10 myths that give a benign view of the EU: From ‘Workers rights‘ to keeping the peace in Europe

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“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ” ― George Orwell

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ” ― George Orwell

1. THE MYTH OF ECONOMIC COLLAPSE 

• The predictions of economic Armageddon were based on forecasts by the Treasury, Bank of England and Office for Budgetary Responsibility. Projections by these bodies are notoriously wrong. All 3 failed to forecast the 2008 crash, or its consequences.
• The forecasts were not that there would be a crash when we left but rather that the U.K. economy would crash immediately as a result of a market reaction to the Brexit referendum. It never happened.
• In the 1990s and 2000s the same establishment bodies that now forecast economic doom if we leave the EU were forecasting calamity if we did not join the Eurozone. The Blairites and centrists were fervently pro single currency. Alexander and Ashdown, Blair and Mandelson, Clarke and Clegg, the FT and the CBI were all preaching the Euro.
• Writing in the Independent in 2003, Johann Hari wrote, “the anti-Europeans want to hum Land of Hope and Glory as they nuke the British economy.” Those who wished to keep Britain out of the disastrous single currency were accused of sacrificing Britain’s economy for the sake of nationalism. The accusations are the same today.
• “There has been no collapse in house prices, unemployment has not risen by 500,000 [as forecast by the Treasury] and the two-year recession never materialised.” (Larry Elliott, Economics Editor, The Guardian).
• Germany, and a number of other EU states, are today on the brink of recession.
* “The idea that we’ll be impoverished after Brexit is complete cobblers.” Larry Elliot, Economics Editor, The Guardian, 19th October 2018.

2. THE MYTH OF THE FREE MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE

• The EU does not permit the free movement of people. It discriminates against migration from Africa, Asia, Australasia, the Americas and half of Europe; that is, 7.1 billion people from 167 countries. In fact the EU operates stringent racist immigration controls against 93% of the world’s population.
• Millions of EU workers have been forced to uproot to escape extreme poverty, driven by EU neoliberalism – the free movement of capital, impossible terms of debt, privatisation, austerity and the suppression of trade unionism. This isn’t ‘free’ movement. It is the enforced transportation of economic refugees created by the EU.
• By 2011 EU migration had created 500,000 ‘EU orphans’ (Children Left Behind Network).
• When EU migrants arrive in the UK it is difficult for them to access legally protected jobs that pay a living wage. Work can involve a 12+ hour day, cash in hand, no tax, no national insurance, no health & safety, no rights.
• Driven into poverty, they are often forced to live in the most deprived areas. The children find themselves sidelined in special needs classes, in schools that have been cut to the bone. These youngsters are prime targets for gang recruitment, violence, drugs and sexual exploitation.
• The adults are disempowered, dispossessed, and desperate – the condition preferred of its under-class by capitalism.

3. THE MYTH OF THE EU AND TRADE UNION RIGHTS

• EU member states hit by EU/IMF bailouts are suffering the largest percentage drop in workers with Collective Bargaining Rights (CBR) of anywhere in the world.
• In 2015 the UN International Labour Organisation revealed that the sharpest decline in CBR coverage had occurred in 10 EU countries. The rate for this group has fallen by an average 21 per cent in 10 yrs. The largest decline in CBR coverage was in Romania with a 63 per cent drop, and Greece at 45 per cent.
• The destruction of trade union rights reaches across the EU with an average 14 per cent reduction in CBR in the past 10 years.
• This is not accidental. The European Commission’s Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs produced a report which advocated: *employer-friendly reforms, *undermining collective bargaining, *abolishing industry-level workplace agreements, *decreasing bargaining coverage and *an overall reduction in the wage-setting power of trade unions.

