Leave the EU to save the NHS

by Daphne Liddle

DR DAVID Owen, once a Labour Foreign Secretary who led a right-wing split in the party in the early 1980s to form the short-lived Social Democrat Party, was once a staunch supporter of Britain being part of the Common Market. But last week he called on people to vote to leave the European Union in order to rescue the NHS.

Owen was speaking in response to a claim by discredited Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that leaving the European Union would endanger the NHS. But Lord Owen said: “The EU/Eurozone from 1992, in marked contrast to the old European Community of 1975, creeps into every nook and cranny of our life.

“It is now becoming entrenched in the NHS and this June we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get it out.”

But Lord Owen was not the only ageing political grandee to have joined the EU referendum debate. Kenneth Clarke — one of the Tories’ strongest EU supporters has also been giving socialists and progressives a good reason to vote to leave, although this was not his intention.

Clarke warned that if Britain did vote to leave, David Cameron would be overthrown as Prime Minister within 30 seconds. Cameron told MPs this week that he would remain in office to negotiate Britain’s exit in the event of a vote to leave the EU, but Clarke said it would be “farcical” for him to continue.

The Tory party is already dissolving into bitter in-fighting. Bernard Jenkin, the senior Tory backbencher who supports the leave campaign, warned the party would be in “grave danger” if the Britain voted to remain in the EU. Jenkin said: “I think a lot of people will leave the Conservative party. I expect whatever emerges from the wreckage of Ukip will be more potent than before. I think these are very great dangers.

And a remain vote paradoxically makes a Corbyn government somewhat more likely because the Conservative party will be in such an unhappy state. Certainly our voters will vote leave. The vast majority of our activists will vote leave. And under these circumstances, the Conservative party will be far more governable and leadable.”

Meanwhile more and more on the Left are waking up to the reality that this referendum is about much more than immigration and that many of the pro-EU claims are based on pure myth.

The EU does not protect workers’ rights; the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties have seriously and steadily undermined workers’ rights.

In January this year Germany was ordered to drop a law that insisted that all lorry drivers within its borders should be paid a basic minimum wage of €8.50 (£5.48) and hour. The rule angered trucking companies in Poland, Denmark and Poland who had been paying their workers less and winning business by undercutting German trucking companies. So it had to go; the role of the EU is to support bosses. The decision was made not be the elected European Parliament but by behind closed doors by the European Commissioners — where the real power of the EU resides.

Here, now the Tories’ latest Trade Union Bill is in its final stages. The House of Lords has made many amendments to try to ameliorate its worst measures. It is a direct attack on all our civil rights but the EU has done nothing to hinder it.

Some claim the EU has protected women’s rights. But we still have a pay gap that is almost as large as when Barbara Castle put through the Equal Pay Act. And they are closing women’s domestic violence refuges because of austerity cuts. The EU has not protected us from this.

The EU has destroyed Greece economically and reduced millions into desperate poverty and it has been trying to do the same to Ukraine.

Another good reason to leave: according to European Parliament President Martin Schulz a Brexit vote could destabilise the whole EU edifice because workers in many other EU countries are itching to get out and get back some of their rights.

“Europe has been on a sliding slope for some time now. Many people’s trust in institutions, whether national or European, has gone,” Schulz said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

The EU is a bastion of global imperialism like NATO, and the IMF. If it is weakened, so much the better for workers all around the globe.