11 Jun 2015

The EU is not just about business and trade

I’ve always felt that being a member of the EU was a good thing. I haven’t always had a lot of justification for that and mostly it has just come down to an emotional feeling. I suppose that going through history at school and having the World Wars forced down my throat like everyone else had an effect on me. It has made me think we need to ensure that there is unity and peace in Europe so that we never again see the type of terror that once threatened all of our countries. Coming together under the banner of the EU ensures peace and a common purpose.

There is a lot of discussion about Europe now because we have guaranteed an ‘in-out’ referendum on the EU. The Green Party agree with giving the UK people, including 16 and 17 year olds, a chance to vote in a referendum on the EU. But the water is very muddy for trying to understand what are the advantages and disadvantages of being a member state.

Cutting the red tape and other dangerous statements

David Cameron has told us that he intends to work for reform in the EU and then campaign to stay in the EU.  There are few people who would say that the EU doesn’t need reform.

But the Tories and so-called ‘business leaders’ discuss the EU only in terms of what it can do for business and this seriously limits the debate and the importance of the EU. As the leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, explained in an article in the New Statesman the EU means so much more to people in the UK than just business and trade. It is not the case that if a ‘good deal’ is not negotiated for corporations that the EU project should be abandoned.

I was listening to Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on the 20th May in which they interviewed the President of the Chartered Business Institute (CBI), Sir Mike Rake. The CBI is the main organisation that lobbies for business against governments internationally.

 During this interview Sir Mike Rake talked of the need to change “petty regulation [ ] that doesn’t have an impact on competitiveness and in fact may do the opposite”. When pushed as to whether “cutting red tape” meant removal of worker’s rights, Sir Mike responded explained that there is the need for  “greater flexibility” and “we don’t want regulations that don’t promote competitiveness”.

Sir Mike was then pushed as to whether this meant he wanted to make it easier to fire people? Sir Mike said he felt that businesses had not been willing to hire because of “inflexibility”.  Again he was asked “Is that because it is hard to fire them?” to which he replied “Yes that is part of it”.

What does this mean?

It indicates the way business leaders and the Tories feel. Sir Mike Rake should have said what he was really thinking which I believe is this;

“Actually we should stay in the EU but only if we can get rid of the fundamental rights which protect workers from being fired willy-nilly by companies. It’s a bloody inconvenience when you are trying to make loads of money to have to pay workers fairly and not be able to fire them when you fancy it”

(Please note Sir Mike Rake didn’t actually say the above, it is my interpretation!)

Big business and wealthy individuals fund, and our the main beneficiaries, of  Tory governments so you will notice how the language Cameron et al use is very similar to that of Sir Mike. As with their policy of austerity, the Government is demonstrating with their stance on the EU that they do not care about working people and the majority of people in the UK.

EU, Red Tape, Your rights, green party, referendum

In the guise of greater freedom and independence in the EU there is a real risk to both of those concepts, namely, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, better known as TTIP.

TTIP is a ‘trade deal’ that is designed to give large companies complete free reign in European markets. One particularly disturbing aspect of TTIP would allow companies to bypass laws in countries if such tiny things as ‘workers rights’ or ‘public services’ stood in the way of those companies making ever greater profits.

Sir Mike Rake along with the Tories, UKIP, Labour and Lib Dems are all supporters of TTIP.

The Green Party and Plaid Cmyru, among others, oppose TTIP. The Green Party’s economic spokesperson Molly Scott Cato, MEP has explained the details and dangers of TTIP and you can visit her website here.

Rights Protected by the EU

At a quick glance, what rights, that affect you, does the EU protect?
  • ·         Workers rights -  particularly the 48hr working week maximum, maternity rights, rights for agency workers, non-discrimination rules (all of which David Cameron wants to attack)
  • ·         Free movement in the EU
  • ·         Human rights
  • ·         Healthcare abroad
  • ·         Air passenger rights
  • ·         Consumer rights
  • ·         Food safety watchdogs
  • ·         Safe disposal of hazardous waste
  • ·         Recycling
  • ·         Sustainable energy
  • ·         Crime – cross boarding working of Police forces

You can follow this link to read about a number of case studies of how the EU has benefited the South West of England.

Ultimately beware when you hear politicians and business leaders talking about ‘red tape’ in the EU; they probably mean YOUR RIGHTS.

Take Action

Vote to stay in the EU when the referendum comes; which has been promised by 2017

Write to your MEP about opposing TTIP

Find out more information about TTIP via War on Want

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