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Britain's Left Should Embrace Euroscepticism

04/06/2014 11:20 BST | Updated 03/08/2014 10:59 BST

Giving a speech on Europe to the CBI on Monday, Tony Blair continued his remarkable track record of getting it wrong on just about everything in modern politics. His talk was a rallying call to Europhiles: venerating the European project, and reminding us that UKIP are a bunch of myopic geriatrics stuck in the '60s.

As a pariah in his own country, he is no doubt hoping to be given some unaccountable and powerful position in Europe, without the inconvenience of a public vote. It is precisely this kind of contempt for democracy, inherent in the EU, that should be invigorating Britain's left.

The narrative adopted around last week's elections, and Europe in general, is as tedious as it is inaccurate. The common refrains of "Little Englander," and "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists," show that there is only one way to think now. Never mind how you come to the bizarre conclusion that the EU is a 21st century Eden. All that matters is that if you are against it, you must learn to like it, because the world is moving and we can't get off the train.

Not true. Alan Sked, the founder of UKIP, has illustrated that one does not need to be a foaming at the mouth skinhead to oppose the EU. In fact, this liberal minded LSE professor, who recently launched his New Deal party as a left wing alternative to UKIP, reinforces that Euroscepticism should not only be a right wing phenomenon but a left wing one too.

This presents some home truths for Labour. Why are a supposed leftist party supporting a project which is in thrall to corporatism? Look at the work of the Corporate Europe Observatory, who have documented the alarming relationship between lobbyists and the European Commission.

As they say in their report on the Barroso Commission, its distance from the public and lack of accountability mean it is easy pickings for corporations. Something which elicits outrage when it emerges in Westminster, draws barely a whisper in Europe. And the list of excesses published by CEO proves that the Brussels lobbying industry dwarfs that of the UK.

Take free trade deals with the US and India, the creation of which have been shaped by hundreds of meetings with business lobbyists and few with trade unions or consumer groups. Take labour rights, the reduction of which has been promoted by the Commission, who have then been enthusiastically endorsed for doing so by BusinessEurope, a heavyweight corporate lobbying group. Take the recent moves to restrict the sale of cigarettes, and how tobacco giant Philip Morris International managed to delay a key vote in September.

This type of injustice is usually a cause célèbre of the left. Yet there is nothing from Labour or the Lib Dems. The proximity of lobbying to the heart of the European project shows democracy is treated with undeniable flippancy. Why then do the three main parties rush to promote this virtue in other countries, but willingly allow the UK to be presided over by a commission of cronies?

As such, talk of "reform" is white noise. Since the Treaty of Rome in 1957, there has been one way for the EU: that of "ever closer union." In light of this, Cameron's claim to be able to negotiate a new deal is borderline ludicrous. Especially when there is so much invested in Europe by the corporate world.

This flagrant disregard for democratic values should unite the left and the right. Whether its Tony Blair, Martin Schulz or Guy Verhofstatd, it is clear that the mouthpieces of the European project stand for different interests than the majority of the continent. If you are for national sovereignty, you cannot be for the EU. If you are against the clout of corporatism, you cannot be for the EU. However, the British left and the media prefer to obsess over the supposed threat of UKIP, in a collective act of sticking their heads in the sand.

The onus should now be on Europhiles to explain why they support this bureaucratic behemoth. As for Tony Blair, he has denied seeking the position of Commission President. But I say give him it. The prospect of having this old charlatan in power again would turn anyone into a Eurosceptic.