On 2 February EU president Donald Tusk published proposals to placate David Cameron. They will be ratified, or not, at an EU summit on 18-19 February.
Cameron wants to hold an in-out referendum quickly, possibly in June. The chief plan is for the UK (or any other EU state) to be able to cut EU migrants’ rights to in-work benefits (tax credits, child benefit, etc.) for four years.
East European states have objected to the proposal, since it discriminates mainly against their citizens travelling to the UK for work. They are right to do so.
We have too many “two-tier” workforces already, with fewer rights and benefits for one worker than for the worker next to her or him doing the same job. Solidarity campaigns for equal benefits and services for all.
The formula is that for an “emergency brake” to cut benefits for up to four years if migration is causing “pressure on public services”. The pressure on public services results from government cuts, not EU migration! In fact many public services can run only with the work of EU and other migrant workers. Services should be fixed by taxing the rich to improve them. Settled workers should unite with migrant workers to demand the services we all need.
We oppose Tusk’s and Cameron’s “new settlement”. We still oppose the UK leaving the EU: that would not restore migrant workers’ rights, but cut them even further. Tusk’s document also provides for UK to be part of an “outer tier” of the EU, not using the euro currency and exempt from the EU’s aim of “ever closer union”.
We do not have any particular reason to advocate, for example, that the UK joins the euro. A common currency is good, but this is a badly designed one, run by an unelected and fiercely neoliberal European Central Bank. Nor do we insist on the UK keeping the pound. We oppose the idea that the UK is somehow special or different from other EU states: we want to strengthen links between workers all across Europe.
The Tusk-Cameron deal will allow national parliaments making up more than 55% of votes on the council to veto EU legislation. Solidarity supports the Workers’ Europe campaign, which argues that UK withdrawal from the EU would be a victory for the nationalist right and for their campaign against migrants. It calls for workers’ unity within the EU to fight the EU’s neo-liberal agenda. The UK leaving would not change things for the better. Immediately, it would mean a right-wing government continuing that agenda, but with higher barriers between us and our potential allies for change in Europe. The labour movement should combine opposing “Brexit” with campaigning to change Europe by linking up across borders to campaign for:
• An end to austerity and a levelling up of wages, conditions, services and rights across the continent;
• Democratic reform of the EU including a sovereign EU Parliament;
• Freedom of movement and an end to “Fortress Europe”.