Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The "workers right are not protected by the EU" lie

Anyone who is familiar with my work knows that I'm left-wing. I'm left-wing because I think that some infrastructure and services are far too important to be left to private profiteers, and are much better if they are run as not-for-profit public services.

The EU referendum debate is very interesting because it's not a left-wing vs right-wing contest. You have hard-right people on both sides of the debate and also very left-wing people on both sides too.

The Leave campaign is supported by right-wing zealots like Michael Gove (the guy who privatised thousands of publicly owned schools into the hands of unaccountable private sector pseudo-charities and openly declared that people should ignore the experts and use their gut instincts when making important decisions), Priti Patel (a vile reactionary who detests workers' rights), Chris Grayling (the guy David Cameron put in charge of privatising the UK justice system), John Redwood (a guy who wants to see the UK turned into the World's biggest tax-haven), Arron Banks (a guy who bankrolls UKIP and wants to see the NHS privatised) and Iain Duncan Smith (a rabidly right-wing narcissist who actually compared his callous treatment of the unemployed and disabled with the slavery abolition movement). However Leave also has the support of some admirable old-school left-wingers like Dennis Skinner and Dave Nellist.

The Remain campaign is supported by the likes of David Cameron (an inveterate liar), George Osborne (surely the most under-qualified and incompetent Chancellor in living memory), Theresa May (a disgusting right-wing authoritarian who has introduced much of the absolute worst legislation during Cameron's stint as Prime Minister), Nick Clegg (a man who sold his so-called principles for a tiny taste of second hand Tory power) and Tony Blair (the right-wing neoliberal who usurped the Labour Party and switched it from being a social democrtic party to a Thatcherite one). However Remain also has the support of genuine left-wingers like John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the bulk of the trade union movement.

I'm definitely not pro-EU (I've probably written far more detailed criticism of the EU than 99% of Brexiters) but I decided that the case for quitting the EU is far too weak if there's not actually a specific plan of action for how to restructure the UK economy/legal system/constitution/trade relations etc after we leave. I've critiqued both the right-wing Vote Leave campaign and the left-wing "Lexit" campaign and found them both sorely lacking in an actual plan of action for how the post-EU economy would be restructured.

Given my left-wing sentiments I really did want the "Lexit" case to be better than the "Vote Leave" case, and in some regards it was. Criticism of the economically hard-right assault on our sovereignty that is the TTIP corporate power grab clearly carries more weight when coming from a left-winger than it does from the kind of right-winger who would normally be orgasmic at the thought of the complete corporate takeover of the United Kingdom.

The right-wing Vote Leave campaign desperately undermined their own case with their absolute refusal to stop repeating their "£350 million a week" lie, even after it's been clearly shown that including all expenditures and excluding all benefits is a shockingly misleading way of determining the cost of a thing.

I genuinely hoped that "Lexit" wouldn't stoop to such appalling lies to sell their campaign, but unfortunately some of them did. The most oft repeated "Lexit" lie is that "workers right are not protected by the EU". This lie isn't just endlessly repeated by "Lexiters" in comments threads, it actually appears in a Left Leave campaign document which states in no uncertain terms that "it is a myth that the EU defends workers".

The claim that the EU has done nothing to protect workers rights is an outright lie. In 1998 the EU introduced the European Working Time Directive in spite of fierce opposition from the UK Tory government during the negotiation phase. The European Working Time Directive prevents your boss from forcing you to work more than 48 hours a week (you still can if you want to, but your boss can't make you) and it also guarantees paid holiday leave (2 million British workers had no paid holiday leave at all before the Working Time Directive came into operation!).

Of course many of our workers' rights were won through the hard work and sacrifices of trade unionists long before the EU even came into existence, but to claim that the EU doesn't protect any workers' rights whatever is just as clear a lie as the right-wing "£350 million a week" claims.

Of course it's possible to argue that the EU hasn't done enough to protect workers rights, they were apparently powerless to intervene when Margaret Thatcher carried out her ideological assault on Britain's heavy industries and the trade unions and they have been seemingly powerless to stop the exponential growth of exploitative Zero Hours and Limited Hours contracts too. However this is a very odd argument for Lexiters to make, because the implication is clearly that the EU should have had more powers to protect our workers' rights, not that we would have been better off outside the European Union.

Perhaps this obvious logical problem with the "the EU hasn't done enough to protect workers' right" line of argument is the reason that some "Lexiters" have instead resorted to repeating the outright lie that the EU doesn't protect any workers' rights whatever?

Whatever the reason that this lie has been adopted by the "Lexit" campaign, it's severely disappointing. It's disappointing because even though I think "Lexiters" are playing with fire by calling for Britain to quit the EU when we have a radically right-wing government in power, I really wanted their case to be superior to the shockingly dishonest rubbish spouted by the right-wing Brexiters. However this oft repeated lie about the EU doing nothing for workers' rights proves that certain members of the Left Leave campaign are just as prepared to lie to get what they want as members of the right-wing Leave campaign are.

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