We often hear from europhiles that the EU protects our rights. More specifically labour rights. Again this is one of those areas where the EU bestows ever more elaborate "rights" upon us that few ever asked for, and even few make use of - and in practice, unless you take it to the highest courts, they prove to be non existent in practice. But it does so in the knowledge that with every new right it bestows, it wins over new champions in the debate over its own existence.
But as we routinely point out, the EU does not make the rules of the single market, nor can it take any particular credit for the advancement of human rights. Such business is conducted at the global level. Where labour rights are concerned, this is very much the domain of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The EU doesn't just copy such measures into its regulations. It writes regulations that refer to ILO and IMO codes, conventions and resolutions by name and serial number. The ILO is really the forum where it is important to have our voices heard because its conventions and resolutions are legally binding.
In this process the UK has only a partial voice. We have a proxy vote with no outright veto and we must always adopt the common EU position. The conventions are put together through a process of negotiation between NGOs, unions and employers associations as well as corporates, coalitions, trade blocs and nation states.
In this, Norway has a full vote, a veto and right of reservation. Britain does not. For that we would have to be out of the EU. As things stand, our voice is very much subdued by way of our EU membership. The EU has the final say in how the EU will vote at the top tables thus increasingly we find our own voice is drowned out by lobbyists.
It is often said that we need to be at the heart of Europe in order to have a voice at the top table. But really the ILO is that top table and the EU is a middleman between us and it - and the EU increasingly obscures our access to it. There is nothing the EU would like more than to replace all member state delegations, and in time we are sure it will make moves to that end.
So significant is the ILO that once you become aware of its existence you start to see it popping up all over the place. Indeed when Juncker made his speech
to the world's press over the Greek bailout, which many called "harsh austerity", he said:
"There are, as I said, no wage cuts in this package. This was never, never ever on the table. What is on the table is a proposal to modernise the wage grid of the public sector. And, for the private sector, we have agreed to review collective bargaining practices. Our only request has been that this should be done in line with the best European practices in cooperation with the institutions and ILO which are the specialists when it comes to this question."
By Juncker's own admission, the EU is merely a recipient of global law and in a major international event, even the EU defers to the ILO. Thus, any europhile who wants to tell you that the EU protects the rights of workers is one who clearly knows nothing about it.
The argument they advance is that the EU enshrines such rights and rules beyond the reach of our own governments. It's true that were we to fully repatriate all such lawmaking from the EU, any government could in theory revoke certain rights and protections. It may cost them access to certain markets, but the option is indeed there.
Were that to happen we would have to form effective unions and use our votes and demand those rights. We would have to fight for them. And that's no bad thing. The way in which the EU has turned itself into a benevolent benefactor is how it has bought loyalty. By doing so it has pacified our own unions and quelled any genuine grassroots labour movement. That's one of the many reasons why the Labour party is a shadow of its former self - and why the Conservative party is so keen on EU membership.
The principle here though is that those rights which are gifted by the international elites can just as easily be revoked without any democratic recourse. But more importantly, the essence of the europhile message is more alarming.
There seems to be a fear that were we to have democratic control then we could possibly lose those rights we have. If that be the case then that is our own fault for allowing ourselves to be so passive and neglecting of our duty of vigilance. What they suggest is that our best protections against our national government is the total surrender of our democracy to the mangerialism of the EU. That is intolerable.
Democracy means that sometimes rights are lost as well as won. It seems the modern europhile is happy to dispense with democracy because ultimately they don't trust the people. That is a somewhat misanthropic worldview. For sure, democracy means having to fight to maintain our rights, but in the end, we are lost without it.
But we don't think that would be the case. Britain has been at the very front lines of the battle for workers rights throughout history and even our cosseted middle classes would rise up were their paid holidays in any way threatened. The fringe entitlements that the EU bestows upon us would probably be filtered out due to lack of grassroots demand. That in itself creates a better culture in that there is give and take between employer and employee and that not every single transaction is proscribed by the dead hand of authority. What falls between the cracks is ours to fight for.
As much as democracy must come first and that the people must be trusted to run their own affairs, we have a proud tradition of winning and exporting rights and developing the best working practices. For this reason it is manifestly better for the EU and the world if the UK has a full voice at the top table.
The notion that without the EU we would regress into dickensian poverty and victorian values is as risible as it is offensive. The suggestion that the EU is somehow responsible for the rights we enjoy in the workplace is a gross insult to all those who have fought over a century to make this country the most desirable place to live - and work.