Economic issues if Britain quits the EU? No problem, says the anti-EU Tory Michael Gove. We could be just like Albania.
Bosnia, Albania, and Ukraine, as Gove said, have free trade with the EU without having to comply with EU rules. The Albanian trade unions, who in their May Day message ask the Albanian government for measures “in terms of rights and freedoms of association, labour relations and labour legislation, closer to that of the European Union”, have difficulty getting traction with the demand. Gove wants British unions to face the same prospect.
The description that Albanian socialists, interviewed for Solidarity in 2013, gave of their country since the collapse of Stalinism there would also please Gove: “Some of the nomenklatura, or of their children, have got rich in the new order [i.e. through privatisations] but mostly it is ‘Wild West’ capitalism”.
However, EU leaders pointed out that Bosnia, Albania, and Ukraine have been given special trade concessions as a first stage towards future EU membership. Nothing similar would apply to Britain. The EU would have no motive to give special trade freedoms to a Britain which was blocking the entry of thousands of EU citizens wanting to work in this country. Gove’s “Albania” speech is significant not because it is realistic, but because it shows us his model for Britain: a low-wage, low-rights offshore production site for global capital, with workers cajoled into submission by promises to keep out migrants.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party’s Compliance Unit, a bastion of the pre-Corbyn party machine, has taken a break from issuing expulsion letters to send local Labour Parties an instruction that “CLPs must not enter into any campaign arrangement with another Referendum campaigner. CLPs may only use the Party’s money and resources for the Labour In for Britain campaign. CLPs must not make donations (cash or non-cash) to other Referendum campaigns”. The “Labour In” campaign is a token effort, with a budget of £75,000, less than one-fifth of what it takes to run a single MP’s office. In any case its materials differ only by a shade from the big-business “Britain Stronger in Europe” rubbish. This instruction is, in effect, an attempt to stop CLPs campaigning effectively on the issue by working with groups like Another Europe Is Possible and Workers’ Europe. We can’t afford that. CLPs should find ways round the Compliance Unit instructions and push an effective message of: “stay in and fight for workers’ rights”.