South of the River – Trans Europe Express

Compass-SouthComment logo 2There’s still 15 weeks to go until the EU referendum and as I haven’t decided which way to vote yet I thought I would share some thoughts with you at this early stage.

My gut reaction is to vote ‘stay’. I like being part of Europe, in fact I identify myself as White European rather than White British when asked about ethnicity.

I look at the ‘leave’ campaign and see Farage, Gove and Galloway, but this isn’t about personalities, we have to look at the issues. And anyway the stay campaign has Cameron and Osborne (eugghh).

I find starting with a bit of history usually helps. The basic transaction at the heart of the EU being founded was a pact between Germany and France whereby German industrial efficiency would pay for inefficient French farming practices. Given these powers had fought three bloody wars over the previous century, this pact wasn’t something to be sneezed at.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing and another way of looking at this is that France and Germany (and Britain for that matter) were fading powers. The Second World War begat two superpowers – the USA and USSR. Perhaps Germany and France saw the writing on the wall and thought they had better pool their resources to compete.

This brings me to phrase I’ve already heard a lot in this debate: “What’s best for Britain.”

The trouble I have with this is that I look around and I see more than one Britain. There’s the austerity ravaged lives I see around me in South Leeds and then there’s the privilege, extortionate salaries and huge bonuses of Cameron’s elite in London.

What most people mean when the say “What’s best for Britain” is “What’s best for British business”.

The European Union is essentially, as someone painted in 2 foot high letters outside Bow Road tube station in the 1970s “a bosses market”. Social democratic (Labour) governments have put through reforms to give workers rights as Hilary Benn mentioned in his recent column, but when push comes to shove – as in the case of Greece – it’s workers, not business that pays the price.

The British Labour Party swung behind the EU when the Social Chapter introduced important rights for workers. At the time the Thatcher government was attacking workers so this seemed the best means of defence. In fact a better line of defence would have been shoulder to shoulder with the miners in 1984, but Labour tend to prefer legalistic solutions rather than direct action.

So what about democracy? What about all our laws being written in Brussels by bureaucrats?

Firstly some of these Brussels bureaucrats are British, lets not forget we’ve been part of the EU since 1973. The present government has not been able to bale out the British steel industry because of ‘State Aid’ rules. These very rules were brought in by a former British government. In other words we, or rather our government is part of the problem.

The second, more important, point is how democratic is Westminster anyway? We get to mark a cross on a ballot paper once every five years. Here in Leeds Central you have little chance of unseating the Labour candidate. Once the MP is elected they tend to be more answerable to the party whips than to their constituents. Is this so much better than Brussels?

And then there’s the issue of migration, or free movement of people. But perhaps I had better come back to that issue another week, after all we’ve plenty of time for this debate.

What do you think?

I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.


9 Replies to “South of the River – Trans Europe Express”

  1. Very good. Hilary Benn’s in position is the same as Cameron’s. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell want a socially just Europe. I want peace and equality and it seems that all that sort of thing has to be campaigned for wherever you live and wherever you stand politically. So the fight goes on – fracking, bedroom tax, Housing and Planning Bill, Trade Union Rights, Zero Hours, Depressed wages, Racism and Islamophobia, the rise of Fascist Parties from France to Slovakia to Hungary, Trident and Wars, and last but for me not least – the plight of our fellow human beings – refugees.

  2. Good piece. Agree there’s a long time till the vote so why get caught up in Boris’s antics or dave’s heart felt sales pitch just yet. Let’s think about this logically in a quiet room away from all the noise. The common market is a good thing, surely? A joined up approach with regards climate change is a good thing, but this piece of work is better suited to a world stage and this has happened and targets have been set. Rights for workers and how the European union has improved this is something of a blind spot for me, so I am going to have to go away and have a look at this, but I would be more than happy for someone to respond to that if they have knowledge on how the eu has improved workers rights. On this point and as jeremy mentioned above i would guess the eu would beat the tories hands down….anyone know of a tory mp who represents a working class community? I haven’t. ..they don’t represent us so why would they protect workers rights? and by workers i mean the labourers and warehouse operatives and care workers and cleaners. Or am I being cynical? And then there is immigration. Which is the main reason we are here, let’s be honest. I think immigration is good for our country, it breathes new life into our communities, new experiences, interests, flavours. It make Britain more than just Britain. But then again i keep being told that I’m not a low skilled worker’competing’ for jobs with immigrants. I think someone should do some research to uncover the truth behind that idea. I should read up on the deal dave has been offered by the European union. I might do that in april. Maybe a piece on that next jeremy? After all that is the only deal on the table.

