ALLOWING immigration to overshadow the EU referendum debate is not only bad for community relations — it’s bad for those who want the public to make an informed decision on June 23.
EU membership should be about much more than how many people can or should enter Britain every year, however important that question is.
Thus the Morning Star makes no apology for asking other important questions: how and in whose interests does the EU function?
What does this mean for people’s jobs, living standards and quality of life?
Does EU membership help or hinder strategies to develop a balanced, sustainable economy that serves the interests of working people, their families and communities?
We have condemned the neoliberal, free market and monetarist economics cemented into the basic treaties of the EU.
As the late Tony Benn once pointed out: “The EU has the only constitution in the world committed to capitalism … it destroys the prospect of socialism anywhere in Europe, making capitalism a constitutional requirement of that set-up.”
Such a set-up also requires that enormous powers lie in the lap of unelected and — in practice where not in law — unaccountable bodies, namely, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice.
Remain campaigners point to the powers of our own unelected Civil Service, Bank of England, House of Lords, Supreme Court and monarchy.
But the crucial difference is this: in Britain, these institutions are not constitutionally beyond the reach of our elected representatives. They can be reformed and even abolished.
The recent Queen’s Speech raised the prospect of Britain having a Bill of Rights in the near future, drafted by this Tory government.
What if this Bill were to specify that Britain shall have a “competitive market economy” based on the free movement of capital, goods and services? Any steps towards a planned economy would, in effect, be unlawful.
Neither the Westminster, Edinburgh or Cardiff legislatures would be allowed to direct or impede the movement of capital in, out or within the countries of Britain.
What if clauses in the Bill made it unconstitutional for elected governments to run an “excessive deficit” in their public finances, or to subsidise public or private enterprises for strategic economic, social or environmental reasons?
What if another clause banned governments from using our central bank to fund investment projects through the purchase of public-sector bonds (what shadow chancellor John McDonnell calls “people’s quantitative easing”)?
Indeed, the Bill would make clear that the central bank must be independent of Parliament and government altogether, guaranteed by a constitution that can only be changed by near unanimous agreement.
Furthermore, this Tory draft Bill would also grant sweeping new powers to the Civil Service, including the sole right to propose legislation, draft the national budget and monitor the compliance of the British, Scottish and Welsh governments with strict limits on their borrowing and debt.
The Civil Service would also have the right to intervene in the legislative process, address MPs on its own insistence and prevent the establishment of a parliamentary committee of inquiry.
Henceforth, too, as a matter of constitutional imperative rather than government policy, security and defence policy would have to be compatible with Nato policy. Indeed, it must “contribute to the vitality of a renewed Atlantic alliance.”
Who on the left in Britain would vote for such a Bill of Rights? Yet such clauses are to be found in the two basic treaties of the EU and apply to all member states. This is what socialists and trade unionists will be endorsing on June 23 if they vote to remain in the EU.
This article is from The Morning Star, Monday 30th May