A Morning Star Editorial | January 17, 2019
EU president Donald Tusk Photo: Platforma Obywatelska RP/Creative Commons
WHEN Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister, was annointed for a second term as president of the EU Council the Polish foreign minister said: “We know now that it [the EU] is a union under Berlin’s diktat.”
This provides us with a useful insight into the divisions, fissures and contradictions that are mostly hidden behind the shiny facade of harmony that so beguiles liberal (and some left-wing) opinion.
Tusk — practically persona non grata in his own country — was renewed in his post precisely because he proved to be unswervingly loyal to the neoliberal essence of the EU and monetary union and its coteries of high officials and functionaries.
The way the EU is structured — in particular the treaty system which binds members countries into macro-economic policies over which citizens of the member states have no direct or decisive influence — is marked in the decades of our membership by a massive transfer of wealth from working people of all strata.
The basic framework for this systematic robbery is the control of public expenditure and fiscal policy. Marketisation, privatisation and the serial diminution of the social wage embodied in universal health provision, welfare spending, unemployment insurance, housing security, legal aid and comprehensive education are the consequences of the method.
Of course, most governments of EU member states favour such policies anyway, but the migration of decision-making to the EU provides political cover from domestic criticism.
This process is not simply bound up with membership of the Eurozone. Recollect that Gordon Brown was distinguished from Tony Blair in precious little but on this issue he was opposed to abandoning control of our currency.
That is why our disengagement from the EU is not as complicated as might have been. But on the oversight of Britain’s economic policy the EU Commission is quite transparent:
“As required by the Stability and Growth Pact, each spring the United Kingdom submits a convergence programme which presents an update of the medium-term fiscal strategy.
“Based on an assessment by the Commission… the Council adopts an opinion on the programme and country-specific recommendations.
“Euro area Member States submit stability programmes while countries outside the Euro area submit convergence programmes.”
These are the powers that the Troika wielded to beat Greece into submission and, more recently, were deployed to compel Italy’s oddball government to abandon its extremely modest spending plans.
Theresa May’s first response to the unprecedented defeat the EU Commission-sanctioned deal suffered on Tuesday night had her scurrying to consult other party leaders in an attempt to forage the few crumbs of compromise that might allow her to have another go.
In this endeavour she will be encouraged by Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas who held out the prospect of further talks.
Meanwhile, Donald Tusk himself gave open encouragement to Labour MPs who want to subvert Labour’s policy and manouvre for Britain to remain in the EU. So much for the respect he proclaimed for the choice of the British people.
In refusing to consult Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, she showed a similar contempt for Labour’s democratic procedures.
Labour MPs who value the opinions of Labour’s mass membership have a simple way to demonstrating so by telling her to talk to their party’s leader.
If, given the convergence between the EU and the government’s position and the incompatibility between that and Labour’s conference policy, that there is not much to talk about the prime minister should recognise the reality that she cannot command a parliamentary majority and resign.
Labour is the only party that can speak for the British people as a whole.