I'll be fighting to stay in the European Union because, not in spite, of the fact I'm leftwing

We'd betray both our values and our policies by leaving, says Liam Young.

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Many of my friends have left the Labour party over the years, particularly when the party attempted to outflank the Tories on immigration. I remember telling them at the time that it was wrong to leave and that it was right to stay and fight for change from within. Many said it would never happen and plenty said that it was a laughable proposition. Yet here we are today with a truly socialist leader supported by a huge majority of the wider party. For much the same reason, I’ll be campaigning for us to stay in the European Union in June. We cannot fight for a better Union if we are out of it and there is too much to lose if we leave.

I obviously sympathise with those on the left who are sceptical of the Union. It is undeniable that as an organisation it lacks the democracy that modern citizens demand and it wreaks of handwringing and waste. The way that the EU responded to the Greek crisis is particularly troubling and I worry that few will be able to overcome the emotional reaction to this mistreatment. But the left has much to gain in supporting the EU. Yes, it must be reformed – but who doesn’t believe that? Whether people want reform for a closer union or a more distant one that platitude is recited again and again. Yet how are we supposed to reform it from outside? How can we stand as credible proponents of progressive socialist policies while at the same time abandoning the greater cause of standing with our friends across Europe who face the same struggle that we face here at home?

I find it strange that comrades who are fighting to support the rights of junior doctors also want to leave the very institution that provides them – and indeed all workers – the rights ascribed to them under the Working Time Directive. The directive is key to avoiding exploitation with its protection for working hours and the daily rest period. Anyone who believes this Tory government would install a similar directive upon exiting the European Union is fooling themselves. At a time when the government seems hypnotised by the prospect of abolishing the Human Rights Act, I cannot see how those on the left can make an argument that would see the scrapping of the European Social Charter and the positive civil, political, social and economic rights it guarantees.

The Tories who support Brexit have produced their vision of an independent Britain. A stricter border, limits on benefits for taxpaying workers and centralised control. For me this is a proposition worthy of dystopia, a right-wing Conservative government that exists without any system of checks and balances. While I sympathise with my friends voting to leave Europe, I am unsure of the vision that they wish to achieve. What is there to be gained from unleashing the Tories from the shackles of European law? Workers will suffer, the poor will suffer and more people will be exploited. Now, if we were under a left-wing Labour government then perhaps the argument would be stronger. But we do not have that luxury and I will vote to remain within Europe not in spite of being left wing, but because I am left wing.

Liam Young is a commentator for the IndependentNew Statesman, Mirror and others. 

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