Socialist Worker

Eight reasons to reject the EU treaty

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2074

Gordon Brown has made it clear there will be no referendum on the European Union (EU) reform treaty.

Yet page 84 of the Labour Party’s 2005 manifesto says of the original EU constitution: “We will put it to the British people in a referendum.”

They should be a referendum over the EU treaty – and we should campaign for and win a no vote. Here are eight reasons why.

1 – A repackaged version of the rejected consititution

The EU treaty is a repackaged version of the EU constitution thrown out by French and Dutch voters who rejected its neoliberal social and economic policies in 2005.

Proposals for a European anthem and flag have been dropped but everyone except Gordon Brown agrees that the new treaty is just the constitution without the window dressing.

“The substance of the constitution is preserved,” gloated Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. “That is a fact.”

Valery Giscard d’Estaing, architect of the rejected constitution, said, “The European governments have agreed on cosmetic changes to the constitution to make it easier to swallow.”

In many respects the treaty is worse than the constitution. For example, the “right to a job” has been replaced by the “right to look for a job”.

The treaty will mean more layoffs, more unemployment, more working poor, and more attacks against public services.

The constitution made no reference to Christianity. But the new treaty explicitly invokes Europe’s “religious heritage” – a gesture designed to pander to anti-Muslim prejudice.

2 – Privatisation and lack of workers’ rights

Article 188c of the treaty calls for “uniformity in measures of liberalisation”. This means pressing for privatisation at the pace of the quickest EU country.

Protocol 6 of the treaty states that “the internal market... must be based on a system whereby competition is not distorted”. It also gives the EU permission to “take action” to end these “distortions”.

“Undistorted competition” is code for not allowing the state to put extra investment into public services – even though such services carry a “social obligation”.

The treaty gives formal backing to a European Commission discussion paper on “modernising labour law” that erodes existing employment protection.

The treaty also increases pressure across the EU to compete by increasing hours, boosting productivity still further and holding down wages.

3 – The truth about Gordon Brown’s ‘red lines’

Brown claims to have ensured safeguards in the treaty. He has – but his “red lines” in fact give us even fewer rights!

He wants Britain to keep national control of foreign and security policy – so Labour’s ability to fight wars is secure.

Brown has a “cast iron guarantee” that the EU’s charter of fundamental rights will not alter British social legislation – so there will be no new right to strike under a Brown government.

The EU charter enshrines the right to strike, the right to union recognition, a limit on working hours and a ban on child labour. Brown is determined that Britain will not sign up to it.

He insists that Britain must be offered an “emergency brake” on any social security measures. This enables Britain to put a stop to any future welfare measures before they become EU directives.

4 – Democracy will be further eroded across Europe

Despite frequent rhetoric about closing the “democratic deficit” in Europe, at the moment only Ireland will get to vote on the treaty in a referendum – probably in spring next year.

The treaty gives the unelected European Commission extensive powers to force through the privatisation of public services.

It takes powers away from the elected parliament and gives them to the commission. It creates a new, more powerful, unelected EU president.

Approximately 15,000 professional lobbyists work in Brussels with over 70 percent of them employed directly or indirectly by corporations.

Over the past two decades they have promoted a series of EU directives which have paved the way for privatisation. Under the treaty more and more will be decided by these directives.

5 – A blueprint for the militarisation of Europe

The proposals on EU foreign policy will lead to a more militarised Europe. It commits the EU to Nato and to “a renewed Atlantic alliance”. It creates an EU foreign minister in all but name – the

so called “high representative”.

The treaty also commits all EU members to “undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities”.

While this is not quite a single European army, it is still dictating that member countries should invest more in arms.

The treaty’s signatories pledge to enhance their military capabilities in order to mount more missions abroad to “contribute to the struggle against terrorism”. There is a mutual defence clause in case one EU state is attacked.

6 – Unelected bankers will control economic policy

The treaty also insists on the independence of the European Central Banks (ECB) from any kind of democratic control.

Instead the bank will remain answerable to the needs of financiers who want “price stability” and lower state spending.

So while the ECB warns governments not to release any surplus funds in social spending, it was able to inject over 100 billion euros into the banking system to shore up speculators who made fortunes from mortgages on overpriced property.

It reaffirms that the unaccountable ECB has the sole duty of combating inflation – unlike, for example, the US Federal Reserve Board, which also has to maintain full employment.

7 – The treaty is an attack on the global poor

Support for the current World Trade Organisation policy of neoliberal globalisation is expressed in Article 188b of the treaty.

This states the EU “shall contribute to the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade and on foreign direct investment, and the lowering of customs and other barriers”.

“Other barriers” refers to non-tarriff barriers such as environmental standards or consumer protection regulations.

The treaty demands the “progressive suppression of all restrictions on international trade and foreign direct investment”.

It encourages the EU to press for “non-discriminatory agreements” which stop African governments imposing restrictions on capital flight or policies which favour local industry in government procurement.

8 – We can use a referendum to defend workers’ rights

We should oppose the treaty, not out of a “little England” spirit, but because it is, in the words of Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, “a borderless blueprint for privatisation”.

We want the best pension rights, the highest minimum wage, shortest working hours, the right to free education and the most stringent controls on pollution applied in every EU state.

Thousands of working people demonstrated in Lisbon, Portugal, on Thursday of last week outside the EU summit, calling for this kind of radical vision of Europe.

Campaigning against the treaty strengthens the radical left’s challenge across Europe to the neoliberal consensus championed by Brown and Merkel.


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Tue 23 Oct 2007, 18:36 BST
Issue No. 2074
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