I’ll be voting in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, with a heavy heart. The vision of Europe being put forward by the UK government is not the Europe I want to see. One of the recurring tropes of the current campaign is the constant assertion that Europe was only supposed to be a common market. That was never true, and it was roundly rejected in 1975. I’ve previously cited the Government’s 1975 pamphlet, Britain’s New Deal in Europe, which was part of the previous referencdum campaign: here it is again. The aims of the European Community were
- to bring together the peoples of Europe
- to raise living standards and improve working conditions
- to promote growth and boost world trade
- to help the poorer regions of Europe and the rest of the world
- to help maintain peace and freedom.
If the European Union has done far less of this than promised, it is largely due to the dominance of those who want it to be little more than a customs union.
Part of the problem with Europe is the lack of direct accountability, and the lack of legitimacy which might have been conveyed by more direct participation. Yanis Varoufakis has argued this morning for a strengthened European democracy. That’s important, but it’s not everything. Creating more institutions risks creating more veto points, slowing down reform still further. What we need at European level are rights for citizens – not only negative rights to hold back governments, but social protection, the promotion of higher living standards and safeguards from the consequences of open markets. In recent years we’ve seen the opposite.