Friday, April 15, 2016

Jeremy At His Best - That EU Speech

 Image result for Jeremy Corbyn EU
"The people of this country face a historic choice on 23rd June whether to remain part of the European Union, or to leave. I welcome the fact that that decision is now in the hands of the British people. Indeed, I voted to support a referendum in the last Parliament.

The move to hold this referendum may have been more about managing divisions in the Conservative party. But it is now a crucial democratic opportunity for people to have their say on our country’s future, and the future of our continent as a whole.

The Labour Party is overwhelmingly for staying in because we believe the European Union has brought: investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment, and offers the best chance of meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century. Labour is convinced that a vote to remain is in the best interests of the people of this country.

In the coming century, we face huge challenges, as a people, as a continent and as a global community.  How to deal with climate change. How to address the overweening power of global corporations and ensure they pay fair taxes. How to tackle cyber-crime and terrorism. How to ensure we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation. How to address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world, and how we adapt to a world where people everywhere move more frequently to live, work and retire.

All these issues are serious and pressing, and self-evidently require international co-operation. Collective international action through the European Union is clearly going to be vital to meeting these challenges. Britain will be stronger if we co-operate with our neighbours in facing them together.

As Portugal’s new Socialist Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, has said: ‘in the face of all these crises around us. We must not divide Europe – we must strengthen it.’

When the last referendum was held in 1975, Europe was divided by the Cold War, and what later became the EU was a much smaller, purely market-driven arrangement. Over the years I have been critical of many decisions taken by the EU, and I remain critical of its shortcomings; from its lack of democratic accountability to the institutional pressure to deregulate or privatise public services.
So Europe needs to change. But that change can only come from working with our allies in the EU. It’s perfectly possible to be critical and still be convinced we need to remain a member.
I’ve even had a few differences with the direction the Labour Party’s taken over the past few years but I have been sure that it was right to stay a member some might say I’ve even managed to do something about changing that direction.

In contrast to four decades ago, the EU of today brings together most of the countries of Europe and has developed important employment, environmental and consumer protections.

I have listened closely to the views of trade unions, environmental groups, human rights organisations and of course to Labour Party members and supporters, and fellow MPs. They are overwhelmingly convinced that we can best make a positive difference by remaining in Europe.

Britain needs to stay in the EU as the best framework for trade, manufacturing and cooperation in 21st century Europe. Tens of billion pounds-worth of investment and millions of jobs are linked to our relationship with the EU, the biggest market in the world.

EU membership has guaranteed working people vital employment rights, including four weeks’ paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, protections for agency workers and health and safety in the workplace. Being in the EU has raised Britain’s environmental standards, from beaches to air quality, and protected consumers from rip-off charges.

But we also need to make the case for reform in Europe – the reform David Cameron’s Government has no interest in, but plenty of others across Europe do.

That means democratic reform to make the EU more accountable to its people. Economic reform to end to self-defeating austerity and put jobs and sustainable growth at the centre of European policy, labour market reform to strengthen and extend workers’ rights in a real social Europe. And new rights for governments and elected authorities to support public enterprise and halt the pressure to privatise services.

So the case I’m making is for ‘Remain – and Reform’ in Europe. Today is the Global Day of Action for Fast Food Rights. In the US workers are demanding $15 an hour, in the UK £10 now. Labour is an internationalist party and socialists have understood from the earliest days of the labour movement that workers need to make common cause across national borders.

Working together in Europe has led to significant gains for workers here in Britain and Labour is determined to deliver further progressive reform in 2020 the democratic Europe of social justice and workers’ rights that people throughout our continent want to see.

But real reform will mean making progressive alliances across the EU – something that the Conservatives will never do.

Take the crisis in the steel industry. It’s a global problem and a challenge to many European governments. So why is it only the British Government that has failed so comprehensively to act to save steel production at home?

The European Commission proposed new tariffs on Chinese steel, but it was the UK Government that blocked these co-ordinated efforts to stop Chinese steel dumping.

Those proposals are still on the table. So today I ask David Cameron and George Osborne to to start sticking up for British steel and work with our willing European partners to secure its future. There are certainly problems about EU state aid rules, which need reform. But if as the Leave side argues, it is the EU that is the main problem, how is that Germany, Italy, France and Spain have all done so much better at protecting their steel industries?

