The demand for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union does not come from the majority of the British people. We have had our say and we said yes. Nevertheless, some argue, that since the last referendum was in 1975, people might have changed their mind, and there is a new generation of voters who must have their say. But the logic of this is that the matter of membership of the Union can never be settled, we must have a referendum on the EU every generation. Until, that is, the people give the answer that the Euro-sceptics want – the answer that will suit their vested interests, that will give them the freedom to do as they please in our country.
Since 1975, we have been subject to an endless propaganda campaign by the billionaire owned right wing press that has used distortions and half truths to paint Europe black on every occasion. Now they sense that their propaganda is beginning to turn the tide in their favour, that this time, we will give the answer that they want.
But what is this anti-European sentiment all about? Can it really be the backwash of the endless conflicts we have had with our near neighbours throughout our history? Surely not. The British love going to Europe, many go to live there, they love the Mediterranean life style, guzzle gallons of European wine, eat more pizzas than Yorkshire puddings. Growing numbers of us count ‘Europeans’ as our friends, romance flourishes across the leaky borders of the EU. So why the hostility?
Most European countries have a strong sense of civil society, most strongly seen in the Scandinavian countries, but not at all exclusive to them. There is a greater acceptance of the role of the state in peoples’ lives. Continental people are more community minded, there is greater material equality coupled with equality of opportunity. Local authorities provide and maintain high quality public spaces and facilities, and people use them, and in so doing interact with each other more, developing that sense of community. Of course, all this provision comes at a cost, on average, taxes tend to be higher. And there lies the crux of the argument.
The right wing of this country are heavily influenced by America and from there, they acquire a visceral hatred of taxation and of public ownership They are obsessed with private ownership and provision. They have no interest in democracy or of the general well being of majority of us. They want to accumulate vast personal wealth and use it to control the political process to ensure that government governs on their behalf. They see the European Union as an obstacle to achieving this dictatorship by wealth.
In the face of this threat and the reality that in the UK as in the USA, private wealth can and does buy political favours and electoral results, we need some political presence that can act on behalf of the general interest. Since Parliament has abandoned this role with MP’s meekly following the diktats of the Party managers, we increasingly must look to the European Union to secure our human, social and environmental rights.
The EU is far from perfect or democratic and the Green Party is calling for a serious reform of its institutions to increase democratic accountability, and to reduce bureaucratic waste. We do not want to see further centralisation of economic powers, rather we want to see a devolution the other way, not only from Europe but also from Westminster. We want to see self reliant regions, neither dictated to by the EU or by the national government. We are not wanting isolationism, we want to foster cooperation across national boundaries. We want to see all levels of government focusing on securing a sustainable future for us all, recognising and fostering good practice where ever it might be in order to enable us all to live full creative lives.
This is not the vision of the Euro-sceptics. They want to withdraw from the Human Rights Act, to scrap the Working Time Directives and the minimum wage, they want their businesses to have the right to hire and fire us at will and on their terms. They want to pay us lower and lower wages so that they can pocket bigger profits to build their economic and therefore political power. They want to scrap environmental legislation because they think they can insulate themselves from environmental degradation with their wealth. It matter not to them under what conditions we live, we are nothing more than economic units of production and consumption.
The European Union was born out of a vision of far seeing people. They were shocked by the waste and destruction of two European wars that spread out to engulf the world. They wanted a better future for their descendants, a future in which people could live without fear. The Constitution of the European Union, much hated by Euro-sceptics, commits the Union and its member states to the promotion of peace and the well-being of its people. Its core values include non-discrimination, equality between women and men, tolerance and justice, the eradication of poverty, the protection of human rights, in the particular the rights of the child, sustainable development and the development of international law that respects the principles of the United Nations. Further, any member state that violates these principles shall be suspended or expelled. It is little wonder that the Euro-sceptics want to withdraw the UK from the European Union. And if we allow them to have their way, will we, the ordinary people, be better off?
© Mike Shipley