For Conservative eurosceptics, the old adage that you should never miss the opportunity presented by a crisis is certainly true of the current Eurozone crisis. Angela Merkel’s proposal to make changes to the EU’s treaty base has encouraged Iain Duncan-Smith to demand a referendum, and others have insisted that David Cameron could bargain his support for the ‘repatriation of powers’ (which is almost always code for allowing the Government to take away workers’ rights to paid holidays, health and safety, equal pay for temporary or agency workers, decent treatment when the business or public service you work for is sold, etc etc). So far, Cameron is reported to have rejected both approaches, on the rather sensible grounds that both calls miss the point about the crisis Europe faces. But the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has warned Europe’s leaders that reforming the structure of the EU is not the answer to the crisis, and that they need to take steps now to stimulate growth and create jobs, instead of tinkering with the treaty.
Today’s TUC Executive Committee took the same view of possible treaty changes. In a discussion on a forthcoming ETUC campaign against austerity, building on the UK campaign, British trade union leaders noted the danger that treaty reform could pose, stoking up support for euro-scepticism, diverting attention from the need to stimulate growth rather than engage in an austerity-driven race to the bottom, and allowing the UK to become ever more isolated.
We need more than ever to be engaging, to oppose the austerity measures that Merkel wants to lock into the treaties (which is one reason why Cameron is presumably so eager to support the treaty changes), and to demand that the EU takes the steps which would address the crisis, and which need no such treaty changes – principally a commitment to underpin countries threatened by sovereign debt crises, and use the ECB to issue eurobonds.