Global Justice Now members say: Stay in to change Europe


07 March 2016

Britain’s membership of the European Union has already started to consume political and media attention. So last month we asked our members and local groups what position they thought we should take on a referendum which threatens to marginalise other campaigning for the next four months.

First, 85% of members who responded said they thought the referendum was relevant to our work, with only 6% saying it wasn’t. What’s more 68% said they thought we should take a conditional ‘in’ position (stay in the EU to change the EU).  that’s against 16% who thought we should engage but not take a position, 8% who thought we should argue for ‘out’ and 2% who didn’t think we should comment.

Our local groups gave an even clearer vote:100% thought that the EU referendum is relevant to our aims, while 87.5% thought we should campaign for an ‘in’ vote, with 12.5% arguing against taking any position.

It’s important to clarify that this is not a vote for joining the ‘Stronger In’ campaign. Far from it. Whether trying to stop TTIP or oppose the austerity inflicted upon Greece, we are very well aware that the EU is undemocratic, unfair and driven by corporate interests. We want a very different Europe.

But at the same time, we don’t see how leaving will in any way help our campaign for a better world. How would the current ‘refugee crisis’ be better dealt with by individual nation states? Or climate change? Of course, the EU’s immigration and climate policies are a million miles from where we want them to be. But the disintegration of Europe would be a disaster – ending the idea of free movement for a generation.

What about TTIP? Well TTIP is the EU at its very worst: an unelected commission pushing forward a deeply unpopular treaty, members states hiding behind secrecy to pretend another country is the problem, corporations in the driving seat, shouting in the ear of commissioners. If we left the EU, we might be free of TTIP.

But what would replace it? British governments have consistently pushed the EU to the right, urging on ever more ‘free market’ policies. In fact, while Germany and France were concerned about the corporate court system in TTIP, the UK wrote to the Commission president demanding he retain that mechanism in the negotiations.

High profile supporters of the ‘out’ campaign have repeatedly said that they believe the UK would be able to realise a more ‘ambitious’ and a faster free trade deal if we stood alone. And we wouldn’t have the millions of German, French, Spanish and Polish campaigners alongside us trying to stop this toxic deal.

Indeed this entire referendum and renegotiation has been used so that the Prime Minister can move Europe even further to the right – clamping down on immigration, protecting the privileges of the City of London, attacking workers’ rights.

We won’t spend any time during this campaign pretending the European Union is something which it is not. We know first-hand the deep problems in the EU. In the words of Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister, the EU faces a choice: democracy or disintegration.

However, the people of Europe are engaged in incredible projects – to improve their own lives and to alter the way Europe continues to exploit the rest of the world. Food sovereignty in France, energy democracy in Spain, and the ‘solidarity economy’ in Greece are examples of how the world could be different. We can build on them. Through projects like the new Plan B, we can bring together these campaigns and supporters and build a huge movement. 

Europe’s current trajectory is unsustainable. It has to change. We want to make sure it changes for the better. It is possible to imagine a Europe which is truly democratic, which promotes equality, which is a world leader on environmental protection, which treats workers better, which makes the world a fairer place, which welcomes migrants. We are a long way from this vision. But we see no way that we can achieve these principles by cutting ourselves off, most especially as British governments have repeatedly made Europe a less democratic, less fair place to live.

We want the referendum to be the beginning and not the end of our campaign. Together, we can create a better Europe and a better world.

We’ll be producing more information on how the referendum links to our work in the weeks ahead. But we are working with Another Europe is Possible, which has a similar approach.

Global Justice Now’s position on the EU referendum

The choice we’re being presented with – between a big business dominated EU and a nationalist free market Britain – is a deeply unattractive one. We do not wish to take either of these ‘sides’, as neither represents the sort of fair, just and sustainable world we want to see. Instead, we want to use this referendum to press for a better world.

However, we believe the implications of this referendum are relevant to many of Global Justice Now’s campaigns. We find it difficult to imagine how we could create the better world that we seek outside the EU. We want to join with the many exciting movements and campaigns across Europe to transform this continent. We do not believe that standing alone, with governments which have consistently pushed for more free market solutions in Europe, offers any hope.

We therefore call for an ‘in’ vote, in order to begin that process of transformation. We believe the referendum is the beginning and not the end of our campaign for a better Europe.    

The photo is from the Plan B for Europe conference in Madrid last month

Promoted by Nick Dearden on behalf of Global Justice Now, both of Global Justice Now, of 66 Offley Rd, London.

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