4. THE MYTH OF ‘SOCIAL EUROPE’

Much is made of the EU’s Community Social Charter for the Rights of Workers, the Social Charter Action Programme and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. These are worthwhile signposts for social policy. But:
• Many of these rights are already addressed in UK legislation.
• Others are enshrined in international law laid down by the U.N. or the Council of Europe, which consists of 47 European states and has nothing to do with the EU. It is the Council of Europe, not the EU, which has given us the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter.
• With the EU, these rights are trumped by the EU Court of Justice’ ruling that the 4 freedoms, incorporated in, for example, the Right to Conduct Business, supersede in case law any other EU rights, such as collective bargaining.
• With the 2005 Treaty of Lisbon, the EU ditched its ‘social Europe’ programme. Ironically, this was under the direction of Peter Mandelson, then an EU Commissioner.
• In the few cases where EU legislation may currently be stronger than U.K. or international law, a Labour government would supplement existing U.K. law.

5. THE MYTH OF THE EU AND HUMAN RIGHTS

None of the following owe their existence to the European Union:

1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights
1950: the European Convention on Human Rights
1965: U.K. Race Relations Act
1965: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
1966: UK signs up to the European Court of Human Rights
1975: U.K. Sex Discrimination Act
1976: U.K. Race Relations Act
1976: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
1979: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
1984: UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
1989: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
1995: U.K. Disability Discrimination Act
1998: Human Rights Act
2006: Universal Periodic Review of UN Member States Human Rights’ records
2008: UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
2010: The U.K. Equality Act

6. THE MYTH THAT THE UK ESTABLISHMENT FAVOURS BREXIT.

This claim is based on the support for Brexit by the Tory right wing European Reform Group, including Jacob Reece Mogg and Boris Johnson. But:

• The ERG is a minority of Tory MPs. The majority support Remain, and always has done, including every living Tory Prime Minister bar Johnson.
• The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Chamber of Commerce, the City, Bank of England, the Treasury, the Institute of Directors and every U.K. high street bank supports Remain.
• The Lib-Dems, Change U.K. and Tom Watson’s ‘Future Britain’ faction all support Remain.
• The IMF, The European Central Bank and the Deutsche Bank support Remain.
• The Times group, Mirror group, The Guardian and the Economist support Remain.
• The Express and the Daily Mail both quietly appointed pro-Remain Editors in 2018.
• The Sun and the Telegraph are now the only daily newspapers that support a hard Brexit.
• Virtually every right wing Labour figure of the past 4 decades has been an EU backer: SDP founders Jenkins, Rodgers and Williams; Kinnock, Blair, Mandelson, Campbell, Blunkett, Straw, Beckett, Brown, David Miliband, Umunna and Watson.
• By contrast, almost every giant of the Labour Movement over the past 50 years has been an EU sceptic: Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill, Dennis Skinner, Mick McGahey, Bob Crowe, Jeremy Corbyn and Len McCluskey.
• Until the rise of the Blairites, the Labour Party, especially the socialist wing, had been sceptical about the EU. The 1975 Special Conference on EC membership voted 2-1 in favour of Leave backed by the TUC. The socialist Campaign Group of MPs opposed the EEC/EU for decades.

7. THE MYTH OF ‘REMAIN AND REFORM’.

• This myth naively assumes that the EU is a democratic organisation. It isn’t.
• Of the 7 institutions of the EU, 6 are not elected: the Commission, EU Council, Council of Ministers, Court of Justice, European Central Bank and the Auditors.
• The Parliament is elected but has no powers to draft legislation. This basic power of any democracy belongs exclusively to the unelected Commission.
• The EU constitution, embodied in its Treaties, cannot be amended by the EU Parliament. Any amendment, to any Treaty, requires the unanimous ratification by all member states. It is a constitution designed to make significant reform impossible.
• Yet the treaties of Rome, Lisbon and the Single European Act would have to be amended simply to abolish the free movement of capital, a measure that is essential to the prospects of any Labour government as it attempts to halt the anticipated flight of finance capital.
• The EU is no more suited or susceptible to democratic reform than the CBI, IMF or NATO.
• As Tony Benn said, “…the EU has the only constitution in the world that is explicitly capitalist”.

