Left in the U.K. is divided on EU membership

LONDON:Britain’s Left and trade union movement are deeply divided on the question of the country’s membership of the European Union (EU). A measure of this dissonance was in evidence on Saturday as speakers took to the stage to argue their case in separate meetings in London.

Yanis Varoufakis in London on Saturday.

A measure of this dissonance was in evidence on Saturday as speakers took to the stage to argue their case in separate meetings in London.

The two sides appeared as politically distant from each other in the referendum debate as they are with the positions of the official ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns.

Addressing a packed auditorium in central London, in a function organised by the pro-‘Remain’ platform ‘A Better Europe is Possible’, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis; Green Party Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas; Labour MP Clive Lewis; author and journalist Owen Jones and others spoke about the “radical internationalist case for Remain”.

‘Against polarisation’

“Unlike the two official ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns, we are not interested in polarising voters,” Mr. Varoufakis said.

“We stand united in our conviction that it is impossible for Britain to have a successful democracy outside the realm of a democratised European Union. However, it is impossible for the European Union to become democratised without a democratic Britain participating in the process,” he added

Taking issue with the two key arguments of the ‘Leave’ campaign, namely, that Britain should leave to defend its sovereignty, and that Britain should leave to control untrammelled immigration, Mr. Varoufakis said voting to leave would only benefit “a national ruling class” that will exercise sovereignty in an “utterly undemocratic” way.

On the ‘Leave’ campaign’s argument that immigration has overwhelmed British public services, he said: “Lest we forget, turning the native poor against migrant labour is a variant of the old divide and rule trick that the British establishment honed ages ago to dominate the empire.

Today, the establishment uses the same trick to dominate the domestic labourer, to hide austerity’s effects, and to deflect anger towards the other, the migrant, the foreigner.”

‘Left for Exit’ campaign

At another venue, a seminar entitled ‘Dangerous Times’, organised by the ‘Left for Exit’ campaign group, was in progress. Writer and intellectual Tariq Ali made the Left case for leaving the EU, which he described as a neoliberal institution whose charter does not allow any member state to act independently in protection of its national sovereign rights.

Countering the view of the EU being an “internationalist” body, Mr. Ali argued that a supra-national body comprising nation states does not make it internationalist. “Why should the Left express its internationalism through the EU?,” he asked.

With the Leave and Remain campaigns running close together in opinion polls, the odds are almost equal, with the Remain campaign gaining a small edge in recent weeks. “Either way, that is whether we stay or leave, we will see a weakened Tory party and a resurgent Tory right. For the British Left it may not make a massive difference if we leave or stay,” said Feyzi Ismail, an academic and organizer for Lexit.

Posted by on May 29, 2016. Filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.