Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ed Miliband should fight to take Britain out of the EU


This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: Committing to a referendum on EU membership would be smart politics - and progressive

Ed Miliband has said it's important for the Labour party to listen to the people more if it is to regain power and topple the coalition at the next general election. But there’s one important issue on which the public are expressing their opinions loud and clear - and where Miliband and the Labour hierarchy are clearly not listening: Europe.

You can read the whole article here. 





9 comments:

David Lindsay said...

Yes, but...

Not only would the negotiations necessary in order to leave the EU drag on for years and years, but calling the referendum “a device of demagogues and dictators” was Thatcher’s only ever favourable quotation of a Labour Prime Minister. Yet to those who worship at Thatcher’s altar while wholly ignoring her record on this and so much else, the demand for that deeply flawed and wholly foreign device has become a nervous tick. They honestly cannot see how Pythonesque it is to demand a referendum in the cause of defending parliamentary sovereignty. The Lisbon Treaty is self-amending, so there can never be another treaty. What is needed is legislation with five simple clauses.

First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law. Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them. Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard. Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights (or of the “Supreme Court”) unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons.

And fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons, so that we were no longer subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, or Dutch ultra-Calvinists who refuse to have women as candidates. Soon to be joined by Turkish Islamists, secular ultranationalists, and violent Kurdish Marxist separatists.

This calls for a Labour three-line whip in favour, with the public warning that the Whip would be withdrawn from any remaining Blairite ultra who failed to comply. The Liberal Democrats set great store by decentralisation, transparency and democracy, and represent many areas badly affected by the Common Fisheries Policy. The Liberals were staunch free traders who were as opposed to the Soviet Bloc as they were to Far Right regimes in Latin America and Southern Africa. The SDP’s reasons for secession from Labour included both calls for protectionism and the rise of antidemocratic extremism. (Both the Liberal Party and, on a much smaller scale, the SDP still exist, and both are now highly critical of the EU.)

The SDLP takes the Labour Whip, the Alliance Party is allied to the Lib Dems, the Greens are staunchly anti-EU, so is the DUP, and the one other Unionist is close to Labour. The SNP and Plaid Cymru can hardly believe in independence for Scotland, greater autonomy for Wales, yet vote against the return to Westminster of the powers that they wish to transfer thence to Edinburgh or Cardiff; the SNP also has the fishing issue to consider. Even any remaining Conservatives who wanted to certify the European People’s Party as politically acceptable might be brought on board.

Leaving those fabled creatures, backbench Tory Eurosceptics. It is high time that their bluff was called. This is how to do it.

Yahoorsur said...

Neil,there is as much chance of that happening as there is of me going through the card at Perth and picking all the winners,not impossible,but very very unlikely,his statement today re the stikes was desperate stuff,he really needs to get some backbone.

Vladimir Gagic said...

I completely agree and I only wish Serbia would realize the EU would be better named the "Austerity Union". Many of my Romanian and Bulgarian friends tell me their nations were better off before joining the AU. Now, wages have stagnated but their cost of living is much higher, and I have no doubt Greece is rethinking surrendering its currency.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion there's a much smarter move than coming right out of the EU. We could exploit the current mess to get ourselves a kind of associate membership (a bit like Norway has.)

Normally the EU bastards wouldn't want to hear of this, but given the situation in Europe right now, I reckon a strong UK-leader could get his way.

DBC Reed said...

Good to see Peter Shore being so admiringly quoted.His "Separate Ways" is one of the few modern political books I have bothered to buy;I prefer all-time classics ..and this is one of them.
His remarks about doing more trade with Commonwealth countries ,with whom we share language ,legal concepts and a lot of people over different generations,chimes with ideas I imbibed (literally, there was a lot of drinking involved)from some geezer in Brighton who claimed to be from ,as I recall, The Campaign for a Socialist Commonwealth (could even have been Empire).
When the Common Market referendum came a year or two later I was armed with pamphlets and arguments from this source,which I was surprised to find, rendered me a bit of laughing-stock.But deep- down these beliefs linger still.

Mark said...

Voices critical of the EU in Labour party politics are very rare these days, and the political establishment as a whole sneers at referenda as a form of 'direct democracy' contrary to their own interests. So I'm afraid, Neil, that your suggestion is a complete non-starter, and thus won't be taken up by Miliband the younger- or whoever succeeds him.

As it happens I'm reading Douglas Jay's political memoir 'Change & Fortune' at the moment- and I can recommend it to Eurosceptics of all stripes. After Gaitskell's untimely death, he became the leading intellectual sceptic in the Labour Party about the 'Common Market', as it was then called. He describes how Wilson overturned Gaitskell's policy in 1966-67 in gripping detail. Most of the Cabinet then were actually fence sitters when it came to Europe, including as it happens Tony Benn, despite his subsequent reputation as an Anti. However, as it was clear Wilson & Deputy Leader Brown were both strongly in favour, the waverers (including Benn) went over to the Pro camp- purely for the sakes of their political careers. Jay however held good to his principles, and was unceremoniously dumped by Wilson in the summer of 1967 for having the audacity to defy him on this issue.

Peter said...

Interesting article as always. I've struggled with what I think about the EU for years. On the one hand, clearly a neo-liberal undertaking and a massively undemocratic one. On the other hand,when compared to the UK, some sort of guarantor of workers' rights and human rights generally. And of course the fact that its principal opponents in the UK are the most reactionary nationalists makes it even more difficult. So for the latter two reasons I tend to defend the EU.

I think the real point is not withdrawal, but democratization. The Eurosceptic Right consistently denounce an emergent European State but I think that such a State is what we need - but a democratic European federation based on social democratic internationalism rather than a neo-liberal hegemony.

Peter said...

Interesting article as always. I've struggled with what I think about the EU for years. On the one hand, clearly a neo-liberal undertaking and a massively undemocratic one. On the other hand,when compared to the UK, some sort of guarantor of workers' rights and human rights generally. And of course the fact that its principal opponents in the UK are the most reactionary nationalists makes it even more difficult. So for the latter two reasons I tend to defend the EU.

I think the real point is not withdrawal, but democratization. The Eurosceptic Right consistently denounce an emergent European State but I think that such a State is what we need - but a democratic European federation based on social democratic internationalism rather than a neo-liberal hegemony.

Calgacus said...

Well, but it should be remembered that the UK was smart enough not to give up the pound. Sure, much of the Eurotreaties are evil trash - especially anything to do with finance - but the strength that the UK retains by having its own currency dwarfs all of the other destructive limitations put together.

On the other hand, the poor Euro nations just aren't independent nations any more, they are just administrative units reporting to the ECB.