1. It’s a big business club.

The EU and its forerunners (the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community) were designed to rebuild the big capitalist corporations in Western Europe after World War Two, within a single market without barriers to trade and takeovers, behind a tariff wall against imports.

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) maintains the commitment to an internal market in which there is the ‘free movement of goods, persons, services and capital’ (Article 26) — the cornerstone of the original Treaty of Rome (1957) establishing the EEC. The aim is to enable business corporations to move capital and labour around Europe in their efforts to maximise profit.

The TFEU also declares that ‘all restrictions on the movement of capital between Member States and between Member States and third countries shall be prohibited’ (Article 63). The EU leads the drive in the WTO and through trade and investment agreements to open up countries, their markets, natural resources and public sectors to penetration by European monopoly capital.

EU directives have promoted the fragmentation, ‘marketisation’ and ‘liberalisation’ of nationalised utilities and public services, preparing the ground for privatisation of electricity, the railways and postal services. EU-funded bailouts have demanded sweeping privatisations as a condition of ‘bail out’ loans to member states in debt to German, French and British banks.

Corporate interests lobby the EU Commission and EU Parliament on an enormous scale. Big business corporations use their close links with EU Commissioners to shape EU policy on a wide range of issues, not least through the European Round Table of Industrialists and the European Financial Services Round Table.

2. It’s anti-working class

All the EU talk about a ‘Social Europe’ to win over trade unions and agnostic social democratic parties, smoothing the way to the 1992 ‘Single European Market’, has evaporated. The Working Time Directive is full of loopholes (e.g. employees can opt out under employer pressure) and, like the Parental Leave Directive, falls shorth of provisions won by struggle and progressive governments in some EU member states. EU directives have not closed the gender pay gap, limited the average working week to 48 hours or raised paid holidays in Britain to the average European level — only trade union action and national legislation can be relied upon to do that.

The protection for imported migrant labour in the EU Posting of Workers Directive has been undermined by a series of EU Court of Justice rulings (the Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxembourg cases). These outlaw action by trades unions, regional and central governments to secure compliance with collective agreements, local government regulations and even national legislation by transnational corporations for their imported workers.

EU austerity policies have resulted in mass unemployment and deepening poverty for millions of workers and their families.

3. It’s anti-democratic and unreformable.

Besides the Council of Ministers, the most powerful bodies in the EU are the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Court of Justice. The Commission’s appointed members draft and police EU legislation, including powers to sanction democratically elected member state governments. It shares some of these roles in financial affairs with the ECB, which also controls central banks and interest rates throughout the eurozone and must remain free from any supervision or accountability under Article 130 of the TFEU.

The European Parliament is directly elected, but on a scale so large (one MEP for every 500,000 electors) as to make it meaningless. Fewer than half the electorate bothers to vote (43% in 2014 and only 34% in Britain). Unlike other parliaments, the EUP cannot initiate legislation, all of which comes from the Council of Ministers, although it is drafted and mostly initiated by the Commission. Amendments must then be agreed by the Council (usually on the Commission’s recommendation). Nor can the EUP sack Commissioners except all at once (the unusable ‘nuclear’ option). Only the Commission president, elected by the EU Parliament, can sack individual Commissioners.

The anti-democratic institutional arrangements and basic free market, pro- austerity policies of the EU are set in concrete in EU treaties. These can only be amended by unanimous agreement of all member states (28 at present). Should Britain elect a left or progressive government, the treaties will act as a strait-jacket on its policies, which could only be removed if every other EU government agrees to treaty change.

The fundamentally anti-democratic character of the EU has been demonstrated by its refusal to accept the result of national referendums that have gone against proposed new treaties: those in Denmark (1992 Maastricht) and Ireland (2001 Nice and 2008 Lisbon) were run again in order to secure a pro-EU result. After France and Netherlands (2005) voted against a European Constitution, referendums in Britain and other member states were abandoned; the proposals were transferred into the Lisbon Treaty and after Ireland voted against (2008), in the only referendum to be held, another referendum was held to reverse the result.

