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Umunna: Reform ‘Free Movement of People’ in EU

Posted on the 10 January 2014 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Umunna: Reform ‘Free Movement of People’ in EU

Posted: 10/01/2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: climate change, democracy, EU, European Parliament, Labour, regulation, UKIP |5 Comments »

Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary turned the debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union on its head yesterday with the suggestion that Labour was working with its Continental counterparts to plan an overhaul of the “free movement of workers” clause of the European Union’s constitution. Combined with Labour’s proposed requirements on employers to utilise local workers, a treaty change ending the right of people to move between EU countries unless they have a job offer in their destination would have massive implications. The biggest issue (from most people’s perspectives) with EU membership would be eliminated, as the flow of cheap, lower skilled labour from poorer EU member nations would be stemmed, giving hope to the hundreds of thousands of the unskilled unemployed who’ve been squeezed out of the job market in the past decade.

If that one thing could be achieved, the European Union would drop down to its rightful place on the list of things voters moan about: number 12, below traffic jams and ‘ The Council’ (I’ve never met anybody outside a political party who hasn’t lapsed into permanent melancholy about the state of local government). The UKIP bubble would burst, and for the first time in 40 years the left would take the initiative on Britain’s place in Europe.

At present, the European Union is deeply flawed. Nobody but the most hardcore politicos understand properly how it works, but I can confidently state:

*It is run by a convoluted and inefficient and opaque kleptocracy of overpaid administrators
*Elected representatives, in the form of MEPs, have far too little influence over the European Union
*Lobbyists appear to be adept at pushing EU institutions towards neo-liberal, pro-business/anti-worker policies
*EU finances are a mess: its £100 billion a year budget has not been signed off by auditors at any point over the past 20 years

The European Union needs massive reform, and I think an exchange of powers should take place. For greater control over their own labour markets and welfare systems, nation states would devolve their entire international aid budgets to a democratised EU, which would loosely co-ordinate corporate tax rates and rules, consumer regulations, green measures and to some extent, defence. I’ve said before that if economic and climate change will operate beyond national boundaries, so must government and organised labour. This would be done by a legislature and executive directly accountable to the European public. The European Union is our best chance of achieving the former, and the fact that EU members have the toughest green commitments and strongest consumer protection regime in the world is a testament to the fact that international co-operation can achieve great things.

So we can throw ourselves into the work of improving the EU, or we can withdraw. My only concern is that withdrawal would be a huge waste of potential.

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