Londonderry People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann says those now championing the economic benefits of membership of the European Union should consider the punishment meted out to Greece in recent years.
Mr McCann also rejected SDLP MLA, Claire Hanna’s, accusation that “the hard end of the left wing were very casual about Brexit” and that they ended up unlikely campaigning partners with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
“Let me deal first with the nonsense that was talked earlier today in the Chamber about people on the left who advised a vote to leave - that such people must be in alignment with and supporting Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the rest of that crew across the water. That is absolutely untrue.
“People Before Profit is quite able to articulate its own particular position, which is different from that of Boris Johnson and is also different from that of the leadership of the ‘Remain’ side,” said Mr McCann.
The recently elected Foyle MLA went on to refer to the victimisation of Greece by Brussels and Berlin after the ruling party, Syriza, initially wavered, whilst ultimately yielding, over the continued repayment of ill-advised loans made by French and German banks and investors to the former bankrupt PASOK and New Democracy Governments.
“I have always rejected - the European Union. We reject it now because we reject the rottenness that the EU represents. If you want to know the true nature of the EU, just look back a year.
“We heard an awful lot of the argument that leaving the EU will threaten spending on community projects, destroy jobs, destroy wages, destroy infrastructure and all the rest of it. Will it, indeed? If you worried about that in the referendum, look back to what the EU did to Greece, when the Greek people in a referendum voted to reject the austerity policies of the European Union,” he said.
Ms Hanna suggested that recent Governments in Athens, PASOK, New Democracy and Syriza, had mismanaged the country’s finances.
“Does the Member acknowledge that the people of Greece, with respect to the Government in Greece, made very poor domestic decisions?
“Does the Member acknowledge that the ratepayers and taxpayers across Europe had an entitlement to not keep paying the bailout money?” she asked.
Mr McCann responded: “So much for the lady’s commitment to democracy. Do I agree that the Greek people voted in a stupid way? That is what she is asking.
“It does not matter how the people in the cradle of democracy voted. That was the clear implication of your question; of course it was.
“The EU rejected that referendum result precisely because it wanted to impose austerity, it wanted the Greek Government to cut social spending and it wanted funding withdrawn from all sorts of community groups.”
He added: “In other words, they wanted to do all of the things that some people in this House are now claiming that we could not do if we left the EU.
They should consider the words of Walter Scott: ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave; when first we practise to deceive!’
“And they were deceiving. So was the ‘Remain’ camp, and the ‘Out’ camp across the border.”
Mr McCann also referred to arguments that the European Union was helping refugees. He opposed this, claiming, on the contrary, that Brussels’ policy towards refugees is racist and dehumanising.
“It has erected barbed wire barricades around fortress Europe. Somebody referred to fortress UK and immigrants. The main fortress being erected in Europe is in the European Union,” he said.
“Not only do we have barbed wire fences around the edges of it, we have barbed wire fences within it to stop the movement of people who do not qualify.
“Around the borders of Hungary and in Serbia and Slovenia, you see barbed wire fences.
“This is not an organisation that is pulling people together in a benign way. It is dividing people; it is racist. The agreement made between the EU and Turkey was, ‘You take one back, and we’ll send one over’. That is treating human beings like commodities to be swapped in a barter market. What a disgusting and disgraceful thing to do. Why is it that not a mention of that has been made?” he asked.
The veteran Socialist Workers’ Party activist also wondered if officials and Ministers south of the border are now willing hostages of the EU.
“Now, so many people in Dublin are praising the EU that they seem to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. There were times over the past few days watching the football when I thought that I was transferring my allegiance from one day to another from the occupied Six Counties to the occupied Twenty-six Counties.
“One hundred years after 1916, national independence, how are you? The European Union will not stand for national independence in any sense at all. It is an oppressive body.
“Who is the European Commission answerable to? Does anybody here know? I will tell you: it is answerable to the bankers; that is in whose interests it has operated throughout the period of austerity.
“It is answerable to the more belligerent sections of the European bourgeoisie; it is not answerable to anybody else. Nobody elected it.”