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EU Withdrawal Lurching ever further to the right and to war

The European Union is becoming more militaristic and aggressive. It is even more essential that socialists accelerate Britain’s withdrawal from it, argues DOUG NICHOLLS

THE EU has always been a big-business-led, undemocratic structure influenced mainly by the 30,000 corporate lobbyists permanently camped out in Brussels.

Increasingly influential among these are the armaments companies that are smiling at the EU new military and foreign policy directions. 

These plans were being agreed during the British referendum campaign, but the European Commission and Remainers were under orders then not to do or say anything that could have helped the Leave vote. 

Once our referendum was over, the EU became brazen in banging the war drums. As the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) points out, “The EU machinery is being adapted to assist the military industry.”

Over recent years, the EU has been rapidly militarising. A flurry of activity in 2016 led to the adoption of a European Defence Action Plan (EDAP) and a Research Programme (EDRP) with its lucrative-for-some commitment to spend €3.5 billion over the period 2021-2027. 

Following a €90 million pilot investment from the EU common budget in 2017-2019, the commission is proposing  to spend €500m in 2019-2020. That could rise to €1.5bn a year from 2021.

This adds to previous EU decisions to create a single hub for overseas military training missions and a €5.5bn fund to help member states buy the latest cutting-edge weapons.

Arms exports have increased, with the EU becoming more tolerant of member states that send much-needed hardware to some of the worst tyrants in the world.

But the highlight of recent developments was when the EU agreed last November to create what some have called the nucleus of a joint army.

Twenty-three out of 28 EU states signed a declaration in Brussels on November 13 2017 prior to making a legally binding pledge at an EU summit.  

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called it “a milestone in European development.” Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Malta, and Portugal to their credit declined to sign, while keeping a future door open to enter.

This defence accord known as Permanent Structured Co-operation (Pesco), will see participating states jointly develop rapid reaction forces and new materiel such as tanks and drones. It will also see them create single European logistics and medical support hubs. Such logistics will lengthen the long list of “exercises” and missions EU-controlled forces have undertaken over many years.

The European federalists’ deep, dark and original dream of a single EU currency, a single agricultural, industrial and immigration policy, single parliament run by the corporations and a single market protected by a single defence and military policy has come true. It is, therefore, important for socialists throughout the continent that at least Britain has woken up and is leaving.

The nightmare is official. In its November Defence Union report, the EU Parliament said that the EU common security and defence policy “should lead in due time to the establishment of the European armed forces.” Various bodies are being brought into action to make this a reality. 

The EU external action service has also produced its own security and defence implementation plan with the aim of directly linking EU defence capabilities to its foreign policy.

One quick glimpse at the EU foreign policy positions will make it clear to anyone what their direction is. The official EU imposition of sanctions against Venezuela and flagrant lauding of the anti-democratic Venezuelan opposition forces should alone be enough to convince you all is not friendly there. 

But this is one instance in a long catalogue of EU belligerent positions taken over decades. It is always conveniently forgotten that the EU turning the other cheek to Germany’s recognition of Croatia precipitated the war on Yugoslavia. Its stoking of fascistic flames against Russia in Ukraine as well as the hollowing out of populations through mass migration in the eastern European recent accession states has benefited Germany’s traditional imperial claims.

The EU would really love Turkey to join the club, make no mistake about that, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s current genocide against the Kurds is not likely to be a long-term impediment in their eyes.

Misguided infatuation with the EU has led to a disregard for its internal colonial role. The EU and its main banking partners and German arms suppliers took over Greece and have been fond for years of dominating the southern European states, whose economies would never be able to sustain the German mark-based rigours of the euro currency.

Similarly, a callous defence of the single market by some in our movement, could mislead another generation into fighting for the 1 per centers who benefit from that market and the rundown of our productive capacity. 

Obsessions with markets and trade wars lead inevitably in the current world tensions to real wars. Why else does the EU want to arm itself to the teeth?  It is seeking to be a block in competition with the US, China and Russia.

War on Want has consistently warned us about the implications of EU trade, growth and world affairs plans, introduced seven years ago and underpinning EU imperial ambitions today.

These established a retaliatory system so that developing countries could be penalised for not opening their public procurement markets to European businesses. The damage this has caused to domestic food production in many African countries has been tragic.

War on Want also condemned the policy for aggressively seeking to plunder the natural resources of Africa and Asia for the benefit of European business rather than allowing developing countries to use those resources for their own needs.

War on Want said: “The EU trade policy could not be more regressive if it tried. Instead of developing positive new strategies for jobs and welfare, the EU is seeking to revive the failed neoliberal agenda of the past 30 years.

“This policy will benefit nobody except multinational companies at the expense of ordinary working people the world over.”

EU fans conveniently forget that the institution they so adore is dominated in the parliament by integrationists and neoliberals. Of the 751 MEPs rubber-stamping the unelected commissioners’ proposed laws, only 50 are in the self-declared socialist or left grouping, far less than in the decidedly hard-right groupings and less than a quarter of the ruling European Peoples’ Party grouping and half the total number of German MEPs. 

The reactionary nature of the EU Parliament with sizeable right-wing majorities reflects the increasing rise of the hideous right in many European countries including Scandinavia. In its wilful perpetuation of some 20 million unemployed workers throughout the continent, the EU cannot deny its responsibility in making this monster too. 

Socialists and trade unionists in Britain should hasten the day of March 29 2019 when we formally leave and remember that those who sup with the devil should take a long spoon and be prepared to reject any offer they put on the table.

Doug Nicholls is chair of Trade Unionists Against the European Union.

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