to topple their leader if he doesn't win a secure "in" vote - which means, if the UK does vote to leave the EU after all of Cameron's overt pro-EU propaganda, we could see a general election as early as October.

Fundamentally, I am not convinced by many on the left peddling the myth that you cannot be a leftist who votes for Brexit. And I am certainly not convinced by the idea that staying is in any way "radical". If radicals are meant to be against the establishment, then the EU and its defenders are anything but radical. The threat of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal cannot be overstated. This is legislation which will open up public services like the NHS to US companies, relax EU standards on food safety and the environment, and - most frighteningly - allow large corporations to sue governments if government policies cause a "loss of profit". And TTIP is only the icing on the cake; the almost unheard of Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a nearly identical deal which has already been signed by both the European Commission and the Canadian government. If you are wondering why you as a citizen have not already been consulted on any of these trade deals, it is because of the complete lack of democracy and transparency which is endemic within the EU.

On the topic of the European Commission, it must be noted that no one on the commission is voted in. We may annually vote for members of European Parliament (although our MEPs lack a strong democratic mandate, as only 35.6 per cent of voters turned out to vote in the last round of European elections), but we have no say over who is "elected" to the commission. This year, Jean-Claude Juncker - a careerist politician who went from serving as Luxembourg's Prime Minister for 19 years to serving as President of Eurogroup for an additional 8 - was elected by MEPs as President of the commission with completely no mandate from the people. And since "elected", Juncker has proven that he is completely uninterested in any calls for reform.

The so-called "radical" argument for remaining in the EU is formed under the delusion that the EU can and will reform. Even Jeremy Corbyn - who, for most of his life in politics has wanted to leave the EU - has now been "swayed" by the Remain campaign. Last year, Corbyn said that he wouldn't rule out advocating for Brexit if Cameron tried to negotiate workers' rights and environmental protection. But now that the Labour leader has the chance to practically usurp the Conservatives by forcing a general election with an "out" vote, Corbyn unfortunately finds himself on the wrong side of the debate. Corbyn instead wants to negotiate stronger employment rights and an end to Brussels-backed austerity. But the brutal political violence inflicted by the EU on Greece, and the inevitability of expanded globalisation and corrupt trade deals, show us that this dream is not one we can achieve by remaining in the EU. The only way we can truly send the EU a message will be by voting to leave it on the 23rd June.

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