EU is not frightening

I NOTE over the past weeks a number of letters on the subject of Europe, and the implied questioning of the UK’s continued role within this political union.

From the outset, the issues of the European Union along with its structures, treaties and governance is highly complex. It is also a subject that divides both left and right, altogether differing ideological reasons. The central question is, ‘is the UK’s continued membership and full and active participation within this union in the best interests of working people?’

All EU countries are bound together in this current economic and global crisis. And whilst David Cameron appears to have been given a ‘thumbs up’ in opinion polls regarding his ‘bulldog’ spirited display of opportunism at the EU summit in December, the reality is, like Sarkozy and Merkel, he is prepared to make ordinary working people pay for the financial crises caused by the unregulated greed of the bankers.

And let us not forget that all the talk about ‘bailouts’ is not about assisting people in Greece who have lost their jobs and seen their living standards destroyed but is about guaranteeing the banking debts and recapitalisation of the very same institutions that caused the collapse in the first place.

Not only did Cameron veto the rather moderate proposals to introduce some form of belated regulation, but more critically revealed the true agenda of Cameron and the ‘tea party’ element within his own ranks with the pledge that a future Conservative government would pull out of the EU’s social chapter as “top priority,” let alone vacating the EU at the earliest convenience.

So what is it about this social chapter that horrifies the right? It was in fact Tony Blair’s Labour government that signed up top the chapter in 1997. It calls for many things, including: free movement throughout the EU; sex equality; a minimum working age of 16; minimum pension rights and protection for disabled workers. Hardly a communist manifesto, but progressive nonetheless.

A cause for further reflection is the recent comments of the Bank of England governor Mervyn King, who warned that British banks have a £14.8b exposure to the five most fragile EU economies and the two million UK jobs depend on our continued EU membership.

Whilst I accept that the EU and its politicians are largely motivated by blinkered nationalism ad the need for immediate reform, the inspirational refusal of a growing number of people throughout Europe to roll over in the face of these increasingly jingoistic juggernauts has stopped any notion in me of going it alone in Europe.

Continued membership of the EU does not frighten me, but the behaviour of banks, speculators, hedge funds and city investors certainly does.

Ray Riley