Ann Pettifor

Why I will vote Remain

Back in 1975 I did not just oppose membership of the EU, I actively campaigned against it. In the 1990s I strongly opposed Britain’s membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). My opposition to the Labour leadership’s support for ERM helped ensure that I did not get chosen as Parliamentary candidate at the time. I won a modest 6 votes at a General Committee Meeting that in 1991 selected the next MP for Dulwich and West Norwood! (While I was to be vindicated by Britain’s eviction from the ERM in September 1992 that was no comfort as Labour, having backed the ERM, was unable to capitalize on the huge political damage caused to the Conservatives by the Black Wednesday fiasco.)

Finally, I am firmly opposed to the way in which European Treaties (signed by Labour as well as Conservative governments) have embedded market fundamentalist economic policies into quasi-constitutional law. No doubt this is because the authorities are aware that policies for austerity, privatisation and the financialisation of European economies would be fiercely resisted by the people of Europe, and so had to be buried like concrete, in Treaties.

So why then, am I voting to Remain? The reasons are threefold, and are essentially political rather than economic reasons (Please ignore George Osborne’s “facts” from the UK Treasury. That institution’s forecasting record is abysmal. According to the outgoing Permanent Secretary, Sir Nicholas McPherson, they made the “monumental collective intellectual error” of failing to forecast the biggest ever financial crisis facing Britain.)

First and foremost, the political situation in Europe has changed – and the continent is now on the brink of fracturing.

Market fundamentalism is dividing the people of Europe, and instead of economies converging across the Eurozone, they are diverging. The situation is of course exacerbated by the EU’s ‘free’ market principles for the untrammelled and unmanaged movement of capital, trade and labour. And for the commodification of land and labour. These liberal finance principles have triggered popular resistance, and caused voters to go in search of a ‘strong man or woman’ that will protect the populations of Europe from the ravages of market fundamentalism. Hence the rise of right-wing and fascist parties in for example, France, Hungary and Greece.

Right-wing populism – a reaction to, and movement against market fundamentalism – now poses a real threat to European democracy, and to European peace and stability. If the UK votes to leave now, this will encourage those who seek the fragmentation of Europe based not on progressive economic and social policies, but on their very opposite. This is therefore not the moment for the people of Britain to trigger the break-up of the European Union. The last time European tensions spilt over into divisions, open confrontation and war, sixty million people died (including twenty million Russians). Britain could not stand aloof from that war, and it will not be able to stand aloof from any future disruption to European peace.

I am not prepared to be party to such disruption at such a tense time in European political history. I am not prepared to risk sending my children or grandchildren to another European war.

There is a second reason for voting to Remain and it is this: Britain is heavily responsible for the market fundamentalism entrenched in the European Treaties. Our politicians and civil servants had a big hand in drafting these Treaties, and in introducing European legislation for enforcing what are in effect Anglo-American policies for deregulation, privatisation and labour market ‘reforms’. It was Lord Cockfield (under the Thatcher government) who led the drive for the single market including ‘freedom’ for financial services and capital, and it was a British civil servant who presided over the creation of the Euro – even though we chose not to be a member of the Eurozone

Europe’s social welfare model has been severely strained by Anglo-American policies for de-regulation, privatisation and ‘structural’ changes to labour markets, now alas more widely shared within the EU. Our responsibility for such policies requires that we act responsibly in helping to get them reversed…We cannot now turn our backs on a European economic model that conforms so closely to British economic policies. The social democratic parties, in particular, need to change tack, to promote policies that challenge the neoliberal consensus. This is our task in the coming years.

My third reason is domestic – with honourable exceptions, the move to Brexit is led by the most reactionary forces in Britain such as climate change denier Lord Lawson – and it is they who would reap the benefits of an “out” vote. They stand for market fundamentalism, not for the more progressive EU we seek. The EU’s gains on social and labour standards, on environmental protection and climate change – themselves at risk – would be dismantled. I agree with Jeremy Corbyn – we should unite to vote to Remain, but for the opposite reasons from those of David Cameron and George Osborne.


8 thoughts on “Why I will vote Remain”

  1. I will vote Remain but some reasons are different. I agree that reactionary Tories will be the beneficiaries of any vote to Leave. If re-elected they would use the aftermath to push austerity, deregulation and tax cuts for the rich as the solution to the economic disruption.

