The EU is UNREFORMABLE because the big business dominated, neoliberal EU Commissars are not accountable to anybody and are already suppressing workers rights of collective bargaining,reducing people’s pensions and supporting the removal of workers’ rights in France
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“Middlesex University meeting, organised by Middlesex University UCU, Thursday 19th May 2016,
What does the EU Referendum Mean for Workers and the Higher Education sector?
A debate between Dr Marina Prentoulis of Another Europe is Possible and Will Podmore of Vote Leave.
Thank you very much for inviting me to this meeting, may I congratulate everybody who has helped to organise this excellent initiative.
I am very pleased to see that Dr Prentoulis endorses the Leave campaign’s main point, that the EU as it stands is not a good thing. The EU is not a progressive cause. The French government is using emergency decree powers to impose cuts on workers’ employment rights and to attack trade unions. Mr Cameron tells us that the EU protects workers’ rights. So, what is the EU doing to protect French workers’ rights? Nothing.
The EU allied with the IMF is forcing poverty on the people of Greece. The EU that some claim protects workers’ rights instead demands the destruction of trade union rights as a condition of its bailouts. Dr Prentoulis said last year that austerity is not working. True. But now her party Syriza in power in Greece is imposing austerity. Last year, she rightly called the IMF’s proposals ‘undemocratic and absurd’. The EU endorsed these undemocratic and absurd proposals and Syriza is now imposing them on the Greek people, plus another 3 billion euros of cuts and higher taxes on the poor.
What has the EU done to higher education in Greece? Spending on HE cut from nearly €280 million in 2009 to €133 million in 2014. The secretary general of the Greek Rectors’ Conference says: “from the beginning of 2015, Greek universities have not received one euro from public funding.”
Mr Cameron tells us that the EU protects workers’ rights. So, what is the EU doing to protect Greek workers’ rights? Nothing.
Syriza embraces the euro and the EU which are inflicting this misery on the Greek people. Syriza thought it would reform the EU. Instead the EU reformed Syriza turning it into the EU’s enforcer.
That’s what happens when you stay in the EU, you end up enforcing the poverty you claim to oppose.
Greece has to leave the euro. As Lord King, the ex-Governor of the Bank of England, recently wrote, “if the alternative is crushing austerity, continuing mass unemployment, and no end in sight to the burden of debt, then leaving the euro area may be the only way to plot a route back to economic growth and full employment. The long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs.”
Mr Cameron tells us that the EU is a force for peace, that it prevents a hypothetical war inside Europe. Let’s look at some real wars and see what this peace-loving EU did about them. The EEC was born in the middle of France’s dirty colonial war against Algeria. The EEC endorsed this war. Bush and Blair’s war against Iraq? The EU endorsed it. Mr Cameron’s war against Libya? The EU endorsed it. The EU is NATO’s soft power. The EU is an agreement to export wars, to unite for wars against less developed countries in Africa and the Middle East.
For more than 50 years British governments have promised to reform the EU. Before we even joined the EEC, Harold Macmillan talked of reforming it. Thirty years ago, Neil Kinnock talked of reforming it. Mr Cameron talks of reforming it. And now Dr Prentoulis talks of reforming it.
But how? The EU’s acquis stops us reforming it. The European Commission outvotes us to stop us reforming it. The Council of Ministers outvotes us to stop us reforming it. Even the toothless European Parliament outvotes us to stop us reforming it. And the European Court of Justice overrules us to stop us reforming it. The EU is unreformable.
As European Commission President Juncker said, “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.” When we cannot change the laws under which we live, we have no democracy. Inside the EU we are not free to change policies we oppose, not free to vote out leaders we oppose. If we stay in the EU, we stay on the conveyor belt towards a single EU state. The EU tells us you have no choice, resistance is futile. But outside the EU, we do have choices.
The EU wants complete Economic Union, Monetary Union, Financial Union, Fiscal Union and Political Union by 2025 at the latest, to ‘be developed within the framework of the European Union’, so it applies to us too. They want a new EU Treaty next year. As French President François Hollande asked, “Do you really want to participate in a common state? That’s the question.”
The EU is not a market. Why would a market need a Parliament, an army, a supreme court, its own currency, its own flag, its own passport and its own national anthem? We don’t have to be in the EU to trade with it. Nobody says we have to be part of the USA to trade with it. We don’t have to accept the US Constitution to trade with the USA, we don’t have to obey their Supreme Court rulings, we don’t have to salute their flag, we don’t have to have a US passport, we don’t have to sing their national anthem. The USA and 164 other countries sell their goods to customers in the EU without being in the EU.
UCU Congress unanimously opposed the EU’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. TTIP is not a trade agreement, it is a giant protection racket run by giant corporations, US and European. Even the government’s own internal study concluded that it had ‘few or no benefits to the UK, while having meaningful economic and political costs’. TTIP is economic war against public services, against our NHS, so defeating TTIP protects our services and our NHS. TTIP is also economic war against the world’s developing countries, so defeating TTIP is an act of solidarity with developing countries.
