The Left’s arguments for remaining in the EU are anathema to David Cameron and George Osborne. So go make them, urges Steve Beauchampé.
Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, it has been Jeremy Corbyn amongst senior politicians raising the most pertinent issues surrounding the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. While Prime Minister David Cameron proves himself serially incapable of answering straight questions from our elected representatives, resorting to catchphrases, slogans and occasional bouts of tedious knockabout repartee, Corbyn used his own response to the Prime Minister’s House of Commons EU statement on Monday afternoon, as he had a speech to an MEP socialist grouping in Brussels the previous week, to momentarily re-frame a debate that has become mired in the arguments of neo-liberalism and borderline xenophobia.
Corbyn lambasted the Prime Minister for choosing the peripheral issues of in work and child benefits for migrants and gaining the City of London special exemption from vital financial regulations as his primary objectives for reforming Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Like the proverbial fireman going to the wrong fire, Cameron has been battling to reform issues that have next to no impact on British people’s daily lives and involve (relatively speaking) exceptionally small amounts of public money, whilst ignoring those EU structural failings that diminish us all.
Cameron should have focussed instead on transferring more power to the democratically elected (and by proportional representation) European Parliament, simultaneously reducing the authority of the unelected European Commission. He should have requested greater financial transparency regarding EU budgets (audited accounts would be a start). And he should have been opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as it is currently envisaged, a treaty that threatens to undermine democratic institutions at local, national and international level, in favour of global business interests to the detriment of millions of EU citizens.
In making his broader case for the UK’s continued membership of the European Union, the Prime Minister has already hit the repeat button, offering a loop tape of phrases such as “leap in the dark”, “threat to security” and “best of both worlds”. He has neglected to praise those elements of EU law that make a tangible, positive impact on the daily lives of British citizens; elements such as crucial environmental legislation, consumer protection laws, the working time directive, social chapter, maternity leave and necessary health and safety legislation.
Indeed, David Cameron’s dismissal of much of this legislation as red tape and his willingness last autumn to negotiate away British workers EU employment rights, sets the Tory Remain vision of Europe decisively at odds with that of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.
We can be assured that Jeremy Corbyn, along with senior politicians from each of those parties, will not be sharing many public platforms with David Cameron or Chancellor George Osborne during the referendum campaign. But whilst arguing for the United Kingdom’s continued EU membership they can emphasise those benefits and safeguards that Cameron and Co. would sweep away in a heartbeat. Regrettably, such arguments will be largely sidelined as the rancorous invective flows on the right of British politics, dominating and debilitating this most crucial debate.