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.