EU: Why the left should vote Leave

Comment posted by Ernie Jacques (15 June 2016):


So the Labour establishment wants to build a fair, democratic and inclusive European Union. Well, good luck with that one!  But in truth they have about as much chance of democratizing the European Union and reforming its overarching corruption and neoliberal agenda as King Canute did with his tidal plans.


I joined the ILP during the 1975 referendum on the common market because the ILP and most of the left were on the NO side, primarily because they opposed a capitalist club with its free market agenda enshrined in the Treaty or Rome. The EU was a rich man’s club in 1975 and things have gone from bad to worse, insofar as it run by the plutocrats on behalf of big corporations, finance, derivative traders and the super-rich.

Back then we were lied to by Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath and Labour’s Harold Wilson and the Westminster establishment who, as ever, promised jam tomorrow. But of course, tomorrow never came but the lies, deceit and spin just got bigger and more brazen but less and less convincing.

David Connolly makes the point that “a distinctive Labour Party voice has struggled to be heard”. Well that’s an understatement because despite the usual political spin about the EU being a guarantee of employment rights and Labour values the Labour Party position is virtually indistinguishable from David Cameron and George Osborne.

Weasel words now coming from Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell (by far the best of a bad bunch) are wholly unconvincing when, as the polls turn against Remain, and in a last ditch echo of project fear, they warn that a leave-vote threatens more public sector jobs and hard won employment rights. Really!


So it’s worth reminding ourselves that under the Blair / Brown administrations, inequality and food banks grew exponentially while the rich and powerful, non-doms, tax avoiders and crooks were rewarded handsomely and many, like the head of RBS, got gongs. Neoliberal apologists glibly promoting trickle-down economics and merrily outsourcing living wage jobs to the private and voluntary sectors for zero-hour, minimum wage, precarious contracts.

So watching Labour grandees such as Gordon Brown say Labour voters have the ‘most to gain’ from a vote to Remain laced with sound bites such as ‘Not leaving Europe but leading Europe’ and ‘Remain is stronger for jobs, for rights at work and maintaining a British voice on the world stage’ is cringe worthy especially in the context of the Brown legacy.

Well we can all shout banalities like that and as the old saying goes ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’ and while accepting that the EU has many things to recommend it, it is fundamentally a club for the super-rich, tax dodgers and corporate crooks and as the Greek people have discovered to their cost, one hell of a pig’s ear.

Overblown rants from Gordon brown and Alan Johnson MP (a former trade union leader) about fairness and Labour values are a bit rich then, coming from those who trumpeted – ‘No More Boom or Bust’ –  and who failed to regulate a broken financial system and when things went belly-up, due to unbelievable greed and corruptions by bankers, politicians, derivative traders and large corporations.

Labour bailed out the banks at public expense while the people it claimed to represent paid a heavy price when the Brown government (followed by the Tories) privatized everything they could, wasted billions on – off-balance sheet – projects like PFI and gave the David Cameron and George Osborne the excuse to blame the poor and trash our welfare state.


But in truth Labour must know that when it comes to the EU and other key political and economic issues, it no longer represents the views of ordinary working people.  A chasm exists between the Labour establishment and its traditional voter base on key inclusion issues such as housing and employment rights and also on immigration and the EU’s free movement of labour.  And it has little or nothing to do with nationalism and xenophobia.

From my perspective we’ve been in a bad marriage for over 40 years and things, for the working class and those at the bottom of the pile and things have gone from bad to worse – to bloody awful.  Labour grandees like Gordon Brown, Neil Kinnock and MP’s like Alan Johnson MP are delusional if they imagine they speak for the bulk of traditional Labour voters and supporters who’ve been stuffed good and proper by successive Tory and Labour administrations governing in the interests of the city and big business.

I recently accompanied my son to Edinburgh to shop cleaning materials for his valeting business at a massive retail warehouse and every one of the shop floor staff (hundreds) was from Poland and recruited exclusively via private job agencies.  In making his point I should emphasize that I respect and admire all migrant workers seeking better life for themselves and for their families. But I object hugely to their gross exploitation by greedy employers and the exclusion of indigenous citizens who are discriminated against and denied employment opportunities.  This sort of outrage is happening under the noises of people like Gordon Brown who seems oblivious to the realities of life in his former Labour heartland and now managed by the SNP.

