Socialist Worker

Remain or Leave—the left debates different visions of Europe (Video)

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2506


Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader 

We flourish best when we work together on the problems that we face.

Natalie Bennett

Natalie Bennett

The European Union (EU) has been a real leader on climate change.

To tackle it, we need to be part of a global effort with the EU as part of it.

We have to rein in the multinational companies and make them pay their taxes.

Even if we had a very different government, its very difficult for Britain on its own to take on the multinational companies.

We have to work together as the peoples of Europe to rein in those multinationals and build a different sort of economy.

The EU has imposed a bankers bonuses tax and the Tory government used our money to appeal against that decision.

The Green Party also believes the free movement of people enriches all of our lives. Ukip say immigration is a problem for the NHS, but if you meet someone from Europe in the NHS theyre most likely to be treating you.

The NHS is under pressure because of Tory privatisationthats not an argument against EU immigration.

But the Green Party campaign is called Greens for a better Europe”—theres lots wrong in the EU and theres lots we want to reform.

The most obvious example is the proposed US/EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal.


People are saying we have to leave the EU because of TTIP, but we need to be in there fighting to stop TTIP.

TTIP was supposed to be signed last year, but resistance across Europe has ensured that it hasnt been.

The European Commission is far too powerful compared to the parliament, but theres an awful lot we need to change about Westminster.

People say the EU commissioners arent elected, but I point to the House of Lords.

The answer in both cases is to stay in and fight to reform it.

What happens on 24 June if there is a Brexit? The Green Party would be drawing up a list of everything weve lost.

Wed have to fight for all the workers rights, protections and rules all over again in the current political climate.

Do we want to have defend those while we take on the Tory government, neoliberalism and try to transform our society?

We should be voting to Remainand then on June 24 focusing on the reforms we want in the EU and Britain.


Joseph Choonara, SWP and Lexit—the left leave campaign

We should think about it as we think of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organisation.The European Union is another multinational organisation driving through neoliberal attacks.

In Greece it is driving through the most appalling austerity and has actually fought off an IMF attempt to win debt reduction.

Joseph Choonara

Joseph Choonara

TTIP represents the most horrific attack on workers rights and environmental and social protection.

Some 3.4 million people signed a petition against it. What did the European Commission do? Absolutely nothing.

The TUC claims that we have equal pay, health and safety and holidays thanks to the EU.

In reality equal pay legislation was won by women workers at Ford Dagenham going on strike.

We have some of the best health and safety legislation in the world because we won it in the 1970s, a time of mass workers struggles. The Tories want to lower it to the EU minimum and the EU is not holding back the assault. 

We defend freedom of movement, but if youre a Syrian, Eritrean, Afghan or Iraqi you simply dont have it. 


The EU and Turkeys barbaric deal means desperate refugees in Greece are sent back to a country that is bombing the Kurdish section of its population. It means refugees have to seek more dangerous routes, which is why hundreds drowned in the Mediterranean last week.

Thats the reality of Fortress Europe.

Many people say we need to change the EU, but no one has proposed a credible method. You cant do it through the European Parliament. It doesnt even have the right to propose new legislation.

You cant do it through the EU bureaucracies. Who voted for the board of the European Central Bank? Who voted for the European Commission?

There is simply no democracy, theres no capacity to reform it based on the existing institutions.

Some argue that leaving would mean moving even further to the right and being left at the mercies of a Boris Johnson government.

But the EU referendum is not strengthening the right, its ripping apart the Conservative Party.

Without a stonking big victory David Cameron is gone and Johnson would inherit a damaged government that would not survive.

Either way, we have a big fight to transform British society and we cannot rely on the EU or reform it.

We should see it as a bosses club and vote to leave it on a left wing basis to begin the break-up of that bosses club.


The left debate on the EU in Manchester last Wednesday also had Labour Party member Sara Khan arguing for Remain and Eleni Michalopoulou from the Greek anti-capitalist coalition Antarsya for Leave.

Many people came because theyre sickened by the official Remain and Leave campaigns right wing and racist politics. Sally, a recent graduate, told Socialist Worker, I dont like the way the debate is framed around immigration.

I came to hear both sides, but particularly the Green Party.

Most people backed a Remain position, but many were undecided about how theyd vote. Jose, a Spanish migrant, told Socialist Worker, For the first time in my life, I dont know what position to take.

I think that the left should unite across Europe, but the problem is theres no democracy in the EU.

The meeting in Manchester

The meeting in Manchester (Pic: Martin Empson)

He added, It needs to change, but I dont know how it canIf Britain leaves maybe the EU will wake up?

One of peoples biggest concerns was defending migrants and refugees rights.

Amy asked from the floor, Will it be worse for migrants the day after? Would David Cameron push for reforms on immigration within the EU anyway?

Khan said, The Tories who support Leave want to limit the rights of migrants even further. The last thing I want is for people living in Britain to be even more oppressed than they are, or to be deported if Britain leaves the EU.

Michalopoulou said, Britain was already allowed to change the law regarding benefits for migrants, so Romanians and Bulgarians have specific restrictions.

It wont get better, if we dont fight.


Most had never heard an anti-racist case against the EU.

Young worker Ioan who is undecided told Socialist Worker, The Fortress Europe argument made me think. What about Iraqis and Afghans when it comes to freedom of movement? Maybe its not as free.

Some argued that leaving would strengthen the right. Julie Reid, a Labour councillor, said, Global capitalism wont go away if we leave the EU—well be left in the hands of Michael Gove and the right wingers.

Even Jeremy Corbyn has changed his position and a lot of that has to do with who we will be left with.

The first thing the Tories would do is tear up workers rights, theyve destroyed the NHS and theyll tear into it even more. We might be stuck with them for another ten years.

Ameen Hadi, a council worker, said, I hear what Julie says, but weve already got it. Ive got a Tory government that says they wont let anyone in from Calais. Half the people at my work have already lost their jobs.

Voting to remain strengthens David Cameron and George OsborneI want to see them weak, divided and defeated.

Thanks to Mark Krantz

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