Richard Murphy – Brexit: What I think Labour should be saying on Europe

During the Brexit debate we have concentrated our coverage on the real cause of the successful referendum: the destructive neo-liberal policy of the EU that has caused so much suffering and misfortune for so many. What was always conspicuous was the lack of recognition of this fact by Remainers, many of whom profit from the EU´s nefarious regimen. Richard Murphy is one of those exceptions and in this article he brings together many of the points that would be necessary to change the EU.

Richard Murphy is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy, City University of London. He campaigns on issues of tax avoidance and tax evasion, as well as blogging at Tax Research UK

Cross-posted from Tax Research UK

I have been challenged to say what I think Labour should be doing regarding the EU, given that many Lexiteers seem too think that they hold the only rational position on this issue, even if it amounts to running away.

It so happens I know Jeremy Corbyn is addressing EU socialists in December so let me suggest what I think he should be saying to them.

Corbyn should firstly recognise that he would love a general election – but that he may not get it.

In that case he should say he is committed to a second EU referendum in the UK. And he should commit Labour to fighting that referendum campaign on the basis that it wants to stay in the EU – to provide the UK with the stability that it so obviously needs – but on the basis that he will fight tooth and nail for reform of the EU, because that is what his principles demand.

That requires that Corbyn should say what he thinks is wrong with the EU, which led people in the UK to reject it. These issues are likely to include:

  • Inappropriate state aid controls that prevent the creation of stable mixed-economies, full employment and anti-recessionary measures that financial crises can require;
  • Inappropriate and unjustified budget controls which economic theory cannot support;
  • Rules that prevent direct state funding by central banks;
  • Rules that make the control of migration within the EU hard, for states suffering migratory loss and those with significant immigration, and the need to create new mechanisms to support people to stay in their places of normal residence.

Then he has to say why he wants to do this. This has to be because he wants to provide the stimulus to deliver the industrial strategy that he outlined to the Labour Party conference this autumn, and which he believes is also required across Europe, because the evidence is very strong that these policies are much more powerful when they take place in parallel.

That strategy did of course talk about some renationalisation – which pays for itself and takes rent seeking and not competition out of markets that have failed because they have become controlled by oligopolists acting against the interests of consumers – which is the exact opposite of what the EU should stand for.

But it’s also about delivering a strategy for green investment that delivers jobs in every constituency through local investment in renewable energy, insulation and local alternatives to carbon-intensive transport. These are justified by the need to meet the demand to control emissions that cause climate change.

He must then say that this cannot happen without state support. The private sector has not shown the willing to deliver and the pretence that it might should be abandoned; when markets fail the state should be allowed to deliver instead. This though requires the change in budget rules; funding rules and state aid rules.

In summary, his argument should be that we face local, national, European and international crises on climate change, meeting people’s needs locally and building sustainable economies. These issues can only be managed and coordinated at international level – because that is where the impact of climate on our combined futures that should be the focus of every politician’s concern is bound to be. But it also requires local management of action to deliver the appropriate solutions. That then requires a fundamental change in EU thinking so that it becomes the enabler of state-supported change that markets cannot supply but which are essential for our survival and which as a result requires a change in the rules that I have noted.

And, Corbyn should add, the multiplier effect of such change is, in any case, likely to make it self-funding over time, whilst the stimulus and political momentum it would supply should create the basis for new, sustainable, employment and the development of long-term skills in communities raving for them – and in the process build the international solidarity on common objectives that the EU should supply if it is to have political relevance for all the people in all members states, and so justify its existence as an entity that can create wellbeing over, above and beyond what any state can achieve by itself.

This, I suggest is what Corbyn should say.


1 Comment

  1. I think that it may have been one of my comments on one of his previous blogs that prompted the good Professor to write this piece.

    FWIW I’ve copied a reply that I made to this blog on his site. In response he disagreed with my final statement – that chances of action are greater outside then from within). The issue for me remains that no-one on the Remain&Reformy left has proposed how these changes could be implemented given the structure of the EU & the current heavily right-biased EU electoral landscape. Plenty of Lexiters have given compelling arguments as to why the chances of progressive reform are essentially zero (eg. Lee Jones, Chris Bickerton, Costa Lapavitsas, Oliver Hudson and Joe Guinan and Thomas Hanna). I’ve not seen anyone on the remain left (including Richard) state explicitly just how their suggested change could be brought about through the structures of the EU – nothing like a roadmap seems to exist – can anyone here at BNE point me to any?

    My comment:
    Absolutely spot on Richard. I entirely agree and would love to have seen Labour present these arguments consistently over the last few years (and there are those amongst us who have been pressing for such). Were we to remain in the EU I would be campaigning for just these changes.
    However, the issue remains whether the EU is structurally able to allow such changes to occur – and I, and I suspect most Lexiters, would argue that it is not (whether this is by design or path-dependency is by-the-by now).
    At least half the member-state governments are right-wing at the moment (probably closer to two-thirds with Macron’s choice of senior ministers placing him firmly in this camp). What remains of the left in many is a complacent (and usually beleaguered) centrist rump. If any of your list require an amendment to a Treaty (and I suspect that some do) the process will be both lengthy and almost certainly fruitless given the requirement of unanimity for such a change. A captured ECJ and the FoM of Capital will scupper others too. And that is of course, assuming that coalitions of Governments of any size could overcome the many other captured institutions – notably the Commission, ECB and ECJ.
    Paradoxically, there may well be support for some or all of these policies from some of the more rightward of the (already) right in the EU, but whether a coalition with such otherwise completely unpalatable parties is possible is unlikely.
    Oh, and to get anywhere at all, Corbyn (or whoever) would have to start by rebuilding a great deal of trust in the UK (or hopefully England by then) after ‘our’ catastrophic behaviour of the last few years (and the decades before that too).
    Will all this in mind, on the balance of probabilities I think the chances of the change we need occurring are higher out than in.

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