Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Britain should abandon the Neoliberal Train Wreck that is the EU

As should other countries: it’s plain common sense.

The EU and Eurozone are catastrophic. Of course, sanity prevailed and the UK never joined the Eurozone, but the EU itself is still catastrophic.

Britain should leave the EU as quickly as possible, for the following reasons:
(1) to protect the UK’s economic and political sovereignty;

(2) to protect its democracy;

(3) to protect its welfare state and social services;

(4) to have some hope for a Post Keynesian-style or MMT-style economic policy in the future;

(5) to take control of its borders and immigration policy, because the EU open borders policy is disastrous – disastrous for the welfare state, the working class, the real wage, the employment prospects of the British people and its very social cohesion.
The UK should follow the example of Norway and Switzerland: neither Norway nor Switzerland is a member state of the European Union, but both are part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Britain can have liberalised trade with the EU by joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or by bilateral trade agreements, and obtain any necessary extra labour by controlled immigration, not open borders mass immigration.

In fact, the EU itself is already in deep crisis. Schengen is already effectively dead, because Merkel killed it.

What will happen this year as another million or more migrants come flooding into the EU?

The Germans are due for a federal election in late 2017 and the French will elect a new president between April and May 2017, and those election cycles will be dominated by the consequences of as many as 2 million new migrants in Europe. If we add to this the possibility of an economic downturn in Europe in 2016 and 2017, things could get very ugly indeed in Europe. What happens as the population is subjected to another savage round of austerity? What happens as neoliberal labour market deregulation is ramped up as the only neoclassical solution to integrating 1 million or more migrants into the labour market? Unless an historic volte face happens, the mainstream left will continue to defend the EU and mass immigration and probably discredit itself for years on end.

The population will be driven to the populist right and far right, and the mainstream right will quickly realise that any further support for the EU, open borders and mass immigration will be political suicide.

I was also struck by an article published late last year about Syriza and the migrant crisis.

If true, I was not aware of the details here:
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, “Some Tips for the Long-Distance Traveller,” London Review of Books 37.19, 8 October, 2015: 39–41.
According to this article, the government in office in Greece before Syriza had a “turn back the boats” policy from Turkey which stopped the flood of migrants, but when Syriza came into office they reversed this, and threw open the door to the EU. Merkel made the mistake of then opening the door to Germany and Western Europe.

And now we see the consequences of this! If true, what poetic justice indeed that the EU, after having smashed democracy in Greece in 2015, may well be hit by an existential crisis set off this year by the chain reaction of events from this one action of its victim Greece.

When the history of this period is written, it may well be said of Alexis Tsipras that he made a decision that caused the collapse of the EU.


  1. Can't say I agree with 4, but four out of five ain't bad.

    Did you see the story about the Dutchman arrested for wearing a pink fluffy pig hat? So 6) to protect free speech.

  2. There are so many advantages for the left for leaving the EU its insane.

    Once we leave the EU the restrictions on State Aid and access to the Bank of England are lifted. Along with the requirement to compensate capitalists if we nationalise industries.

    So once we leave the EU we can nationalise the railways for a £1, nationalise the banks and cancel all the PFI contracts. And we can stop paying money to China on Gilts by using the 'Ways and Means' overdraft facility at the Bank of England instead.

    The question for those wishing to remain in the EU is why they think we should have to pay millions to capitalists to recover assets that were stolen from us. Why we should have to maintain PFI contracts that are closing A&E departments and why we have to continue to pay millions in interest to foreigners when we don't need to.

    And that's before we get onto the benefits of a government freed from the EU treaty shackles - direct investment and support of industry, a full job guarantee for all. House building and rated pensions.

    But importantly controlled borders - so that we can maintain the British tradition of treating everybody resident within our borders the same, whether native or invited here on Visa or by EU passport.

    A vote for the EU is a vote for treating migrants differently to natives. And that is a racist position.

    The issue at hand is whether unskilled and semi-skilled people in the EU *who wouldn't otherwise get a visa or asylum* in the UK should be permitted to come into the UK to work.

    If you separate out that set of people, then you find that *at best* they don't reduce the wage at that level of work and at worst they do reduce the wage at that level of work.

    But far more important than that they don't *increase* the wage a resident is going to get for a job, nor do they *increase* the chance of a resident getting a job.

    Given that we are not creating sufficient housing, nor improving our schools and hospitals to cope with the influx (e.g the level of language support and functional skills required in my local primary school is not something that is attracting additional central government funding), then the actual real costs of immigration are simply not in the figures.

    And then there is the impact on existing immigrant communities. There was a big spread on the front of the local Asian newspaper about how local curry houses may all have to close down because they can't get the immigrants from the sub-continent they need with the required skills. Unfortunately there aren't many skilled curry chefs in Romania.

    The excessive visa restrictions we have on the rest of the world - which are required to balance the lax ones in place to the EU - are stopping existing ethnic minority communities dealing fairly with parts of the world they originate from.

    Can somebody also tell Pro-EU nutjobs to read the outcome of the 1932 to 1937 anglo-irish trade war, and then ask themselves why the Irish wouldn't simply veto any restrictions on the UK that are likely to result in retaliation from the UK?

    Apparently Ireland will never use their veto and will definitely take another one for the project. But a big one this time. One that would make the Anglo-Irish trade war of the 1930s look like a walk in the park.

    I also don't buy the internationalist position that where you were born shouldn't limit where you can go. Unfortunately that fails on the logical point that we can't all fit into the same square mile in London.

    So there is a limit, and if there is a limit you either manage it, or you leave it to 'natural forces' or 'market forces'.

    We know that natural forces leads to 1841 Manchester and Cholera death pits. So why try to repeat the experiment?

  3. LK,

    This paper is doing the rounds as the reason why Brexit is impossible.

    I'm going to do a post on the hidden assumption in all these documents - that the UK presses the button on 24th June without any prior preparation in place.

    Since withdrawal from the EU is *entirely* at the discretion of the member state it is for that member state to decide when *and if* it activates Article 50. You'll note that all disaster scenarios start from that point without describing what would happen prior to that.

    Good planning says you get all your ducks in a row first.

    1. I thought anatine collineation was an American thing.

  4. If the UK leaves the EU, Scotland leaves the UK. Is that a problem?

  5. Poetic justice indeed. I believe the Ghaith LRB article is correct, as suggested by the recent revelations that the Commission has been working behind the scenes with a plan to seal off the Macedonian border - in order to punish Greece again, this time for its 'lax' border control.

    I did not know about the Commission's latest skulduggery when I posted my anonymous comment on 21 January (couldn't get the link to my Google account to work) but Ghaith seemed a very credible source.