It would be interesting to see whether there are any “eurosceptics” in the Conservative party who are not also fundamentalist “free-marketeers”: and even more enlightening to know whether there is a clear mapping between the most fanatical eurosceptic MPs and MEPs and those Conservative party MPs and MEPs who are closely associated with the US corporate lobbyists through the network of “think tanks”, lobbyists and “charities”.
As an example, Daniel Hannan (the Conservate MEP who rubbished the UK National Health Service from the safety of a TV company office in the USA in a trip allegedly linked to The Atlantic Bridge) has been involved with a “Tea Party Rally” in Brighton and is a vocally fanatical anti-European.
The Conservative view of the EU is an ideological neoliberal view, and it seems curious that The Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley has to ask, rhetorically, why the Conservatives have to keep “banging on” about Europe despite the inconsistencies in the Eurosceptic view.
The first is that the Eurosceptics do not seem to accept that the European project has itself been usurped by neoliberalism, and is very different in practise from the vision of such as Jacques Delors. The central European states whose membership Prime Minister Tony Blair so enthusiastically endorsed joined the EU as their own newly independent economies and political systems were invaded by the Chicago Boys. The result, as Blair clearly so heartily wished, was to switch the balance of thinking in Europe away from the post-second world war consensus and to the free-market fundamentalists.
The policies of austerity which Germany is imposing on Greece, with the radical destruction of public services and creation of mass unemployment and impoverishment are from the neoliberal textbook: take a crisis and turn it into a catastrophe, and use “the markets” as an excuse to expropriate public goods (see above, the four logics) and create opportunities for corporate exploitation. This is all being done (and Spain, Portugal, and Italy being threatened with the same medicine) in order to appease “the markets”.
The deification of “the markets” and their acceptance by governments as the unquestioned arbiters of economic policy is the clearest sign that governments have ceded control and responsibility. It is one of the most extraordinary successes of the neoliberal project that a man-made construct – “the markets” – has been given divine authority, like the pig’s head on a stick in Golding’s The Lord of the Flies.
The neoliberal project is transnational, and its mechanisms (the movement of capital, particularly through the tax havens) global. From the eurosceptic perspective, the European project as originally set out would have been a counterweight to the scale of the project, with nations supporting each other against the neoliberal project and its mechanisms (such as the IMF) as states are now learning to do in South America. This eurosceptic Conservative Party wishes to remove all trace of European legislation from the UK so that it can be replaced with neoliberal policies: reducing taxation, removing regulation of business, and dismantling the welfare state.
The less openly eurosceptic Conservative party – which includes several members of the Coalition junta, including David Cameron – are prepared to use EU legislation now it is available, for example in the use of EU competition law do drive markets into the National Health Service. They seem to recognise that the EU has already been won and can be used to the project’s advantage.
The Conservative eurosceptics are not against an idea of a united Europe, but it is a Europe united by the logics of the project. The Eurosceptic vision of Europe is a free trade, free-market zone without overarching government or regulation. This is what they repeatedly promise will be created through a referendum of the UK electorate; that the UK will have all “the benefits” of an open market without the “disbenefits” of regulation.
There is a clear “doublethink” on free labour markets, however: the deal offered to the UK is that labour markets will be freed but immigration ended. Immigrants are a targeted group in the UK, another symptom of neoliberalism (and of fascism).
It is not surprising then that the Eurosceptics keep “banging on” about the EU. Many are linked to the US supporters of “The Tea Party” and many have places in the vast infrastructure of neoliberal think tanks. Many of the younger Conservative MPs were trained – indoctrinated – by the thinktanks, as tracking alumni quickly shows. The neoliberal project, like any fanatical religion, does not permit backsliding and has no patience (particularly now that the Coalition junta and the economic crises created by the banksters has created an opportunity for plans long prepared to be put into action). Europe must be returned to small member states, each individually incapable of wresting control from a transnational and far more wealthy movement. Europe still means regulation and welfare to the eurosceptics: both of which must be removed to put in place the neoliberal state.