When elected national governments in Italy and Greece defied EU demands for even more austerity and privatisation in 2010, they resigned under pressure in favour of unelected caretaker regimes led by EU-approved ‘technocrats’ — a former EU Commissioner and ex-Vice President of the ECB, respectively.

4. It’s reactionary and anti-socialist.

EU free market rules prohibit member state governments from planning economic development through regulating the movement of capital, goods, services and labour, across and even within the country’s boundaries. Planned economies are, in effect, outlawed by Article 3 (for a ‘highly competitive market economy’) of the Treaty on European Union and Articles 119, 120 and 127 which repeatedly demand that that all EU member states operate a ‘an open market economy with free competition’.

The EU Stability and Growth Pact sets limits on public sector financial deficits (3% of GDP) and accumulated national debt (60% of GDP) and commits member state governments to achieve balanced or surplus budgets. This prohibits government strategies to finance current and/or investment  spending through ‘excessive’ borrowing. Using the state bank to buy public sector bonds (people’s ‘Quantitative Easing’) is expressly prohibited by Article 123 of the TFEU.

Each member state government must submit an annual Convergence Progarmme setting out how it is implementing an austerity programme of deficit reduction in line with the Growth and Stability Pact. [10]

State aid or any kind of preferential treatment to protect, rescue or promote specific companies or strategic industries — whether in the private or public sector — is banned as a distrortion of competition under TFEU Article 107. The EU Commission may grant very limited or temporary exceptions.

EU Directives have enshrined Value Added Tax as the EU’s ‘tax of choice’ to be imposed in all member states at no less than 15% on most goods and services, or at least 5% on specified essental items if not already zero-rated. Such indirect taxation favours the rich, because everyone pays the same rate whereas taxes on income or wealth can be levied at different rates.

5. It’s imperialist not internationalist.

From its inception, the EU has been constructed to promote the common interests of Western Europe’s capitalist monopolies at home and abroad. This has included trade agreements with existing and former colonies to facilitate the import of cheap goods into the EU, while maintaining tariffs against rivals from North America and the Far East.

As the major monopolies inside ‘Fortress Europe’ have grown stronger, so the EU has moved to a policy of breaking down protectionist barriers, so that European companies can exploit markets and raw materials across the world.

Today, the EU negotiates trade and investment pacts with other countries and regional associations in order to exploit commercial markets (the US, Canada) and labour and material resources (India, Malaysia, Ukraine, Peru, Colombia) more thoroughly. Plans have been agreed for the EU to take over all trade and investment negotiations with other countries and regions, replacing bilateral ones conducted by individual members states.

As the EU develops its military dimension and merges into NATO’s structures and strategies under US domination, so it more openly pursues the common objectives of Western imperialism particularly in relation to Russia and the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, China and Africa. This includes the eastward expansion of the EU in tandem with NATO and greater involvement in military intervention of every kind, including the construction of new facilities and war.


Five good reasons to leave the EU

1. The British, Scottish and Welsh governments would be free to finance public expenditure and support industries and services in whatever ways they decide; free from the EU Classical Directive on public procurement, local government could award larger contracts to local suppliers.

2. The British government would be free to reduce or abolish VAT as it wishes, including as part of strategy to combat poverty and inequality.

3. A future British government would be free to regulate the movement of capital, goods and services in order to boost domestic investment in productive industry, stimulate economic growth and balanced industrial development, support strategic sectors and enterprises, encourage different forms of public and social ownership, and protect all workers against super- exploitation.

4. Britain would be free to conduct its own independent foreign, trade and defence policies, instead of being represented by the EU in international trade matters and bound by EU common foreign, defence and security policies.

5. Workers, progressives and socialists could fight for policies to be enacted at local, national and all-Britain levels that could not be blocked or outlawed by an EU that is beyond fundamental reform.