It is because those countries have acted within EU state aid rules to support their industries; whether through taking a public stake, investing in research and development, providing loan guarantees or compensating for energy costs.

It is not the EU that is the problem, but a Conservative Government here in Britain that doesn’t recognise the strategic importance of steel, for our economy and for the jobs and skills in those communities.

The Conservative Government has blocked action on Chinese steel dumping. It has cut investment in infrastructure that would have created demand for more steel and had no procurement strategy to support British steel.

A Labour government would have worked with our partners across Europe to stand up for steel production in Britain.

The European Union – 28 countries and 520 million people – could have made us stronger, by defending our steel industries together. The actions of the Conservative Government weakened us.
The jobs being created under this Government are too often low skill, low pay and insecure jobs. If we harnessed Europe’s potential we could be doing far more to defend high skill jobs in the steel industry.

And that goes for other employers of high skilled staff too – from Airbus to Nissan – they have made it clear that their choice to invest in Britain is strengthened by our membership of the European Union.

Of course the Conservatives are loyally committed to protecting one British industry in Europe – the tax avoidance industry.

The most telling revelation about our Prime Minister has not been about his own tax affair, but that in 2013 he personally intervened with the European Commission President to undermine an EU drive to reveal the beneficiaries of offshore trusts, and even now, in the wake of the Panama Papers, he still won’t act.

And on six different occasions since the beginning of last year Conservative MEPs have voted down attempts to take action against tax dodging.

Labour has allies across Europe prepared to take on this global network of the corrupt and we will work with them to clamp down on those determined to suck wealth out of our economies and the pockets of our people.

On Tuesday, the EU announced a step forward on country-by-country reporting. We believe we can go further. But even this modest measure was opposed by Conservative MEPs last December.
Left to themselves, it is clear what the main Vote Leave vision is for Britain to be the safe haven of choice for the ill-gotten gains of every dodgy oligarch, dictator or rogue corporation. They believe this tiny global elite is what matters, not the rest of us, who they dismiss as “low achievers”.

Some argue that we need to leave the EU because the single market’s rules are driving deregulation and privatisation. They certainly need reform. But it was not the EU that privatised our railways. It was the Conservative Government of John Major and many of our rail routes are now run by other European nations’ publicly owned rail companies. They haven’t made the mistake of asset stripping their own countries.

Labour is committed to bringing rail back into public ownership in 2020. And that is why Labour MEPs are opposing any element of the fourth rail package, currently before the European Parliament, that might make that more difficult.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is also a huge cause for concern, but we defeated a similar proposal before in Europe, together when it was called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, back in 1998.

Labour MEPs are rightly opposing the Investor-State Dispute Mechanism opposing any attempt to enforce privatisation on our public services, to reduce consumer rights, workplace protections or environmental standards.

The free market enthusiasts in the Leave campaign would put all those protections at risk. Labour is building alliances to safeguard them.

We must also put human rights at the centre of our trade agreements, not as an optional add-on. We already have allies across Europe to do that. And the EU is vital for promoting human rights at home. As a result of EU directives and regulations, disabled people are protected from discrimination. Lifts, cars and buses need to be accessible, as does sea and air travel.

And it was the Labour Government that signed the Human Rights Act into UK law that transferred power from government – not to Brussels – but to individual citizens.

Climate change is the greatest threat that humanity faces this century. And Britain cannot tackle it alone. We could have the best policies possible but unless we act together internationally, it is worthless. Labour brought in the Climate Change Act, John Prescott played a key role in getting the Kyoto Protocols agreed. Labour has led the debate within Europe.

But despite David Cameron pledging to lead the greenest Government ever, Britain still lags far behind most of Europe in terms of renewable energy production. We have much to learn from what Germany has done in particular.

The Conservative Government has cut subsidies for solar power while increasing subsidies for diesel. It has cut regulatory burdens on fracking yet increased regulations on onshore wind. They say one thing, but do another.

Again, it has been regulations agreed in Europe that have improved Britain’s beaches and waterways and that are forcing us to tackle the scandal of air pollution which will kill 500,000 people in Britain by 2025, unless we act.

Working together in the European Union is vital for tackling climate change and vital in protecting the environment we share.

No doubt debate about EU membership in the next couple of months will focus strongly on jobs and migration. We live in an increasingly globalised world. Many of us will study, work or even retire abroad at some point in our lives.

