Cameron does the splits over Europe

“PRETTY thin gruel” and “Is that it?” were the words of welcome from the Tory backbenches to David Cameron’s sixpage list of demands to the European Union that are supposed to transform Britain’s relationship with the EU and unite the Tory party behind Cameron.

Cameron has promised that if his demands are not met by the EU he will join those members of his own party campaigning for a British exit from the EU in the referendum that he has pledged to hold next year. But his demands are so few, and mostly so vague or more or less in line with what the hard right throughout Europe would like to adopt everywhere in the EU, that it would be surprising if the EU did not accept these terms.

Cameron’s most controversial demand is that EU migrants in Britain should not be eligible for in-work state benefits until they have worked here for at least four years. Martin Schulz, the hugely powerful president of the European Parliament, says he thinks David Cameron’s plan to restrict migrant benefits could be illegal. But with thousands of desperate refugees from Africa and the Middle East arriving in Europe every day most European governments would like to take a harder stance on benefits for all migrants — but without appearing to be as mean and pitiless as they are. They would be quite happy to be able to blame Cameron for starting the trend that they will all be happy to follow.

In Britain EU migrants claim very few out-of-work benefits or pensions, but being mostly low-paid workers they do claim inwork tax credits and housing benefits. This is not because they are lazy scroungers but because greedy employers in Britain do not pay their workers a living wage, and the Tories have fostered a vile breed of extortionate private landlords who charge impossibly high rents that normal workers cannot possibly afford without the help of benefits.

These EU immigrants work very hard to enrich these greedy bosses and extortionate landlords — which is why most business advisors in this country welcome them and argue that our economy depends on a regular supply of new cheap labour.

That leaves David Cameron with one foot in each of the two wings of his party — pro- and anti-Europe — as they drift further and further apart until he has to fall into the widening clear blue water between them. Certainly his meagre demands for EU changes will not appease the Euro sceptics, whilst most in the business lobby will fight tooth and nail to stay in Europe. The Tories have a very small majority and it could be soon that the fate of this government will depend on Labour’s position on Europe.

Jeremy Corbyn will also have problems uniting the pro-European New Labour MPs — who for years have been hand-in-glove with their Tory counterparts — and the growing strength of the trade unionists against the European Union movement.

At the TUC conference two months ago trade unions pledged to fight against Britain staying in the EU if Cameron’s negotiations with the EU involved weakening Britain’s already feeble labour protection laws.

Predictably, besides taking benefits away from EU migrant workers, Cameron also called in his six-page letter to the EU for less “red-tape”, meaning labour protection, anti-discrimination, and health and safety regulations.

Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, said at the TUC that he was becoming increasingly concerned that Cameron would negotiate away workers’ rights with Europe: “We will be looking very closely at the timing of the referendum and at what the prime minister is trying to do. If needs be we will consider calling a one-day policy conference to specifically discuss the European issue,” he said.

It seems to be time for organising that conference and for building the campaign to get Britain out of Europe — not for reasons of xenophobia but because the EU is a creation of big business for the purpose of exploiting workers across the continent to the maximum.

Furthermore the structure of aggressive western imperialism would be weakened by the removal of Washington’s chief Trojan horse — the British government — from within the structure of the EU. Europe is already falling out with Washington and a “Brexit” will complete the division.