It isn’t just Cameron’s arguments in support of remaining in the EU which have disappointed me. I’m also more than a little sceptical about the so-called ‘progressive’ case for the EU. One of the most succinct expressions of that case was a statement by Plaid’s leader, Leanne Wood, when she said yesterday “Because of our membership of the EU, we have laws on equality, the environment, on workers’ and consumer rights, on farming and food quality, laws to tackle climate change and much more”.
Now, I don’t dispute that we have laws on all those issues, or that the EU has been instrumental in ensuring that those laws are consistent across the whole of the EU, but is the fact that we have laws covering all those fields really “because of our membership of the EU”? I believe not; I’m reasonably convinced that we’d still have laws on all those fields even outside the EU (which is why the claim by the Brexit camp that we would abolish all the EU regulations after leaving is pure baloney). The question is whether they’d be the same laws, or whether they’d offer less – or more – protection than the laws as they currently exist.
It’s no coincidence that many of those campaigning for Brexit would like to weaken the protection in all of those areas, but Brexit in itself doesn’t guarantee that they’d be in a position to do so. By and large I accept the argument that the laws are probably better than they otherwise might be, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that what we are really being told is that we should place more trust in EU politicians (or bureaucrats as everyone else seems to prefer to call them) than in UK politicians. The ‘progressive’ argument seems to amount to saying that we need to be part of the EU so that someone else can over-rule the UK and set higher standards than the parties that we vote for here would ever do. It’s not an argument which particularly inspires me, and it is, in essence, rather defeatist.I’d certainly accept that there are advantages for trade across the EU from having a consistent set of rules and laws to which all have to work. Consistency for trade purposes might be a more positive argument for the EU, but it’s one which the supporters of the EU seem to be very unwilling to make.