No2EU London candidate Alex Gordon exposes the reality behind claims that 3.5 million jobs will disappear unless Britain remains locked into the European Union. This article first appeared in the Morning Star 02/04/2014
The popularity of the European Union, not only in Britain but among citizens of every member state, is collapsing.
Eurobarometer, the EU’s own polling organisation, found public confidence in the EU at its lowest-ever levels.
Since May 2007, in Poland distrust of the EU has risen from 18 to 42 per cent, in Italy from 28 to 53, in France from 41 to 56 per cent, in Germany from 36 to 59 per cent, in Britain from 49 to 69 per cent and in Spain from 23 to 72 per cent.
When the euro was introduced in 2002, EU leaders promised full employment by 2010.
Eurostat unemployment figures for the EU28 as of January 2014 remain at historically high levels.
Over 26 million people – one in every eight Europeans – are unemployed: in Greece (28 per cent in November 2013) in Spain (25.8 per cent) and Portugal (17.5 per cent).
Young workers are even worse off. The unemployment rate for those aged 25 or younger is one in four across the EU. Youth unemployment is 50.5 per cent in Spain, 50.4 per cent in Greece, 35.4 per cent in Portugal, 31.9 per cent in Italy, and 31.6 per cent in Ireland.
Therefore it takes some brass neck for Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to claim in his opening statement in the recent TV clash with Ukip leader Nigel Farage to claim: “This debate is about your job, or at least the job of someone very close to you.”
But neither of these characters offer the slightest hope to workers, trade unionists, students and young people looking for decent jobs and a secure future.
Yet, acutely conscious of the lack of democratic legitimacy for Britain’s EU membership, the generally pro-EU media and political elite designed the TV debate to appear to engage with an alienated and sceptical electorate.
In the next three years before a possible referendum on Britain’s EU membership we can expect a lot more of these attempts at clumsy elitist engagement on “Europe” and the Clegg/Farage debate was a taster of what is to come.
Even the empire loyalists who support Britain’s place in the European superstate have seen the results of the unfolding social and economic disaster across the eurozone and are wisely keeping quiet about their real objective of full monetary and political union.
Clegg’s warning that “if we cut ourselves off from Europe our hard-won economic recovery will simply be thrown away” is part of a deliberate strategy by EU supporters to emphasise economics not politics.
Indeed Clegg’s most uncomfortable moment in the debate came when Farage pointed out that EU interference in Ukraine had toppled an elected government and brought far-right extremists to power.
The line propagated by campaign group British Influence, the pro-EU mouthpiece headed by Peter Wilding, former Tory media wonk in the European Parliament, is to bury bad news of jobs lost in Britain as a result of the EU single market moving manufacturing capacity abroad and to exaggerate the positive impact of inward capital investment as a consequence of Britain’s EU membership.
The Independent newspaper’s front page story on Monday under the guise of “new analysis” recycled the same statistics used by Clegg to support the well-worn claim that 3.5 million jobs in Britain depend on EU membership.
But statisticians at independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact point out: “Figures from the early 2000s suggest around three million jobs are linked to trade with the European Union. They don’t say they are dependent on the UK being an EU member … Using similar methods, a similar figure today has shown closer to 4.5 million jobs, but this still doesn’t show how many are dependent on UK membership.”
A 2004 paper from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) estimated, using similar methods, that up to 3.2m UK jobs “are now associated directly with exports of goods and services to other EU countries.” It warned that: “there is no a priori reason to suppose that many of these, if any, would be lost permanently if Britain were to leave the EU.”
In fact, NIESR director Jonathan Portes, who is certainly no Eurosceptic, described this research as “past [its] sell-by date.”
The list of car plants, engineering centres and train-building jobs stripped out of Britain’s manufacturing base, dashing the hopes of new generations of designers, apprentices and engineers is never mentioned by supporters of EU “free movement.”
From Peugeot’s decision to close the Ryton plant in Coventry in 2006 and move production to Slovakia and Ford’s decision to transfer production from Southampton to a plant in Turkey last year, jobs in the neoliberal EU move towards the lowest wage levels and EU regional funds are actively used to encourage this process.
No politician who supports Britain’s membership of the EU can claim to support a future of good-quality, well-paid, highly skilled jobs in Britain.
These much-needed aspirations are simply incompatible with membership of the single European market and the EU.
Voters across England, Scotland and Wales will have the opportunity to vote for candidates advocating a socialist exit from Britain’s EU membership by supporting Bob Crow’s No2EU: Yes to Workers’ Rights platform next month in the European elections.
By doing so we can send a message to the political Establishment that we are not fooled by staged TV debates offering the unpalatable choice between Clegg or Farage.
Alex Gordon is No2EU trade union information group chairman. For more information visit www.no2eu.com