Anti-EU drive gives leverage to the right

Submitted by Matthew on 28 November, 2012 - 8:55

The posturing, demagogy and manoeuvring which could bring Britain stumbling out of the EU are driven by the Tory right wing.

That is no paradox or aberration. Some people still think anti-EUism is a left-wing cause — like the Socialist Party and the leadership of the rail union RMT, who in 2009 ran an electoral coalition named "No2EU". In fact those left-wingers are making themselves helpers for the serious anti-EUers, the Tory right.

Now Tory vice-chair Michael Fabricant has called for a Tory electoral alliance with the far-right anti-EU party UKIP. He comments that yes, many UKIP members are "closet racists", but then so are some Tories, so that's no obstacle.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has responded that he would back an alliance if the Tories were led by someone more stridently right-wing, like Michael Gove.

David Cameron does not want a UKIP alliance, but his posturing over cuts in the EU budget and British withdrawal from some EU agreements, and his promise of a referendum on British membership of the EU, give traction to people like Fabricant.

Both right-wing and left-wing supporters of British withdrawal from the EU portray it as a way for Britain to escape the rules and regulations of global capitalism, and prosper separately. That is illusion and demagogy.

The close economic intertwining of capitalist Europe is driven by the fact of productive forces outgrowing 19th-century or older national frames. It cannot be undone short of a slump so catastrophic as to bring a return to the high economic barriers between nations of the 1930s. Short of that economic collapse, British withdrawal from the EU would mean it adopting a position similar to Norway or Switzerland. Not a huge amount would change.

Britain would still comply with the economic rules and regulations of the EU, as Norway and Switzerland do, only it would have no part in negotiations and consultations about them.

Despite the hopes of the Tory right and UKIP, and an almost-certain boost to xenophobia, sober capitalist calculation would probably ensure that EU citizens would remain free to enter and work in Britain. Norway and Switzerland, EU non-members but members of the Schengen area, allow easier entry from EU countries than Britain does now.

Britain would cease to contribute to the EU budget, and lose EU funds for projects especially in poorer areas.

The EU without Britain would probably then increase its level of integration.

Two substantial factors drive the Tories' anti-EUism. One exists in other EU countries: anti-EUism by small capitalists who can't see beyond their local markets. One is special: British capital has closer links with the USA than does capital in other EU countries, fears that closer integration with the EU could damage its US links, and sees prospects for Britain to operate in relation to Europe as an offshore site with (US-style) lower social overheads and more meagre workers' rights.

British withdrawal, driven by the Tories, would surely unleash a nationalist drive to make Britain a cheaper base for global capital, free of the costs of EU standards.

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