“The question of Britain’s membership of the EU was one which divided both Britain and the trade union movement. Important issues were raised on both sides.
On the Remain side, trade union members were deeply concerned about the employment rights underpinned by the European Union (EU); ongoing rights of migrant workers to both stay in the UK and fight exploitation in the labour market; the impact on external investment; and the consequences for trade with Britain’s biggest market as well as the resulting impact on jobs. On the Leave side, the concern was with the neoliberal framework for EU law, the erosion of trade union rights, the restrictions imposed on state aid, on public ownership and the proactive use of public procurement.
Now, however, we are beyond the debate. A democratic decision has been made. What is critical is the kind of settlement that is reached. This question has been made all the more urgent by political developments in Britain: the emergence of the Labour Party as a credible party of government with a programme for a radical restructuring of the economy, a reassertion of trade union rights and collective bargaining, and an active, interventionist, industrial strategy including a measure of public ownership. The type of settlement reached with the EU will directly determine whether or not this programme can be realised…
The types of exit from the EU envisaged by the current Conservative government – and there are clearly more than one being canvassed – are all essentially neo-liberal. One will incorporate all elements of EU law into British law, including competition law, in a bid to secure preferential access terms for big business, particularly the City of London. The other, the Singapore model offered by Boris Johnson, would seek trade deals modelled on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and be equally prejudicial to an activist industrial policy.
Whatever the Conservatives try to do, we can be sure it will be for the few and not the many. This is why it is so important that trade unionists identify their own priorities for an EU settlement and campaign for them now.”
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The main EU battle tank Leopard 2A7 manufactured by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Maschinenbau Kiel in service in Austria, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Spain and Sweden (picture credit: ©Bundeswehr/Modes)
The further development of the EU’s programme for a permanent military structure (PESCO) was approved by the Council of Ministers on 11 December 2017.
Current central EU military expenditures of approximately 1 billion euros annually will be increased to 3.5 billion by 2021. In addition the 25 participating EU states will commit themselves to spending a minimum 2 per cent of their GDP on defence from that date. The increased central EU expenditures will be for developing new military technologies and providing the central command structures for the integration of armed forces.
All EU armed forces will be integrated into NATO command structures. The 2018 EU fact sheet puts it thus: ‘EU Member States and NATO Allies have one single set of forces. Coherence of output and timelines continues to be pursued between the NATO Defence Planning Process and the EU Capability Development Plan.’ A joint declaration was issued 5 December 2017 strengthening agreements on EU-NATO integration set out in the Joint Declaration of 2 December 2016.
This January the Scottish Government published its policy paper on Scotland’s future outside the EU: Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment.
It is a remarkable document. It claims that unless Scotland is able to stray in the EU Single Market wages will fall by £2,000 every year to 2030, Scotland’s strong productivity growth will be reversed, GDP will fall by almost 10 per cent, 80,000 jobs will be lost and Scotland’s population will shrink to such an extent there will be insufficient resource to care for the old and sick.
It claims that the EU represents an indispensable driver for growth and its Single Market holds the potential for even greater trade liberalisation, particularly in services and marketing, to the benefit of Scotland.
The document makes no mention of any aspect of the EU that anyone on the Left might find objectionable – its ban on state aid, its demand for fully marketised public procurement, its competition rules that prevent comprehensive public ownership or its hostility to collective bargaining.
The document’s most worrying feature, however, is its lack of realism. It is almost frightening that any government should be running a country on the basis of such ignorance. Scotland, it claims,
The Scottish Government policy paper calls for Scotland to remain within the EU’s Single Market – either as part of the UK or as a special economic zone with similar status to the North of Ireland. It argues that outside the Single Market Scotland will suffer a loss of 80,000 jobs, a collapse in productivity and an 8.9 per cent contraction in GDP by 2030 and an annual fall in wages of £2,000 a head (£20,000 in total by 2030). It claims that the further liberalisation of markets within the EU, particularly in services and finance, offers great opportunities for Scotland.
Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment
15 January 2018
Ahead of the resumption of EU negotiations in March and a policy statement in February Theresa May has issued a briefing paper to Cabinet outlining an economic and security partnership with the EU and the need for rules that ‘create a level playing field with the EU’- shorthand for the maintenance of EU competition rules and key elements of the Single Market.
15 January 2018
Speaking on ITV on 14 January Corbyn ruled out staying in the single market because doing so would be “dependent on membership of the European Union”. He expressed concern about the single market’s drawbacks. “There are also aspects of the single market one wants to think about such as the restrictions on state aid to industry, which is something that I would wish to challenge.” He also made clear that the Labour Party is not supporting another referendum on the EU but wants MPs to be able to vote on any deal struck between Westminster and Brussels.
15 January 2018
Alex Neil MSP told the ROSE AGM and conference in Glasgow in November. ‘Having served as minister in four different departments in the Scottish government I know this as a fact.’
‘We attempted to legislate to require companies taking public contracts to pay the real living wage and were told this was in violation of EU procurement rules. We attempted to take railway contracts back into the public sector and were told the same. Equally with Scottish ferries.’
Mr Neil called for an honest discussion among all on the Left about how to maximise the opportunities that now existed and to block attempts by the Tories and others to force a right-wing settlement that benefited big business at the expense of ordinary people.
Pauline Bryan, convener of the Red Paper Collective, stressed the political significance of the election of Richard Leonard to the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party.
‘The one key point of policy difference in the election was that his challenger, Anas Sarwar, called for continued membership of the EU Single Market. This was not the position of the Labour manifesto in the General Election. As was argued at the time, this was because membership of the Single Market would still enforce EU law and block key manifesto pledges such as the renationalisation of the railways, Royal Mail and energy and the use of public procurement to ensure decent labour standards.’
Gordon Martin, RMT Scottish Organiser, attacked suggestions that leaving the EU would bring poverty to Scotland. ‘We already have poverty. On top of food banks, we now have fuel banks. People can’t afford to heat their houses. Low wages and precarious employment mean a substantial number of our families face malnutrition. We must have the freedom to ensure public investment and control in our economy and that means opposing Tory neo-liberals as well as those who argue for continued membership of the EU Single Market.’