Some English and British nationalists tend to oppose the EU because they fear or resent close relations with foreigners. However, as in the case of Ukip, this antipathy rarely extends into areas such as Britain’s subservient political and military relationship with the United States.
It is not the principle of foreign relations which angers them. They understood the value of the British empire and imperialist policies in the past, as they understand the global role that the US – and Nato, the IMF, the World Trade Organisation and so on – plays in protecting capitalist interests and investments today.
Beginning within Europe itself, the EU has spearheaded the global drive for deregulation and privatisation. For that reason, many Tories and most sections of big business do not favour British withdrawal from the EU.
However, emboldened by three decades of privatisation, deregulation and anti-trade union laws in Britain, they strongly believe that the EU need not grant any concessions to the working class in Britain and elsewhere in the name of “social partnership” or a “social Europe.”
Furthermore, they reject attempts to create an equal playing field across Europe at the expense of finance capital’s almost total freedom in the City of London, or at the expense of Britain’s especially harsh anti-trade union and “flexible” labour market laws.
That is why the Tories want to renegotiate relations between Britain and the EU, while stopping short of withdrawal.
Ukip, on the other hand, believes that an even more right-wing government in Britain should be free in future to undercut social and economic provisions in western Europe, finish off trade unionism, ignore global warming and snuggle up still closer to US imperialist power.
This division represents a clash of views and interests within the British ruling class, although at this stage those who favour full withdrawal remain in the minority.
Neither side has the interests of the mass of people in Britain at heart. They are arguing about how best to perpetuate super-exploitation, deregulation, privilege and inequality.
However, both the Euro-separatists and the Eurosceptics attack the EU or aspects of it, playing upon a reactionary patriotism and xenophobia to garner support and conceal their class motivations.
There is a third section of ruling-class opinion, the Euro-fanatics, who see the others as jeopardising Britain’s position within the neoliberal, big business European Union.
Still under the anti-Thatcher spell of former EU Commission president Jacques Delors and his mythical “European chapter,” substantial sections of the British trade union movement and Labour Party continue to align themselves with this third camp.
This becomes all the more incomprehensible as the EU Commission and the European Central Bank, armed with the Lisbon and Amsterdam treaties, impose austerity, privatisation and mass unemployment policies on the peoples of one EU member state after another.
Solidarity with the workers of Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere should mean opposing the anti-democratic and neoliberal treaties of the EU – not defending them, or merely attacking their right-wing critics.
Britain’s trade unions should be exposing the anti-working class policies and institutions of the European Union, not confusing the European Court and Convention on Human Rights with the anti-labour EU Court of Justice or brandishing the feeble working time directive as a fig-leaf for the EU of austerity, privatisation, mass impoverishment and despair.
Britain’s labour movement should be defending all workers, whatever their country of origin, against EU-backed super-exploitation. That includes migrant workers in Britain and local workers who fear being undercut.
All workers need to be unionised and protected by collective agreements that apply equally.
The labour movement response should be to reject all three camps of British monopoly capitalism in favour of popular sovereignty and an independent foreign policy for the nations of Britain.
That means opposing all steps towards a united states of Europe, which in present conditions would only be dominated by the interests of monopoly capital.
The left and Labour should be leading the fight against the corrupt, big business EU – not leaving it to Ukip charlatans, who ride the EU gravy train and whose main interest is to defend the corrupt, big business City of London.
The basic treaties and structures of the EU cannot be reformed as part of a strategy for a progressive or socialist Europe – and it is fundamentally deluded or dishonest to pretend otherwise.
The British, Scottish and Welsh governments should take back powers to intervene in the economy in the interests of working people.
The labour movement should be campaigning for the policies in the People’s Charter for public ownership, economic sustainability, progressive taxation and peace – against the Tory-led regime, Ukip, the EU, the US and Nato.
This will show people that there is a real alternative to the common big business agenda of the Euro-separatists, the Eurosceptics and the Euro-fanatics.
Failure to do so will see the forces of the right – whether the Tories, Ukip or their supporters in the mass media – consolidate their domination of political debate in Britain while the Labour Party continues to flounder on the touchline, too timid to don its own jersey and join the fray.
Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party and a contributor to 21centurymanifesto