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Debate: Which side are EU on?

This article is over 6 years, 6 months old
Socialist Worker has argued for a vote against staying in the European Union in the coming referendum, but not everyone agrees. Readers give their views on how the left should vote
Issue 2460
European Commission in Brussels
European Commission in Brussels (Pic: Sebastien Bertrand)

Vote Yes – We can’t be seen to line up with Ukip racists

When I saw letters from other socialists who wish to vote yes, I was glad I wasn’t the only one.

They understand that the EU is a bosses’ club, but have the insight to see the potential to use their vote to reject right wing ideology.

As far back as the last referendum in 1975 it embarrassed me to see left wingers such as Tony Benn sharing platforms with the vile Enoch Powell against the Common Market. 

I certainly will not be sharing any platform with Ukip or the Tory right.

John AppleyardLiversedge, West Yorkshire


I was a bit taken aback to find the SWP arguing for a no vote.

I understand that the EU is a bosses’ club and that weakening it will ultimately benefit workers across all countries. 

But this is going to be a difficult argument to have in the current climate of anti-EU and anti-migrant racism.

I can imagine the reaction of my husband’s Polish co-workers. They will think we are on the same side as Ukip and this will be a very sore point. 

They will think we do not want them here.

If the no campaign wins, what would happen to European workers in Britain? Would they be deported straight away?

Many workers in my workplace also think we are better off in the EU because they see it as more for worker rights and human rights than the Tories. The reasons for voting no may be right in the long run. But in the short run it could make migrant workers see us as being against them.

Gurjit MinhasLeicester


At the general election the Scottish National Party (SNP) had three main policy positions—no to austerity, no to Trident nuclear missiles, and yes to the EU.

And all the opinion polls show the majority of Greeks still wish to remain in the EU. This is food for thought.

Terry WardWickford, Essex

Vote No – Bosses use their EU to squeeze workers and we must tell the truth about Fortress Europe

We should not fool ourselves that the EU represents the right to free movement.It offers only repression to desperate refugees fleeing war and poverty. 

EU borders agency Frontex is getting new powers to detain and expel migrants.

Hungary is building a wall at its border with Serbia to keep migrants out. Greece has already done this at its border with Turkey.

Working with Frontex, Greek coastal patrols push migrant boats back to Turkey. Many drown. Survivors face detention in horrific camps.

Now borders within the EU are getting tighter. Few refugees who reach Greece and Italy will be allowed to move north.

These moves will be used to make life even more difficult for eastern European migrants, particularly Roma people. 

Despina KarayianniEast London


It’s true that some regulations brought in by the EU have helped workers. But defending them doesn’t depend on an institution.

It’s a question of the strength of ordinary people’s fight for them.

The real test of the EU must surely be its vicious immigration laws.

An institution of great wealth is turning its back on the poor—to uphold profit and racist notions of national identity.

This tragic situation exposes the EU’s claims to internationalism and support for human rights as a shabby pretence.

Socialists fight for a world free from racism. That’s an aim the EU certainly doesn’t support.

Margaret WoodsGlasgow


The EU is a trading block designed to give the states of Europe an advantage over other countries. Socialists have to take a stand on this.

It isn’t in workers’ interest to support exploitation in poorer countries. This argument is not abstract for workers in Africa, Asia and South America. 

If they see socialists fighting alongside bosses to uphold the EU it will undermine the case for socialism. We must fight against it, for unity with workers across the world.

Phil AllsopNorth London


We can only answer hard questions by going back to our principles. Socialists fight for what is in the real interest of the working class—not just for what is popular.

We can’t dilute that principle just because others to the right of us also oppose the EU.

By calling on workers to support the European bosses, union leaders tie our hands in any fight against them.

Roger CoxNorth West London 


In 1975 I got chased off by the police while painting “No to Bosses’ Europe” on a bridge. I never got to finish, so for years it said “No to Bosses”.

We opposed  the attempts to rationalise capitalism at workers’ expense. This is still the driving force of the EU, as we see in Greece.

The Common Market first imposed VAT, which taxes the poor more than the rich. Now the EU wants to force the Greek government to increase it further.

We can oppose the chauvinists in the no campaign with these class-based arguments.

Jeannie RobinsonChesterfield


A yes vote will only help the European bourgeoisie. Socialists must not give up the working class’s right to defend itself from exploitation.

Ali FayedBy email

Abstain – Both sides are so toxic it’s a no-win scenario

Many socialists will want to vote yes to the EU because the no side will be dominated by Ukip’s anti-migrant racism and the most xenophobic of Tories. 

But the yes campaign will be dominated by David Cameron and the Blairites who will argue that the EU is good for business and British capitalism. 

In such circumstances, should we call for “neither racism nor EU capitalism but international socialism”—and not call for a vote either way?

Tony BarnsleyDudley


The EU is no friend of workers. But would an “independent” British state be any better? There’s little reason to think leaving the EU would make any difference to workers.

The 2015 general election was one of the most racist in recent memory, and Nigel Farage is the media’s favourite Eurosceptic spokesperson. To join any no campaign would give credibility to Ukip’s lies and the far right racists that surround them. 

We should stay out of this melee of an in/out referendum. The argument against the EU is a drop in the ocean in the battle for equality. 

Socialists should rise above getting sucked into a lose-lose situation.

James EdwardSouth East London


Read the arguments so far 

What we think: Referendum can’t be left to the racists

Feature: No to a bosses’ Europe

Letters: Opposing bosses’ EU would mean siding with racists


Letters: Workers should say no to bosses’ EU club

Feature: Smash Fortress Europe

Five questions about the EU

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