Photo Georgina Coupe, via Number 10 / Flickr

Brexit: time to change this Europe of competition and inequality

A majority of the Britsh people have opted out of the European Union. “This Europe of competition and inequality (the plague) foments nationalism and division (cholera). This is what I already wrote in 2011 in my book 'How dare they?', says PTB chairman Peter Mertens in a first reaction to the Brexit. “We shouldn't deny the facts. Another Europe is needed: with more democracy, more transparency, more solidarity, in order to facilitate a radical social and ecological change.”

Those among the working people who voted for the Brexit, are fed up. Fed up with the British employers organizing social dumping by importing underpaid foreign workforce, with the help of the European Union. Fed up with their industries being destroyed and their jobs getting lost. Fed up with their railways being privatized unto disaster, and fed up with their health care services being made expensive beyond their means. The take-care-of-yourself policy of British Prime Minister David Cameron comes down to an organized salary breakdown and to fomenting division among people.

Those who promoted the Brexit have used and abused the social aspirations of the people. They promised an end to social dumping and 350 million pounds a week extra for health care. Yet in reality the ultra-rightist leaders of the Brexit camp stand for less social rights, not more. That is why they foment division, nationalism and racism. The choice before the people was one between the plague and cholera, between the neoliberal European Union and the British ultra-liberals. Within these limits, the British voted for something they saw as a change.

The referendum's result shows once more the enormous gap between the European establishment and the population. A year ago, the European establishment spit on the Greek. The rebellious Greek, who had demanded, by referendum, and end to the dogma of austerity. They got trampled upon. Not unlike the Dutch and the French, who got the European Constitution rammed down their throats in 2005, after having rejected it by referendum.

Charles Michel, François Hollande and Angela Merkel haven't understood this yet and intend to continue on the same road. Europe's grand coalition of liberals, socialists and Christian-democrats want more of the same. More austerity, more competition, more social dumping. The orchestra of Titanic Europe must play on while the ship is sinking ever deeper.

This European Union doesn't offer any alternative to Cameron's anti-social policies. While the British people suffer from social dumping and low salaries, the Commission decided to attack the minimum wage of truck drivers in France and Germany. While the British people curse the privatization of their railway services every single day, the European Union imposes its fourth railway liberalization package. And while transnational corporations hardly pay any taxes, European Commissionar Pierre Moscovici refuses to impose any binding rules on tax havens.

Working people across Europe are watching these developments with anxiety and distrust. A major change of course is needed. We have to steer away from a Europe of competition and inequality, which brings us nothing but more authoritarianism and more nationalism. We have to question the current European treaties in order to break out of the neoliberal straightjacket. Instead of social dumping, we need a high European minimum wage. Instead of privatization and liberalization, we need more public investments, for jobs, for infrastructure, for public services. Instead of tax havens, we need a European tax on millionaires, to force the super-rich to contribute their share. What we need is a Europe of solidarity and cooperation.