Inside the EU, we are stuck in the services-destroying, NHS-destroying TTIP. If we were still in the EU and TTIP is ratified, we would be locked into it. President Obama told us that leaving the EU means no TTIP for us. Thank you Mr President. Leaving the EU would sink TTIP, so voting to leave the EU is a vote to save our NHS. Voting to leave the EU is an act of solidarity with developing countries.
Europe’s commissioner for health wants the EU to control member states’ health policies. And David Cameron, the man who put Jeremy Hunt in charge of our NHS, tells us that our NHS is safe in the EU. The only way to keep our NHS safe is to leave the EU.
We have excellent universities in Britain. No government should do anything to harm them. But of course government imposed tuition fees, which have harmed students, which happened while we were still in the EU. Attacks on our wages and conditions, on our union members, like the threat to sack UCU reps at London Met, are happening while we are in the EU. Mr Cameron tells us that the EU protects workers’ rights. So, what is the EU doing to protect UCU members’ rights? Nothing.
When Mr Cameron tells us that the EU protects workers’ rights, he is saying that his EU protects us from him, which is absurd. As we have seen, the EU doing nothing to protect workers’ rights.
Most EU technology and research programmes are designed to work with non-EU countries, so we could still get EU funding after we leave. Non-EU members Norway and Switzerland get EU funds for research. Non-EU Israel and Switzerland work in major European research initiatives like the Horizon 2020 programme. Non-EU members work in the European Research Infrastructure Consortium. In the EU-funded Ebola research programme, Oxford and Stirling Universities and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine work with universities in 11 other EU countries, and with universities from Switzerland. Since we have some of the world’s best universities and research institutions, we would still be a prime choice of partner.
What will the result mean for funding for the university sector? HEFCE confirms funding of £3.7 billion for financial year 2016-17 which will stand whether we are in or out of the EU. The same applies to the £4.6 billion a year science and technology budget, which is ring-fenced and protected.
We do not have to be in the EU to benefit from the EU’s Erasmus student mobility programme. Non-EU Switzerland, Turkey and Macedonia are in it; nearly every country in the world has opted in to parts of it. Why shouldn’t an independent Britain continue to support it too?
After leaving the EU, students could still study overseas and our universities would keep working with international education bodies. EU education cooperation schemes allow access to countries that are not EU members.
Staff mobility is vital. We do not have to be in the EU to have free movement of staff and students. 14% of academic staff in our universities are nationals of other EU member states. Good. 6% of students in our universities are from elsewhere in the EU. Fine. Foreign students have been coming to study in Britain since the 1300s.
Switzerland and Norway have free movement agreements with the EU. There is strong exchange of students between the EU and independent Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. We do not have to be in the EU to continue to work with academics from around the world.
If you fear what the Tories might do to us, why vote for what they want us to do? If we voted to stay in, we give Mr Cameron the green light to destroy us. The reality is that Dr Prentoulis is telling us to do what Mr Cameron wants, all the rest is just gesture, just rhetoric.
A recent poll found that 12 per cent want ‘ever closer union’ which is the only Stay option actually on the table. 26 per cent want our relationship with the EU to stay the same. But there is no option of stay the same: the EU is charging towards ever closer union, a single state. Remember what President Hollande said, “Do you really want to participate in a common state? That’s the question.”
37 per cent want us to stay in, but reduce the EU’s powers. This is the notion that we can reform the EU, but as we have seen this is not possible. There is no option of stay in and reduce the EU’s powers: the EU is still charging towards ever closer union, a single state. The only way to reduce the EU’s powers is to leave it.
So, add this 26 per cent and this 37 per cent to the 18 per cent who want to Leave, then 81 per cent of us oppose the ‘ever closer union’ we endorse if we vote to stay in. 81 per cent of us oppose the EU as it is bound to be.
If you want less Europe, vote leave. If you want security, vote leave. If you want a trade-only deal with the EU vote Leave. If you don’t want to be in an EU state, vote leave. As François Hollande said, “The only road for those who are not convinced of Europe is to leave Europe …. It is the logical path.”
If we vote Remain, we endorse Cameron and Osborne. We endorse what the EU did, and is still doing, to Greece. If we vote Remain, we send a very clear signal to the EU that we want to be part of a single EU state, that we want to be part of everything it has done, everything it is doing and everything it will do.
The point of a referendum is that the whole people decide, it is sovereignty, it is democracy. It is control, it is power. We the people are in charge – but only for a day. It should be for longer. After the vote, we need to keep this control, to hold this responsibility.
A referendum is not a popularity contest. It is not an election; it is not voting for one leader or against another. It is not backing one party or opposing another. The referendum is one question, do we the people decide our future or not?””