Film veteran Ken Loach attacks EU but warns against Brexit

CANNES, France (Reuters) - British film director Ken Loach launched a scathing attack on the European Union at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, but said Britain should stay a member to avoid lurching towards the far right.

Loach was talking to journalists about his film “I, Daniel Blake” in which Dave Johns plays a Newcastle joiner seeking a disability welfare pension who drifts into poverty along with a single mother of two (Hayley Squires) whom he is trying to help.

The 79-year-old, who won the coveted Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2006 with “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”, expressed his shock at the way the poorest were being treated, calling on the “real left” to unite throughout Europe.

“There is a common denominator between all the European countries. There’s a conscious cruelty in the way we’re organizing our lives now, where the most vulnerable people are told that their poverty is their own fault, if you have no work, it’s your fault,” he told a politically charged news conference.

Squires said people on benefits were depicted as “scroungers”. Screenwriter Paul Laverty asked: “Why are we picking on our most vulnerable people?”

While “I, Daniel Blake”, focuses on a British problem, it has a much broader reach, according to Loach.

“There are people who understand what is happening but their political structures are not allowing them to be heard,” he said. “We’ve got to let them be heard and make alliances across France, Spain, Greece, wherever.”

Britons will vote in a referendum on June 23 on whether to quit the EU. Leaving would be a massive error, Loach believes.

“It’s a dangerous, dangerous moment,” he warned.

“On the one hand the EU is a neo liberal project, a drive towards privatization, a drive to deregulate the safeguards that are there for workers.

“On the other hand, if we leave we know the individual governments will be moving to the right as far as possible... putting the interests of big business to the fore. I mean, we are faced with a far-right government if we leave.

“I think on balance we fight it better from within, and we make alliances with other European left movements.”

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mark Trevelyan