Rants about labour values and EU worker rights are – like water off a duck’s back – meaningless spin.


Many of those who welcome free-movement are those who benefit from cheap nannies, cooks, cleaners and lower prices when they shop, dine out go on holiday, etc. People who live in gated and exclusive apartments and communities where their contact with the working class is limited to servants and/or tradespeople and/or barking orders and bullying those they manage at work. But of course, they can dodge the queues and pressure on our schools, GP’s, hospital A&E and social and community services by going private and moving to the leafy shires and suburbs.

But woe betides anyone wanting to build social housing which might intrude on the green belt and spoil views of the English countryside or change the character of idyllic communities and rural villages and that includes many of those who talk compassion, as long as it’s not in their back yard.

Perhaps most reprehensible of all, is the way Labour in Westminster and in town halls throughout the country have failed to build much needed social houses and as such are also complicit (with the Tory’s) in regenerating and gentrifying city centers while social cleansing their poor and most vulnerable citizens and dumping them in rat infested and hideously expensive bed and breakfast accommodation and on sink estates. Often hundreds of miles from friends, families, support networks and from the communities they love and grew up in.

The very people Labour claims to represent but who are denied the fundamental human right of a decent, safe and warm and affordable home.


So despite project fear and threats of the-end-of-the-world as we know it, many of those who live precarious lives and who cannot get a doctor, their children into a decent school, afford a mortgage and who see their rents rocketing and eating into their meager wages and who cannot afford to heat their homes and feed their families and who are unhappy at jobs they could and would do going to eastern Europeans via the vast army of private job agencies, aka Sports Direct, et. al. feel they have nothing to lose and are voting Leave.

But I don’t expect that many Labour lefties, Momentum supporters and ILPers will agree with that.

But this one is voting LEAVE.


  1. Matt
    11 July 2016

    I think Jonathan makes a really good point when he says that it is the absence of a movement in which to include exploited foreign workers, and not solely the arrival of those foreign workers, that is causing a problem.

    Having read these comments through, there seem to be two general schools of thinking – inclusion and reform, or reactionary isolationism. I will always choose the former. The prospect of a shut-down on free movement upsets me, for my sake as well as others. I want to live in a world where people can go where they want to, work where they want to, live where they want to, connect, integrate, contribute where they want to.

    I accept that the example of the current situation of migrant workers being encouraged to arrive on a basis of exploitation of themselves and others does not entirely represent this ideal – but removing all encouragement, and even practical possibility, for people to move to our country, or for us to move to others, seems obvious to me to be a move further from that ideal, and a move towards, at worst, suspicion, isolation, lack of connection, or at best mutual respect from an arm’s-length position – which I think is a disappointing image of a best outcome.

    Jonathan’s example of Irish workers is interesting to me – with the benefit of time and history, would I ever consider arguing that people from Ireland should not have come to work here, that for them to do so was damaging? No. The conclusion I can draw is that to think that now in this parallel situation would be, as I say, reactionary and short sighted.

    Closing the door is not the answer. Lets re-arrange the living room instead. Let’s facilitate free movement in a way that is trusting and fair.

  2. Terry Jacques
    16 June 2016

    Jonathan accepts that the exploitation and discrimination of working people in the UK is rife and that it is grossly unfair, and even publishes a link to agencies advertising jobs exclusively for Polish workers. This link seems to me to underline the point made by brother Ernie in setting the reasons to vote Leave.

    With the advance of new technology, economic restructuring and demise of UK manufacturing, the trade union movement is denimished and the Labour movement no longer represents vast numbers of working people who are deserting the Labour Party to support other political parties. Yet, somehow Jonathan thinks “we’re all in this together…Poles, Slovaks, Croatians, French, Germans” and that is enough reason to vote for the status quo and Remain. I don’t get that.