    Talk of European wars is stilly and counterproductive (famous last words, I know). There has been mostly peace in Europe since 1945 not because politicians have seen sense, but because nuclear weapons have been invented. France and Germany can never fight a war again, and so on. Yugoslavia was different for the obvious reason. A breakdown of law and order in a given country is still possible though (think of the UN intervention in Albania after is pyramid schemes) if more economic stupidity comes along. What if Greece got worse? While Brexit could exacerbate Eurozone austerity, I think there’s little the UK could do singlehanded to fix the institutions other than publicly complain, and so many others have been ignored.

    The main reason I’ll vote Remain is due to the balance sheet recession, Minsky hypothesis, debt-deflation threat, whatever you want to call it. The Great Recession can resume at any time. We need to at least do current Japanese Keynesianism and move away from austerity for our economic and political health. Many people will be voting Leave because they guess it will speed the recovery and they are desperate enough to try it. Reactionaries who think their wealth is threatened by EU regulations or their wages by immigration are not the only ones and this is the important factor. I think the disruption can easily send us back into recession, before full recovery from the last one, and political anger will get worse. This could lead to the breakup of the UK, the Tories going further off the deep end, mega unemployment, etc etc.

  2. Thank you, logically written with not a lot of emotion, so refreshing. Interestingly most of the “Remain” comments in the press seem to be written in that style. Perhaps a pointer.

  3. Ian Robert Stevenson

    Ann, which British civil servant designed the euro?
    Leigh -Pemberton was one a committee of bankers.
    I have seen a man named Mundell as “father of the euro”, but he was Canadian.

    Thoroughly agree with all this.

  4. There are many reasons some say we should vote to remain, but I cannot see Europe changing, surely we would just be staying on a sinking ship, We were just part of the process of Europe’s development together with many, can we take responsibility for that? if we stay and try and put it right there are 28 countries plus, voting against us and perhaps hoping the Uk may be swamped into oblivion with immigrants so that we are no longer a pain in the neck! But how do you view the UK in 50 years when we may be 100 million of more, immigrants who can become full citizens in 5 years, taking positions of power until we have no main “british” voice. The Uk has been successful due to a certain way of thinking, behaving and values, we will be swamped with EU nations wishing to do things their way. Europe is not successful, high unemployment and varying degrees of poverty in many nations. We already have 3 million deficit on NHS, no school places and no homes…if we remain “in” in we will have no hope either… please change your mind.

  5. Well Ann we voted out and I was one. I have since been astounded at the vituperation from Remain voters who seem to think we really have left Europe somehow and not a bureaucratic union that was seemingly impervious to change towards greater democracy. To listen to Juncker and Celia Malstrom and others since only makes me wonder how anyone can equate democracy with the EU. i have worked years in Europe and my daughter was born in Spain and I am an admirer of yours and Varoufakis and you both had reasons to urge Remain mostly in the belief that it could be reformed. I believe only now with Brexit that it might.

    Yes Leave might have briefly helped some pretty loathsome characters as in Ann’s third point. For my part the whole Leave campaign had zero effect. The facts I was looking at in my decision I had seen long before. I only wish Corbyn had simply said there were arguments on both sides and that such a decision was up to the individual voters. The Blairites would have crucified him but they have done that anyway.

    I note too with interest that both Steve Keen and John Pilger had strong reasons for supporting the Brexit vote. Keen cites a prophetic article on Maastricht by Wynne Godley in 1992. and Pilger castigates the neo liberal values pushed by the EU.
    And Yes Ann perhaps it was the US backed Thatcherites who stuck in the worst of the treaty but the EU did not object and are we anyway to tamely swallow that just because the neo liberals pushing such views were by chance British? A large number of the British never supported Thatcher or her minions and I would still hope that such a number finally swells to the point of overturning the Thatcher/Major / Blair/Brown/Cameron consensus and breaking out of this neo liberal disaster.

    1. Richard, We will have to disagree. For me the issue is not the economics of the EZ, which are deeply flawed, but the politics. I am opposed to the Far Right of the Conservative Party aligning Britain to the Far Right of the Republican Party – and subordinating British interests, and in particular our public assets, to American Capital/imperialism…Its political, and I regret that Steve Keen, who is a dear friend, does not see this.

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