The strong leftwing case against the EU
Chris Matheson (There is no leftwing justification for Brexit. We must fight it to the last, theguardian.com, 7 January) thinks the world has moved on since Tony Benn, but his own picture of the world is almost exactly the picture that the original advocates of entry into the Common Market believed in in the 1970s: that the globe is divided between Oceania and Eurasia (sorry, we meant the US and the EU), and that the poor little UK has to choose between them. Benn rejected this then, and socialists should reject it now. There is a profound distinction between globalisation and internationalism, and it is one that Chris Matheson does not make.
What Matheson’s arguments boil down to is the following: (a) in a globalised world, economic and social policies have to be decided at a supranational level; and (b) membership of the EU prevents a Conservative government from implementing some of its possible policies. The problem with (a) is that it is a fantasy that the EU will implement the kinds of policies that socialists might want, given its fundamental character as a free market, with the four freedoms enshrined in a constitutional order that there is no way of changing short of a set of new treaties. Democracy is a better bet.
As for (b), be careful what you wish for: structures that impede Tory policies are just as likely to be used against socialist ones, and frequently have been. Ultimately it is not up to any of us to decide on the matter, but up, in the end, to a constitutional court whose decisions (unlike those of the UK supreme court) cannot be overriden by any political or legislative process. It is the hazard of tying our future in fundamental respects to this structure that motivates us to support a clean break with the EU.
Richard Tuck Professor of government, Harvard University, Maurice Glasman
Labour, House of Lords
More at gu.com/letters: “My Labour colleague Chris Matheson is wrong to dismiss the long and principled history of leftwing opposition to the European Union and its predecessors,” writes Graham Stringer MP