    Jonathon’s reference to a hotel in Cameron’s constituency where the staff are all eastern European makes this point nicely insofar as they have not been shipped over from Poland because they are paid the minimum wages and cost the same as local people. No, the name of the game is cheap exploitative labour and the reason employers get away with it is because of the EU free movement rules and because successive Tory and Labour governments have encouraged and even welcomed these developments. Also, because far too many Labour MPs either don’t like, don’t understand or don’t care about the negative effects on the lives of working people who they nominally claim to represent. If they did they would do something about it.

    In this respect, I think Jonathan’s conclusion about a Leave vote leading to fascism, division, and more division and ultimately, war, is overblown hogwash, but sadly very much within mainstream left wing middle class thinking. It is the main reason why support for the party and its vote is fragmenting and many traditional voters have stopped listening. It is depressing that Labour MPs and many on the left always seem to respond to opposition to unregulated immigration with insults by implying racism and fascism.

    Gordon Brown has been on the Remain stump, forecasting doom and gloom and warning that “Leaving EU could put UK cities at risk of industrial decline”. If Gordon Brown wants to see industrial decline he only need look no furher tthan his home town. His former constituency and former Fife Labour heartlands, now under SNP control. Under Labour control since before the second world war and where he was the Labour MP, Chancellor and Prime Minister, urban decline and lack of investment went on for decades. Kirkcaldy is like some forgotten third world outpost where even charity shops are closing down and where unemployment, poverty, low pay, zero-hour and precarious work is palpable and in-your-face. This is also a familiure scene in so many working class towns and cities represented by Labour MPs with so called ‘safe’ parliamentary majories.

    While Gordon Brown’s constituents have felt the full brunt of recession and years of no investment, he was able to funnel billions into an unregulated, dishonest and busted banking system and into wasteful – off balance sheet – PFI schemes, and when things went wrong he not only failed to punish wrongdoing, but rewarded the crooks with huge bonuses and honours. So Gordon Brown and Labour are part of the problem who, along with successive Tory and Labour governments, helped build our unbalanced and unfair casino and scam economy. He and other Labour grandees, Blair, Mandelson, Straw, Darling, Balls and many of today’s shadow cabinet, should ponder their own failings before making overblown statements about a possible – end of the world – Brexit.

    That’s why lots of Gordon Brown’s former constituents and Labour voters no longer listen to Labour and are likely, if they vote at all, to put their cross against Leave.

    I am one of them.

  3. Jonathan
    15 June 2016

    I wholeheartedly agree about mass migrant labour and recruitment agencies, Ernie. Just to prove the point to the disbelieving: here’s one:

    I don’t call that fair or right. And it’s happening all over the place.

    But, at the last election, Labour said it would crack down on these companies. Ed Miliband did recognise that it was an issue. It is possible to hate exploitation without saying that migrants are taking our jobs. The trouble is no one listened. Maybe it was his fault; may be it was his party’s or may be the media’s.

    I come from a part Irish background. What you say about Polish immigrants was what was said about my ancestors when they left Ireland and went to work as agricultural labourers. Where’s your sense of solidarity?

    We improved conditions because trade unions got stronger and workplace recruitment got fairer and less exploitative. Wage Councils even controlled minimum rates in non unionised areas like farm labour. We didn’t tell the Irish they weren’t wanted. We made them (us) part of the movement.

    The problem now is that there’s no movement.

    I don’t believe for one second there will be less eastern Europeans working in this country after Brexit.

    Recently, I stayed in David Cameron’s constituency, at a place called Eynsham Hall. The hotel used lots of eastern European Labour; yet it also displayed Vote Leave posters. I don’t believe that they’re desperate to give employment opportunities to English people. They hate social security claimants more than Poles. What they want is Poles with no portable employment rights. Guest workers, who they can sack on a whim.

    I’m voting in because we’re all in this together…Poles, Slovaks, Croatians, French, Germans.

    There’s another reason: say we vote to leave and nothing improves, which it won’t. In fact, things get worse, which it almost certainly will in the short term and in the medium and long unless the laissez faire bunch are right and the bonfire of regulations adds billions to the British economy (which it won’t). What do people do then? Where does their anger go?

    Fascism, division, and more division. Ultimately, war.

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