A lot of people are concerned at the EU, some over corruption, some over the amount Britain gives but doesn’t seem to get back, others over the number of laws and apparent attack on British sovereignty. I share these concerns, but rather than run a mile from the EU, I still value battling away for the things Greens really stand for, both here and there.
Europe isn’t, primarily, one of those values. Yes, Greens are an internationalist party and, yes, we’re also represented across the EU but the things the the European Green Party fights for are very similar to the things we find ourselves fighting for in our nation states: greater equality, of wealth, of gender, of different lifestyles, fewer wars and a lessening of the arms trade, a refusal to accept Israel’s persecution of Palestinians and the way the EU (and a number of member states, foremostly the UK) help keep that apartheid going, fairness of EU trade rules viz. the rest of the world, much of whom we collectively (and singly as the UK) exploit.
The number of laws is an interesting question. I’ve heard 70% of our laws originating in the EU before but I don’t know how this is calculated. And, of course, it matters what these laws are about rather than the number of them. By the same token there have been cases that have gone to the EU where a better decision has been obtained (from a Green POV) compared to the ruling from British courts. I’m thinking of human rights cases in particular. I tend to appreciate the health and safety rules, for example, although there are still too many deaths and injuries in the British workplace.
There is an extent to which the EU has an improving effect on aspects of British life. However, I don’t appreciate the possible minutiae of control such as the postal directive of 1997 which appears to be behind the “bringing into harmony” of the EU states’ postal services and, as we’ve seen, the privatisation and closure of many post offices.
Many of our politicians are ignorant of the extent of the directives or of EU laws, or of British laws for that matter. Blair is often credited with bringing in 3000 new laws – most of which none of us would be able to name, and most of which probably weren’t read by the politicians who voted for them!
I don’t want a Parliament of functionaries rubber stamping government decisions – or of MEPs doing the same with laws presented in Strasbourg.
Also Britain is both close to the EU and close to America. Given the ease with which Blair maintained murderous sanctions on Iraq and then went to war I remain grateful to various EU member states who fought against that, and regard them as closer to my position – for good reasons – than my own government was or is.
However, we also believe in the principle of subsidiarity – where decisions, and law, is made at the lowest possible levels. Why on earth do laws on post offices, or any number of other things, have to be made across the EU?? And as for the Lisbon Treaty, rejected in a number of countries, and going untried in many more, surely it shows that the rule of the people, even within a more democratic EU, is only a flag of convenience.
But the EU is no more “evil” than Britain is. In fact, given the greater Green-left representation in the EU there’s probably more chance of calling the EU to account than of people here calling the British government to account, over the war, over sanctions, over inequality across Britain, over throwing tax money at the banks, over human rights issues, over working conditions.
However, won’t we also see what we have left of democracy here – when the Labservatives get in, yet again, in May?
And what say do we the people have in our laws here either? It’s all very well banging on about sovereignty, but if we have bureaucrats making laws here that are unaccountable, let alone unasked for, why is that any better than having them made in Brussels? Surely it’s the quality of whichever laws that matters – and how much they reflect the aspirations of the people.
Both these types of government are unacceptable to me.
But perhaps two chances at democracy are better than one.