8. THE MYTH THAT THE EU HAS KEPT THE PEACE IN EUROPE.

* We know that the EU has done nothing to preserve peace beyond Europe, witness Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria. But it has also failed on its own continent, most notably with the Yugoslavia Wars, 1991-1995.
• 400,000 people died. 40,000 are missing (Red Cross). The wars created 2.4 million refugees and 2 million internally displaced. There were 50,000+ war rape victims. Ethnic cleansing resulted in 1.5 million people being driven from their homes.
• The material and economic damage was colossal. Bosnia & Herzegovina put its cost at $50-$70bn. The Croatian Parliament put the national cost at $37bn.
• The 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia used 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium. Serbia suffered a 55% fall in GDP, mass unemployment and 1million lost jobs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslav_Wars
• Europe was at war and Germany took the spoils. It was the first country to recognise Croatia and Slovenia, guaranteeing the break up of Yugoslavia into 6 small states. It capitalised, literally, from the export of monopoly capital and the privatisation of huge expanses of formerly publicly owned assets.
• European militarisation has been furthered by the EU Commission’s creation of an EU Defence Fund with a total budget of €20 billion. This expenditure is in addition to member states’ national defence budgets. The fund is being created at the expense of a 2/3rd cut to EU civil and peace-building budgets. (https://info.brot-fuer-die-welt.de/…/eu-defence-fund-feedin…)

9. THE MYTH OF EU ‘INTERNATIONALISM’.

• 23 EU member states are full members of NATO.
• The EU backed U.S/NATO-led regime change in Syria and Libya.
• It is supporting US imperialism’s threats to impose regime change in Venezuela.
• It backed the far-right coup in Ukraine.
• It operates a neo-colonial policy towards Africa through unfair trade. For example, unprocessed coffee beans are imported into the EU without tariffs. But if east African states wish to export roasted, ground beans then they must pay a 7.5% duty. The objective is to maintain Africa in under-developed servitude as a supplier of cheap raw produce.
• It imposed draconian measures on Greece, including extreme austerity, privatisation and rapacious terms of debt repayment.
• It imposed less extreme but not dissimilar measures on Spain, Portugal, Italy and Eire.
• The EU is, in deed, a force for neo-colonialism and imperialism.
• Within the EU, numerical representation of member states on the various bodies is profoundly unequal. Policy and decision-making are dominated by the larger nations, notably, France and hegemonic Germany.

10. THE MYTH THAT LEAVE’S VICTORY IN 2016 WAS DOWN TO LIES AND MONEY.

• The notion that Leave won the referendum, in which 33.6 million people voted, by virtue of a misleading advert on the side of a bus, is farcical.
• In reality, the Remain vote was inflated by ‘Project Fear’. Osborne’s lies were based on fatuous projections by the Treasury and the Bank of England, that a Leave referendum result would trigger an instant market reaction, prompting an immediate collapse in share prices and house prices and 500,000 unemployed, none of which happened.
• Osborne also tried to bully the electorate with his scaremongering threat to institute an emergency extreme austerity budget if the country voted to leave. It was another lie.
• Campaign spending on the EU referendum according to the Electoral Commission:

Total spent: £32,642,158
Remain: £19,309,588
Leave: £13,332,569

• These figures do not include the £9.3 million of taxpayers’ money spent by the Government on a 16-page leaflet, “Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK”, that was delivered to 27 million households in April and May 2016.
• In reality, the Remain campaign spent more than double that of Leave.
• The Sunday Times campaigned for Remain. Yet its political editor, Remainer Tim Shipman wrote:

“The Remain campaign coordinated their efforts on a conference call every morning. They used taxpayers’ money to send campaign literature to every household under the guise of information. If it was stacked, it was stacked against Leave. I voted Remain but this is ridiculous”.

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums?fbclid=IwAR3ljgOADY95cLTgCZLxDTBIsMXRoffCsGCLEIrWZp02ssmCzAfFl8wy-Bs

Socialist Correspondent

Article by Gary Lefley Editor Socialist Correspondent Editorial Board. Also Chair of Chingford & Woodford Green CLP.

 

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