Free movement has created opportunities for British people. There are nearly three-quarters of a million British people living in Spain and over two million living in the EU as a whole.
Learning abroad and working abroad, increases the opportunities and skills of British people and migration brings benefits as well as challenges at home.

But it’s only if there is government action to train enough skilled workers to stop the exploitation of migrant labour to undercut wages and invest in local services and housing in areas of rapid population growth that they will be felt across the country.

And this Government has done nothing of the sort. Instead, its failure to train enough skilled workers means we have become reliant on migration to keep our economy functioning.

This is especially true of our NHS which depends on migrant nurses and doctors to fill vacancies. This Government has failed to invest in training, and its abolition of nurses’ bursaries, and its decision to pick a fight with junior doctors is likely to make those shortages worse.

As a former representative of NHS workers, I value our NHS and admire the dedication of all its staff. It is Labour’s proudest creation. But right now, it would be in even greater crisis if many on the Leave side had their way. Some of whom have argued against the NHS and free healthcare on demand in principle.

And of course it is EU regulations that that underpin many rights at work, like holiday entitlement, maternity leave, rights to take breaks and limits to how many hours we can work, and that have helped to improve protection for agency workers.

The Tories and UKIP are on record as saying they would like to cut back EU-guaranteed workplace rights if they could.

A Labour government would instead strengthen rights at work making common cause with our allies to raise employment standards throughout Europe, to stop the undercutting of wages and conditions by unscrupulous employers, to strengthen the protection of every worker in Europe.
Just imagine what the Tories would do to workers’ rights here in Britain if we voted to leave the EU in June. They’d dump rights on equal pay, working time, annual leave, for agency workers, and on maternity pay as fast as they could get away with it. It would be a bonfire of rights that Labour governments secured within the EU.

Not only that, it wouldn’t be a Labour government negotiating a better settlement for working people with the EU. It would be a Tory government, quite possibly led by Boris Johnson and backed by Nigel Farage, that would negotiate the worst of all worlds: a free market free-for-all shorn of rights and protections.

It is sometimes easier to blame the EU, or worse to blame foreigners, than to face up to our own problems. At the head of which right now is a Conservative Government that is failing the people of Britain.

There is nothing remotely patriotic about selling off our country and our national assets to the highest bidder. Or in handing control of our economy to City hedge-funds and tax-dodging corporations based in offshore tax havens.

There is a strong socialist case for staying in the European Union. Just as there is also a powerful socialist case for reform and progressive change in Europe.

That is why we need a Labour government, to stand up – at the European level – for industries and communities in Britain, to back public ownership and public services, to protect and extend workers’ rights and to work with our allies to make both Britain and Europe work better for working people.

Many people are still weighing up how they will vote in this referendum. And I appeal to everyone, especially young people – who will live longest with the consequences  – to make sure you are registered to vote. And vote to keep Britain in Europe this June. This is about your future.

By working together across our continent, we can develop our economies protect social and human rights, tackle climate change and clamp down on tax dodgers.

You cannot build a better world unless you engage with the world, build allies and deliver change. The EU, warts and all, has proved itself to be a crucial international framework to do that. That is why I will be am backing Britain to remain in Europe and I hope you will too."

6 comments:

Ernest Jacques said...

Good luck with that one Jeremy.

About as much chance of democratising the European Union and reforming its overarching corruption and neoliberal agenda as King Canute and his tidal plans.

But I understand why Corbyn has changed tack, with the aim of keeping his rebellious Parliamentary Party together. And while not on the King Canute / EU reform scale of difficulty, keeping a fractious and fragmenting Labour Party together looks increasing like a Sisyphus endeavour.

Harry Barnes said...

Ernie : On your - there is "About as much chance of democratising the European Union and reforming its overarching corruption and neoliberal agenda as King Canute and his tidal plans" - the same comment on corruption can be made about a UK outside of the EU and about our membership of most of our International Institutions. We live in a capitalist dominated world, with powerful multinational and international financial operations. So is the answer just to sit back and blow raspberries at everthing? Is that what a Keir Hardie should have done ? For he had most of the cards stacked against him.

