Liam is a College of Europe graduate who has worked in the European policy environment in the public private and third sectors. Most recently he has worked in export promotion for the UK government.
Jeremy Corbyn has spoken out strongly in favour of restoring Clause 4, the element of the Labour Party’s constitution committing it to nationalisation which was removed by New Labour. It is stated within Clause 4 that the Labour Party are committed to, “The common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”, in a practical sense he wishes to reverse the privatisations which had occurred in the years from ’79 to ’97. He has made specific reference renationalising the railways and the energy industry.
The railway industry in the UK was privatised in 1993 and since then the world has changed. The British public may disagree but the economics profession is in wide-spread agreement that it has been a success. Furthermore, the EU has used it as a model for EU legislation. This in turn would prevent the UK from nationalising the industry back its 1979 incarnation- at best a national railway could compete with private firms for line contracts.
The energy industry has followed a similar pattern, the economics profession widely views the UK privatisation scheme to have been a success, and the model has been used to create EU legislation. Again, this would block his renationalisation. Furthermore, his energy policies have not developed in the past 30 years and don’t reflect the changes which have occurred in the industry. For example, firstly, that coal is bad, and reopening coal mines is a bad idea. Secondly, that energy production is getting de-centralised and this change is proving to put production back into the hands of the people, not nationalisation.
People’s Quantitative Easing
Quantitative Easing has been criticised for providing finance to banks which have not invested in the real economy, and have merely used it to gamble and push up asset prices. From this premise it seems sensible to bypass the banks and send this money directly into the real economy. This position was advocated by Richard Murphy, Corbyn’s economic guru, during the large QE usage in the past two years. However, the notion of a central bank funding government spending is illegal under EU law. The treaties of the EU reflect a shared European history, and a crucial part of this history was hyperinflation in Germany. This terrible event has remained seared upon the European collective memory, and informed the decision to ban central bank lending to the government. Of course Jeremy Corbyn could fund his people’s investment bank through traditional borrowing as is done in many other countries. This would prove to be remarkably cheap to do in the UK given the very low bond yields the UK offers- but this would be a different policy with other implications.
Return to Pre-Thatcher Labour Laws
Having stood hand-in-hand with the strikers throughout the 1980s in their battles with Thatcher, Corbyn has stated his desire to return to the 1970s labour code, with a large role for active unions. However, the European Union has seen its own battles with unions since then. The European Union has seen unions strike over the use of foreign non-unionised workers. This resulted in two land mark cases, Laval and Viking. Amongst other important conclusions these cases confirmed that striking which opposes the movement of a business or employees of a business overseas is illegal. Furthermore, posted workers can work under their home country’s labour codes. Overall, the European employment practises have changed dramatically in the past 30 years. European legislation has responded to the changing employment practices in Europe through judicial rulings. Given the pan-European nature of the UK’s largest employers these rulings will limit the effectiveness of any of Corbyn’s labour market reforms.
Jeremy Corbyn has spoken to the British Gemeinschaft, speaking to the left’s values and beliefs. However, Corbyn, like all European politicians, must work within the European Union’s Gesellschaft. His dreams and aspirations which have touched the heart of many on the left who have felt forgotten by modern Britain. However, they will remain dreams as they come into direct conflict with European Union legislation which reflects a modern Europe he fails to understand.