One of the Labour Party’s most prominent union paymasters of the hard left has declared he will vote to Remain in the European Union (EU), but not the “bankers’, bureaucrats’ and lobbyists’ Europe” which currently exists.
Union firebrand Len McCluskey was speaking to an audience gathered by the German Ambassador at his London residency when he declared his allegiance to the principles of a fictional EU.
Nor was Mr. McCluskey endorsing the recent deal negotiated by Prime Minister David Cameron, which forms the basis of most of the Remain campaign’s argument for continued membership of the EU. Instead, he explicitly rejected it as “a deal designed to protect the financial interests in the City of London which control the Conservative Party and to pander to anti-migrant and anti-welfare sentiment.”
The leader of Britain’s biggest trade union was at pains to distinguish his vision of the EU from the “deeply undemocratic stitch-up” on offer. He explained:
When I vote for Britain to remain in the EU in June, and when I argue for the members of my union and others to do likewise in the months ahead, I will not be voting for the status quo – let me be clear about that.
I will not be voting for the EU which has sought to impose eye-watering austerity, at the expense of the ordinary citizen not the rich, on Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere.
I will not be voting for the EU which is seeking to stitch-up a pro-big business trade deal – [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] – behind the backs of the people of Europe.
He then set out the vision of Europe for which he would be voting, “for hope, for solidarity, and for a more democratic Europe… a cause, rather than a cash register.”
Conscious of the fact that persuading the UK’s six million union members (1.42 million of which are his) to back David Cameron’s campaign “will be a challenge”, he called on his colleagues in the labour movement to behave in “a more statesmanlike way, and to look at the bigger issues.”
Mr. McCluskey’s move is significant because much has been made in recent times of the UK Left’s reluctance to engage in the Remain campaign, with some predicting such inactivity may inadvertently allow Leave voters to win the referendum by default.
Even though he says his stance “must not be taken as a thumbs up for the finance-first status quo which has brought misery to ordinary people and betrayed the ideals of Europe”, he nevertheless has attempted to make his own positive case for EU membership, albeit not the one on offer.
Unite, which describes itself as “a pro-EU union”, has not yet confirmed whether it will mount an official campaign in the referendum, the union’s Executive will discuss the issues when it meets next week.
Trades Union Congress leadership, however, has declared it will campaign to retain EU membership, but The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT), Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef) and the Bakers’ Union are all campaigning for Brexit.