Europe, in more modern times, has been more of a cause of division for the Conservatives than us. Of course, it was not always this way and back in the dim and distant past, if anything the reverse was true and it has been more divisive for Labour. A few signs are appearing that Labour’s euro-tensions might be re-emerging and it is the prospect of a ‘In/Out’ Referendum that may well bring them into sharper focus. Indeed, ever since Jon Cruddas was appointed to head-up our policy review and Ed Balls started whispering teasing words to the nation’s media, speculation has been rife that a committment to this is imminent.
I still have major problems with this policy because I can’t move beyond the feeling that rather than being a committment made due to a profound and principled committment to ‘democratic values’ it is opportunist shilly-shallying at worst or deluded beyond belief at best. Britain’s national interests are without a shadow of a doubt best served by being a continuing part of Europe. Furthermore, although they don’t acknowledge this, the political interests and aspirations of the left are best served by the same end. Europe is one of those rare issues where I find myself at odds with the mainstream left and more inclined to agree with the Party’s right-wing, simply because the left is blinded by its hostility to the policies the European Union pursues to the bigger, long-term picture. It is also dangerously close to deserting internationalist principle altogether in favour of pursuing a Stalinist/Social Democratic pipe-dream of building socialism solely on British soil.
One thing we can be absolutely sure of is that an independent capitalist Britain would not be heading in the direction of a socialist nirvana; in fact, it would be heading in the opposite direction. Furthermore, the left’s position is simply inconsistent, why, for example, are there no leftist calls for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the United Nations, NATO or indeed the IMF? Given that British troops frequently die as a result of NATO actions and operate under a NATO command, you’d think the case for a democratic vote would be at least, if not more, pressing than one on the EU.
It is simply fantasy politics to assume Britain can withdraw from globalisation. Leftist support for a referendum stems from the delusion that if Britain withdraws from the EU that will some roll back austerity and all will be well again, however, back in the real world, as Gaby Hinsliff explains;
No referendum can remove us from an international banking system that has welded one country’s fortunes to another’s through a complex chain of lending and borrowing across borders, a distant echo of the moral obligations binding one human to another.
Indeed. Globalisation is an inevitable result of the progress of capitalism. It’s a welcome result because it lays the foundations of the society we want to see. Therefore, ever closer European integration is a positive, progressive thing which we all should be supporting not wringing our hands over. If Labour does begin to split over Europe, it is likely that the left will find itself on the wrong side of that split and ending-up leading us down a path which will lead both to the ruin of Britain and the cause it claims to champion.