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Issue #1786      July 19, 2017

Avoid the traps of zealots

BRITAIN: Labour movement self-bamboozlement into believing that the European Union has workplace rights and defence of living standards in its DNA explains the unjustified infatuation with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Far from it being a guarantee of workers’ rights, it merely duplicates many provisions already on the statute book in Britain.

For Labour to make the charter a red line in deciding its attitude to the government’s so-called Great Repeal Bill would be to swallow the propaganda of the pro-EU snake-oil sales team of the Liberal Democrats, SNP and others.

The charter was characterised as a tidying-up exercise of existing provisions based on European Convention of Human Rights, European Social Charter and European Court of Justice provisions when EU institutions set about creating an EU constitution as part of the bloc’s transformation into a superstate.

Although the constitution was blessed by all EU institutions in 2000, Dutch and French voters struck a blow for democracy in 2005 in rejecting this scenario.

Rather than accept the will of the people, the EU bureaucracy flaunted its general contempt for democracy by translating the constitution, charter included, into the Lisbon Treaty that took effect in 2009.

Tory objections in general to EU legislation on workplace issues have had the effect of convincing many in the labour movement who should know better to believe that such trade union rights as we possess have been a gift from Brussels.

Maternity rights, paid holidays, minimum wage, the rights to union membership, recognition, the right to strike and so on were won in Britain – and separately in other EU member states – through industrial and political struggle.

The quality of existing rights in Britain is generally superior to those contained in the EU charter.

If this charter of fundamental rights is so brilliant, why did it do nothing for the people of Greece who were put through the neoliberal mincer by the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund?

Why has it been powerless to prevent a stream of anti-union rulings – Laval, Luxembourg, Viking, Ruffert – by the European Court of Justice?

Labour’s instinctive suspicion that the Tories would prefer to manage Britain’s exit in a way that benefits their class and robs ours is well placed. But it must avoid falling into the trap set by pro-EU zealots of obstructing progress to withdrawal itself on bogus claims that the fundamental charter embraces the gold standard of workplace rights.

Morning Star

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