Nicholas Mutch makes the left-wing case against the European Union.
The EU is one of the favourite institutions of those on the left who prioritize fuzzy feelings and good intentions above simple facts. The most egregious recent example of this is the NUS’s recent ‘anti UKIP’ motion: full of condescending pomposity, grand ideals about supporting ‘freedom of movement’, ‘equal rights for all’ and saying that ‘withdrawal from the EU would… create a more independent neo-liberal UK’. What they seem to ignore in their desire to score cheap political points is that the EU – not UKIP – is the biggest obstacle to free movement and equal rights. It is also an institution that wants to make subscription to austerity and neoliberal economics part of its membership criteria. In fact, the case against the EU from the Left is just as strong, if not stronger than that from the Right.
I support ‘free movement’: however nebulous that term may be. But free movement should be about free movement of information and talent, not given to an arbitrary group of people just because of where they were born. One of Nigel Farage’s best ripostes to Nick Clegg during their recent debates was when Clegg accused UKIP of looking back to a nostalgic, insular view of Merry England. But if a country is a member of the EU, their immigration rules must explicitly prejudice people based on their nationality! As Farage said, why should the UK give automatic residency to those from Europe (an overwhelmingly white continent), but not to potentially far more skilled people from India, China, New Zealand or the rest of the world (a place with almost unlimited cultural diversity). British people may not be aware of the Resident Labour Market test that a non EU resident must undergo in order to find employment in Britain. Not only does your employer have to prove that they have advertised your job to those in the EU, they also have to declare that not only are you best qualified for the job, but that there was no resident of the EU who applied who could have possibly performed it adequately. And the NUS have the gall to call that equality. You may argue in realpolitik terms that it is in countries economic or political interests to have this kind of policy. But you may not argue that a policy of open door immigration to an overwhelmingly white Europe and against those born in India, China or Australia is about “equal rights for all.”
If a country is a member of the EU, their immigration rules must explicitly prejudice people based on their nationality!
I am sure that many people who voted for the motion to ‘oppose UKIP’ also took part in the demonstrations or signed the petition against the recent deportation of Yashika Bageerathi to Mauritius. This deportation was cruel and pointless. It was also perfectly legal, because of our broken immigration laws. The reason she was deported is because the UK’s immigration system does not allow her to stay, as EU law obliges us. It is simple to argue that, because of her unique qualities and potential future value to British society, she should have been allowed to stay. Under EU immigration law, this is irrelevant. What matters is that she be born on the right side of the Bosporus River. Merit, talent or potential to contribute to a diverse society is irrelevant.
Onto the point about how the EU supposedly combats the introduction of further neoliberal economic policies in Britain. This is utterly untrue. In the aftermath of the Eurozone crisis, the conventional wisdom came that the crisis had occurred not because Europe was too integrated, but because it was not sufficiently integrated. The answer was not to walk away from a monetary union that had become a complete shambles, forced wealthier countries to bail out countries that had been reckless with spending policies, and forced the introduction of technocrats with no democratic mandate to be put in the place of democratically elected leaders into multiple European governments.
No, rather it was, Angela Merkel and Mario Draghi said, the answer was to integrate European fiscal policy, ensuring each country has a balanced budget. Are my fellow students of the Left not aware that this effectively outlaws any government NOT committed to austerity or neoliberal economics! This is a perfect example of the NUS throwing meaningless doxology into its motions without any thought as to the meanings of their own words. Whatever you think of government spending or austerity, the idea that a country’s elected representatives cannot decide economic policy is complete abdication of national sovereignty and representative democracy.
The idea that a country’s elected representatives cannot decide economic policy is complete abdication of national sovereignty and representative democracy.
There are many more examples of the way the EU stands in the way of Left Wing causes. It is the NUS who promote the anti-democratic, anti-free speech idea of “no platform” for bigots like Nick Griffin; yet it is the way the European Parliament elections are conducted allows a bigot like Nick Griffin to claim himself to be one of England’s democratically elected representatives!
Surely the NUS would like students to be protected from rapacious unchecked power of the Law, as its recent #copsoffcampus demonstrations would suggest. The crucial decision of the Supreme Court when ruling in favour of Julian Assanges extradition to Sweden was that someone may be extradited on the decision of an openly interested party and government official (in this case a national prosecutor) rather than the order of an independent judiciary.
If the NUS wants to be a genuine representative body, it needs to ditch its sense of faux outrage and indignation. Instead, it should start confronting the difficult issues that the rise of UKIP highlights. I’m not holding my breath.