I accept that Jeremy has changed his stance on the EU. He felt a need to do this very quickly after he was elected as Leader. But his line differs strongly from that of many Labour MPs, who are not that distant from David Cameron in their approach. Jeremy now argues for working closely with Labour Movements throughout the EU to press for democratic and social reforms. It is a line which Ken Livingstone and myself used you to try to press upon him in the past in the Socialist Campaign Group. Although we went a stage beyond today's Jeremy with a joint article published by the Guardian on 21.11.91 entitled "The left should pursue, not eschew, federalism to bring about a socialist Europe via the EC."

Jeremy now has a better democratic socialist position than anything the Party's own "Labour : In For Britain" campaign (run by Alan Johnson) is coming up with.

The only problem is that Jeremy has only made this one speech. Will we get any more such campaigning ? Otherwise it is just tokenism.

If we come out of the EU, what line will you take on the SNP (1) seeking to leave the UK and (2) then trying to sign up with the EU again?

At least you and I express our views. I can't find anything on the ILP web-site on the EU since this
http://www.independentlabour.org.uk/main/2016/03/12/debating-the-eu-sovereignty-autonomy-and-power/

Ernest Jacques said...

Harry

As per usual I cannot disagree with most of your analysis and what you have to say about Kier Hardy and Jeremy Corbyn. And I do understand that politics has to be about compromise and think, like you, that Jeremy’s, warts and all, EU perspective is politically defensible insofar as it is not a complete cop-out, and is so much more coherent and progressive than the waffle and spin coming from Labour’s light weight EU champion Alan Johnson MP who is saying nothing different than dodgy Dave Cameron. But as you rightly point out Johnson does speak for the bulk of the Parliamentary Party and, sadly from my perspective, for a majority of the party members.

Strange then that while we agree on so much we usually arrive at different conclusions. But there again you, I think for all sorts of reasons, you are much more tribal and willing to work within existing structures than I am or could ever be.

One answer to this conundrum is not that I am just a side-line raspberry blower (and I accept that characterisation) but that while I can envisage – even under FPTP- us voting the Tories out of office I cannot for the life of me, see any strategy anywhere for dealing with the EU’s imponderable bureaucracy together with its overarching big money, neoliberal focus. Afterall these capitalist credentials were written into the treaty of Rome from the outset and have been reinforced treaty after treaty, ever since.

Having said that, I do accept what you say about neoliberalism being a worldwide phenomenon and that the big multi-national corporations are busy rigging the system further in their favour through tax havens, TTIP and all sorts of other opaque nefarious activities including the buying of political elites in Westminster and throughout the globe who say one thing and do another. Blair and Clinton are classic – so called progressives - who have been bought and corrupted this way. And there are plenty of them. I also accept the painful fact that the election of any half socialist or serious progressive government, even with the overwhelming will of the people, will result in a flight of capital and the unleashing of really nasty right wing forces of the Pinochet variety. But there again, when democracy beckoned in Greece, aka Syriza, the EU proved not to be the answer, but the problem.

Increasingly, I see the answer not solely within the Labour Party and trade union movement but within a new dissolved and modernised democracy and a rainbow coalition of progressive forces and community groups who’s overarching mission is a mixed economy with the private sector excluded completely from utilities, railways, health and social care, the emergency services, education and essential industries and natural monopolies. Those key areas of economic and social activity where the profit motive is corrosive in terms of cost and service delivery. Well Harry, I do sometimes dream.

And while the Labour Party should be inclusive and a broad church, I personally would draw the line with those who are not social democrats and who would have us believe that capitulation to market forces is realpolitik and the only game in town. Those like Peter Mandelson et al who would have us believe that trickle-down economics and crumbs from the rich man’s table and charity is the only viable economic strategy that can deliver for the plebs and the people they claim to represent.


Harry Barnes said...

Ernie. I feel that I got past the tribal stage of my being brought up in a pit village following my experiences in Basra and (as this was ending) the impact of events such as the Suez Crisis and the invasion of Hungary. The later ruled out the Communist Party for me and then after some thought I went for the Labour Party plus some wider inspirations - such as the early New Left Review and a short lived GDH Cole-influenced "International Society for Socialist Studies". Later the ILP helped to fill this wider role. My "foot in two camps approach" was tested in the Blair era, but rebellion within the Parliamentary Labour Party helped - as did the Socialist Campaign Group (even when I disagreed with them). But until I can see a feasible alternative around me to Labour, I am stuck with that side of this duel approach. I am aware that habit and being linked into a network (even as a rebel) can have its problems. But I do whittle on at the problem. If you find a clear answer, please let me know.

