THE BLOG
22/02/2016 07:19 GMT | Updated 21/02/2017 05:12 GMT

It's Not Just the Date That's Dodgy, the Whole EU Referendum Is a Red Herring

So it's gonna be June 23rd. The twitterati have inevitably focused on the clash with that annual celebration of yuppiedom - Glasto! More importantly the referendum will be held bang in the middle of the European football championship. Not only will the entire nation, as usual, holds its breath as England manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory but the Euros is the ultimate feelgood celebration of all that's great about Pan-European values. Surely more than a hint of subliminal influence on the nation as it casts its vote, non?

Beyond logistical matters, the terms of the debate for the in-out question have been imposed by the establishment within narrow parameters. This is what is deemed acceptable for discussion in the mainstream media. As Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out, an internecine schism in the Tory party has been elevated to a continental scale dispute leaving many European leaders bemused.

The question is not whether we want to be in or out of Europe. But what kind of a Europe we want. Cameron and Farage bang on about how they are fighting for British interests and our rights. If they truly were then they would actually be talking about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and not an emergency brake on migrant benefits. Here we have the classic conflation of the interests of we the people and those of the establishment.

This trade agreement is intended to break down trade barriers between the EU and the US. However, in reality, there are few remaining barriers. The negotiations have taken place behind closed doors. What little we know has been down to the efforts of campaigners and activists. TTIP actually aims to open up public services for trade liberalisation and harmonisation. In other words, our public services will be opened up to corporations.

The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause in particular has caused a furore. This would facilitate corporations to sue governments if their actions harm profits or even the future expectation of profits. Remarkably, hearings would take place in a private justice tribunal and not through normal judicial channels. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has led to tens of cases of governments sued by corporations for policies taken in the public interest. In effect, ISDS would act as a deterrent for policies that harm the interests of corporations. Here in Britain, the NHS has particularly been the focus of activists. TTIP would effectively lock-in NHS privatisation.

Again, a proper discussion on the EU would address the question of austerity. Specifically how the Troika of the EU commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have superseded national sovereignty. The Troika have routinely issued memoranda to be rubber-stamped by national parliaments. This has been most evident in Greece. Even when the Greek people elected an anti-austerity government in Syriza, it was smashed by global finance.

By any standard, the logic of what is being imposed on Greece is insane. The troika are bailing out Greece with funds whilst imposing austerity policies, which ensure that the economy is starved of investment. Debt has to be viewed as a proportion of GDP. Thus, Greece's debt continues to increase as a proportion of its GDP and it requires more bail-outs, which only exacerbates the problem.

Some of the trillions printed through Quantitative Easing could of course be used to buy out Greece's debt. However, austerity policies are exploiting the crisis to impose a neoliberal agenda of privatisation in order to open up Greek state assets for global capital whilst shrinking the public sector. Not only this but Greece needs to be made an example of - if Greece were to be let off the hook then Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland would all have followed. And so the death spiral must be perpetuated in this mad world. All the while ordinary Greek citizens suffer with mass unemployment, skyrocketing poverty, collapsing public services and a health emergency in order that this charade can go on.

This is the direction of travel for 21st century Europe. Global trade agreements and the further consolidation of the hegemonic EU will override national sovereignty and empower corporations at the expense of ordinary people. This is what we need to put an emergency brake on. We must fight for a socially just Europe that works for its citizens rather than what exists at present - a corporate and financialised EU that works in the interests of the elite.