On June 23, British voters will take to the polls to determine whether the country will remain a part of the European Union, a vote that many believe could decide the fate of the entire economic union.
In recent months, public sentiment has moved against the EU due, in part, to a flood of Syrian refugees across Europe’s open borders, and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s growing unpopularity at a time when he is the chief spokesperson in favour of the UK retaining EU membership.
A recent public opinion poll of likely British voters found that 45% favour terminating the country’s EU membership, while 39% favour maintaining membership in the EU.
In corporate media, a coalition against retaining EU membership has been portrayed as ultra-right Islamophobic bigots, but careful analysis shows that British Socialists have always opposed the EU’s brand of extreme neoliberalism.
As the referendum campaign heats up, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with Alex Gordon, the former president of Britain’s Transportation Union and a leader of the left-wing coalition advocating for Britain to exit the European Union – the Lexit.
Who is it that supports Britain leaving the EU?
"The perception that is carefully cultivated by the mainstream media, including the BBC, the Guardian, and other important newspapers in Britain, is that those who oppose the EU are rightwing nationalists," explained Gordon. "It is a classic example of manipulating the narrative and the terms of the debate."
Despite attempts by mainstream media outlets to frame the opposition in a negative light, Gordon thinks that the people are taking their cue from history. "One advantage of this referendum is that we are looking back to when Britain first voted on what was called the European Economic Community, the precursor to the EU back in 1975," said Gordon.
"When you look at the film from 1975, you see the Labour Party favored Britain exiting the EEC for socialist reasons and they characterized the EEC as a business club – the European NAFTA," explained Gordon. "What we also see in 1975 is that the campaign for Britain to remain in the EEC was led by Margaret Thatcher who became the notorious Tory Prime Minister who flew the flag for neoliberal economics along with America’s Ronald Reagan."
"This argument, that those who want to leave the European Union are rightwing fanatics, is a very recent and fairly artificial construct," said Gordon. The former union leader finds it unlikely that the British people will be swayed by the talking point come June.
What is the Lexit campaign and who is behind it?
"The Lexit campaign consists of the Community Party of Britain, the Socialist Workers Party, and trade unions such as my own," commented Gordon. "We call for Britain to leave the European Union because the EU makes privatization of public services a constitutional requirement which makes it far more rightwing than even NAFTA."
Gordon remarked that, unlike NAFTA, the largely undemocratic Lisbon agreement of 2009 placed the requirements of the EU treaty above the sovereign rights of member countries. He also expressed growing concern about the EU-US trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as another example of corporations deciding trade laws in their own favor through backroom dealings.
More succinctly, Gordon said that the reason why the left wing opposes Britain retaining its EU membership is simple: "The sinister corporate forces behind the European Union and the EU-US trade agreement are the antithesis of everything that socialists stand for."