Ernest Jacques said...

Harry

Accept what you say about Labour tribalism, wrong label to pin on a lifelong rebel and self-confessed whittler.

For my own sins, I do not have clear answers to anything. Just opinions and at times strong ones when it comes to the Labour Party politicians, spin, austerity, foreign wars, Trident and weapons of mass destruction, tax evasion and the obscene levels of inequality and unfairness delivered via our Westminster politicians over 40 years or more. And yes, contempt and anger at the way both main parties use political patronage to reward the rich, powerful and the crooks and then shift blame on the poor and vulnerable as an excuse to trash our welfare state and turn back the clock to Victorian times. That’s some socialist(neoliberal)legacy.

And that’s before we even consider the EU debacle and the way this economic union has morphed into a super state despite the British people being assured, 43 years ago, that we were joining an economic union and 3 years later having a referendum on “The Common Market”. And Labour, Tories are equally complicit in the telling and retelling of falsehoods and in the deception of the very people that they claim to represent. That must surely rank as one of the biggest political whoppers and con-tricks of all time.

So when Jeremy Corbyn tells us we must vote to stay in the EU and work to reform it into a land of milk and honey, can you blame some of us if we are more than a bit cynical. Because, then as now, the EU is a rich mans, capitalist club and as my humble but sage mother used to say; "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear".

So no answers Harry, but plenty of questions, cynicism and criticism from this North Yorkshire and ILP codger. Not that many ILPers will agree with me on this.

Harry Barnes said...

Ernie : Apologies if some of this is old hat.

The notion of being an Independent Socialist seems to me to be odd. Keir Hardie's ILP was only called "independent" to distinquish itself from Lib-Labism. When I started out as an MP I attempted to push a modern ILP line which was neither too soft (Tribune style) nor too hard (Campaign Group style). It was instead the goldilock left. But I was getting nowhere with my views as an Independent Socialist within the PLP, so after several months I joined both the parliamentary Tribune and Campaign Groups, to show that I wasn't solidly with either. Then when the Tribune Group decided to back Hattersley for deputy leader, I walked away from them - many of them later sort places under Blair. That left the Campaign Group with whom I often had left-wing disagreements, but at least they were not frightened to talk about socialism. The big hope that came along was John Smith. He was no left winger, but I felt that he would listen and communicate with labourites who were.

Today the only alternative I can see to Labour is the Greens. There big hope to me seems to be to attract all those young people who don't vote - many of whom aren't even registered. So I try to keep an eye on them.

A thing that has always been important for me is involvement in political discussion meetings. I never went to a political meeting until I ended my National Service at 20. I then attended a large meeting held in Newcastle which was addressed by John Golan the leader of the Communist Party. I cheered him when he talked about the Suez Crisis and gave him healthy boos when he talked about Hungary. I wasn't going to join the CP in any case, as I had earlier read the Krushcev revelations about Stalinism. A year later I finally joined the Labour Party as a Bevanite against its leader Gaitskell.

I have a great commitment to forms of political discussion meetings, which have normally been linked into the wider labour movement. Shortly after I joined the Labour Party I became Secretary of my local branch and arranged for them to have speakers at alternative meetings. Then a Fabian Society was founded at Peterlee and I became its Secretary getting speakers such as Manny Shinwell, Sam Watson and even Bill Rodgers. This pattern of wishing to be into discussions about politics, then came to be served by five years full time studies covering politics, economics and philosophy - with its attendant free-lance activities, such a the Hull Tribune Group.

Afterwards I had the good fortune to take Trade Union Day Release Classes for 21 years, discussing politics and industrial relations whilst also re-engaging in Labour Party activity - with the Clay Cross Rent Rebellion as a boost. Discussion Meetings were also to the fore under different hats - Branch discussions, another Fabian Society and our ILP Branch. For the last ten years the hat has been the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Meetings - over 100 to date. But I make my way to many other such meetings. The last day school which the ILP ran on housing was first rate.

I rationalise such activities on the grounds that political education (where differing viewpoints should engage with each other) is essential for the development of democratic socialism.

If I tried the Greens, it might isolate me from some of these avenues. So as I approach 80 I will probably end my days still with a Labour Party membership card. I first joined when I was 21, but I am unlikely to have done that if I had been born around about the time when Blair became leader just over 21 years ago.