  3. Liz Kiitching, I’m so glad you came to be a regular and unchallenged contributor to South Leeds Life. Just imagine how he port uneducated sub human populace of South Leeds would ever have been able to remove their yokes of ignorance and fore lock tugging stupidity without your patronising left wing ideology to stir thiem,

    I don’t know what’s worse,the right wing dick heads trying to stir up religious and racial intolerance or the left wing (self entitled) political elite looking down their noses at the very people they pretend to be striving for.

    Oh and by the way,stop calling the members of Save Our Beeston racists,not only are we not, but we hate them.

    Wake up, not everyone who is politically to the right of you a Tory or fascist,they are middle of the road and despise the right as much as they do the left.

  4. The one stance I don’t understand is the ‘let’s stay in to make it better’ – the EU has been constantly evolving and reforming since it was founded.

    Ever closer union, transfer of powers from national parliaments to centralised appointees in Brussels.

    David Cameron asked for nothing and got nothing – yet we should stay in to get real meaningful change? Britain is on the verge of leaving and the EU give him nothing… what will come in if heaven forbid we stay? More rules, edicts, a bigger bill.

    Jeremy Corbyn’s view is baffling – before I go any further I need to say I agree with him on almost nothing, but as someone who has views and generally sticks to them, I respect him.

    But he’s gone from a life long Benn-seque sceptic, to a confused stance. The only way to create a better Europe is abolish the EU.

    Europe isn’t going to go to war again unless people have their rights of true self determination taken away – all they’d have left is nationalism and violence. If I was Greek I’d have been on the streets protesting too, demanding the government do something.

    I think it would be great for SLL to host a debate on the referendum, with inners, outers, giving their case, with Q&amp A from the audience.

    1. Thanks Luke, a debate sounds a great idea – what do other readers think? Would you come if we organised it?

      1. Beeston Community Forum are trying to arrange representation from the two campaigns to come to the June meeting (2/6/16). Robert will have details.

        Personally, membership of the EU has given me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
        Open borders and immigration seem to be the key issues for many people. Due to open migration I have been able to work with some really good people from EU countries.
        However… the people I work with aren’t the people you will find being drunk and intimidating in the park, or p*****g up your garden wall :\

  5. Hi Jeremy – I’ll email you my article hopefully today. If not it’ll be tomorrow.

  6. Simon

    It’s a strange beginning to a clearly pro-Stay article to state “I haven’t decided which way to vote yet”. But then even some of you ‘stay’ arguments are as odd.

    For example you say: “My gut reaction is to vote ‘stay’. I like being part of Europe”. Well, you’d still be part of Europe. You seem to be confusing the EU with Europe. This is something the Stay Campaign like to do so that they can depict those who are anti-EU as anti-Europe and xenophobic. In fact, it’s the EU that is anti-Europe in its opposition to the principles which, above all, are meant to represent Europe – freedom and democracy. A position you seem to share when you ask “… how democratic is Westminster?” is it really “much better than Brussels?”

    Well, the answer is ‘yes’ it is. No matter what the deficiencies of our own system, it is better that we, the people, can excessive our sovereignty and vote “unanswerable” MPs out of office and campaign to change the system or vote in those who would. What you’re confusing is the contemporary crapness of politics with democracy itself and, finding it wanting, you’re willing to ditch democracy in favour of an unelected technocracy (and whether some of those are British or not is irrelevant). In other words, your “gut reaction”, is the same demos-dodging instincts as the EU itself.


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