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16 June 2016updated 09 Sep 2021 11:37am

If you want a genuine leftwing government, you need to vote Leave

The European Union is a barrier to a progressive government, says Graham Stringer. 

By Graham Stringer

The European Union referendum is now only a few days way. On 23 June, Labour voters along with left-leaning people across the UK will play the deciding role in whether we stay in or leave the EU. If we want to see a truly progressive future for the UK, we must collectively come together and vote to Leave.

Over the last few weeks, thousands of words have been written extoling the virtues of EU membership. We are told that our economy, trade, wages, workers’ rights, jobs, house prices even, all depend on us remaining a member. Are we mad? But the truth is a lot different. The EU is a threat to a truly progressive policy program in the UK. It stops governments pursuing truly progressive policies, like re-nationalisation, that would help the vast majority of people in this country.

In spite of what you may have heard, the EU is not a progressive organisation. It is a club designed and run by unelected political elites who we cannot vote to remove. It is not run for the people but for the benefit of big multinational corporations. It is founded on a neoliberal economic ideology that demands obedience to the needs of a single currency, at the expense of local social conditions.

The EU does not care unduly whether big businesses use the free movement of people to imported cheap labour to make them profitable off the back of pittance-level wages. Nor does it care whether it’s handing the control of the proud state-run institutions of Europe, such as our own NHS, to American companies under TTIP.

The EU is bad for working people and it’s very bad news for a future Labour government. If we stay in the EU, a Labour Prime Minister can forget any plans to renationalise the railways and Royal Mail or place a cap on energy prices. These are illegal activities under EU laws, and in fact, the EU is pushing ahead right now with plans to impose a railways privatisation policy similar to the Tory programme called the Fourth Railway Package on to every single member state.

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The EU penalises manufacturing and heavy industry, the traditional trades of the working people, in favour of service industries and the financial sector. The recent Tata Steel crisis brought into sharp focus our inability to help support our traditional British industrial base. The government could not step in and offer proper financial support of nationalise the company. If it had tried to do so, it would have been sanctioned and fined by the EU.

The EU does not act fairly when it comes to immigration either. It imposes freedom of movement on every country, knowing full well that the vast majority of migration will inevitably flow from east to west; from poorer states to richer ones. And hang the consequences for those nations and their local populations who must deal with this mass immigration. And at the same time, to have a chance of sustaining our public services and infrastructure, we must discriminate against people from outside the EU who wish to come and work here. How can this be fair or progressive?

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How can we know all of this? We only have to look over to Greece, where a democratically elected left-wing government has been forced to kowtow to Brussels and the EU. Instead of introducing policies that would help working people, it has been forced to impose swingeing cuts and austerity on its country, cutting lthousands of public service jobs and leaving youth unemployment to reach records highs. As this article goes to print, young unemployment in Greece is a devastating 50 percent.

If we remain members of the EU, the next Labour government will have its hands tied behind its back. They may well be progressive in intention, but they will never be progressive in action. And the argument that we can hope to change this organisation if we stay in is just fantasy. The EU cannot be reformed. Most of the objectionable policies are locked in the treaties, and there is no chance of persuading the other 27 EU members to vote for change.

Now is the time to face facts and vote to leave the EU. It’s time Labour returned to its roots and pursued progressive democratic policies which protect workers and gave ourselves a fighting chance of delivering real change and real equality for British working people. 

Graham Stringer is Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton.