Policy agreed at 2016 AGM to campaign for a workers’ Europe and support a critical “Stay in” vote in any future referendum
With the formation of “Conservatives for Britain�, the right-wing campaign to exit the EU has begun. Unfortunately, it is likely to be mirrored on the left. A number of Labour MPs and trade unionists will group themselves behind the banner of “Labour for Britain�, saying life will be better for British workers outside the EU.
Other socialist groups will say they will organise an internationalist anti-EU campaign, one that defends the rights of migrants.
They are all setting themselves an impossible task: the automatic right of EU workers to migrate to the UK, and of UK workers to migrate to EU countries, will be ended by UK exit. Those that do arrive after a UK exit are likely to come on worse terms than workers currently do, and they will arrive to a climate poisoned by the xenophobia of the referendum campaign, an atmosphere in which the workers movement and left itself cannot thrive.
A UK outside the EU will offer worse prospects for fighting for workers’ rights than we have staying in.
The nationalist right, no friends to workers, will have the political upperhand in a post-exit UK, and UK workers will lose the possibility of organising a common struggle for better rights by workers across Europe.
The left cannot be anti-EU without being dragged behind the right-wing and anti-migrant backlash. It will raise a tiny voice, inaudible against the right-wing anti-EU campaign which has money, press backing, and establishment support, a campaign that is all about putting up borders and actively restricting migrants coming to the UK. The left-wing voice will be drowned out in the growing nationalist gale.
The concessions Cameron is seeking from the EU also threaten workers’ rights: in the first place, migrant workers’ rights to in-work benefits. He is also likely to seek further opt-outs from those European regulations that benefit workers. Many other EU governments will be sympathetic to Cameron’s vision of the EU: less regulated, more ruthlessly neo-liberal.
The Tories that want to get out and the Tories that want to stay in offer no choice for workers. But we should not be indifferent to the question posed in the referendum. The integration of capitalism results naturally from the process of outgrowing national boundaries, and workers do not have any interest in seeking to turn back the clock of history or re-erect national barriers. We oppose UK exit from the EU.
At the same time, we recognise that the EU, like its constituent member states, is organised primarily in the interests of the bosses and therefore looking to liquidate those elements of “Social Europe� that still remain. We should not join any cross-class alliance with pro-EU Tories or business leaders: we do not positively support bosses’ Europe.
Instead, voices on the left are discussing a campaign for a workers’ Europe in the coming referendum. We will:
• defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism;
• vote against UK withdrawal from the EU;
• campaign for a workers’ Europe, based on solidarity between working people.
Lambeth UNISON resolves to be part of forming such a campaign on this basis.
Proposed – Dan Jeffery Seconded – Ruth Cashman