Dead Men Left

Friday, March 25, 2005

Liberal left mythology on Europe

Out there on the unreservedly pro-EU liberal left is a strand of thought claiming tying Britain closer to European institutions will pull this country in a progressive direction. It is a line of thinking that slots neatly alongside the persistent myth of British exceptionalism on the left: that Britain - or, more precisely, just England - is a uniquely conservative country, and that British (especially English) workers are not to be trusted with their own or anybody else's liberation. Jacques Delors, speaking to a more than usually demoralised TUC in 1998, got the ball rolling in Labour Party circles. It has become a commonplace amongst Labour-inclined liberals, and the swing away from habitual Euroscepticism was a major factor in discretely uniting former SDP supporters with New Labour.

It is, of course, cobblers, and worryingly parochial cobblers. As the debate around the Bolkestein directive has indicated, far from the EU pulling Britain leftwards, the British government - as always - is a major drag on the EU to the right. Under these circumstances, tying the UK more tightly into Europe means placing still greater pressure on social rights and benefits across the contintent. Far from bringing Britain up to usual EU standards, it helps push the rest of the continent down. The liberal-left view is taken down the wrong end of the telescope.

With a referendum on the European constitution impending, and with a major chunk of those on the left in Britain having a (understandable) strong reaction against Kilroy-Silk and his cohorts, there is a pressing need for the left-wing, internationalist anti-constitution case to be well and clearly made.