Hard-Brexiteers in disarray – but so is Labour

December 20, 2017 at 2:54 pm (Anti-Racism, Brexit, Daily Mail, Europe, internationalism, labour party, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, Tory scum)

Mail and Express

By Martin Thomas (this article also appears on the Workers Liberty website):

In mid-December, Theresa May agreed to keep British economic regulations “aligned” with the EU, thus opening the way to talks on a transition period and a Brexit trade deal. And rebellious Tory MPs defeated the Government in the House of Commons, to limit the Government’s ability to legislate by decree over Brexit.

The hard-Brexit press, the Mail and the Express, backed the “alignment” deal, but were furious at the Tory rebel MPs. On 9 December the Mail‘s headline was: “Rejoice! We’re On Our Way”, and the Express had: “Huge Brexit Boost At Last”.

On 14 December the Mail‘s front page accused the Tory rebel MPs of “betraying their leader, party and 17.4 million Brexit voters” and opening the way to “a Marxist in no.10”. The Express said: “Outrageous! Rebellion by 11 stubborn MPs threatens Brexit chaos”.

The hard-Brexiters are in disarray.

In 2016 Brexiters claimed that their choice was democratic because it would “take back control” of British affairs from the EU authorities. Now they assent to Britain being “aligned” with EU regulations in which, after Brexit, it has no say, but rage against Parliament saying that the Government cannot use the June 2016 referendum result as a mandate for autocratic powers to do what it likes.

The EU Single Market is a system of “regulatory alignment” within the EU to ease trade. No more, no less. If Northern Ireland remains sufficiently “aligned” with the EU to allow everyday free movement across the border within Ireland, and also “aligned” with Britain, then Britain must remain “aligned” with the EU.

Norway and Switzerland opt out of some Single Market provisions (on fisheries for Norway, for example), but in return comply with the rest, in bulk, without having any say in them. “Alignment” means Britain being either a Single Market member, or an associate of the same sort as Switzerland or Norway.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s talk of Britain being in “a single market” with the EU, but not “the Single Market”, is obfuscatory.

In contemporary neoliberal capitalism – which, despite what its champions say, is a regime crammed with regulations and codes and box-ticking – easy trade involving rapid movement of relatively small items requires agreement over regulations. If you want to trade with the EU, with EU regulations.

A British government could change the Single Market from the inside, but it can’t change the structure from the outside into a different single market.

Before June 2016 Brexiters talked of making many new trade deals which would allow a Britain outside the EU wider world trade. There is no movement on that front. The chances of a big deal to speed trade between Britain and the USA (by far the UK’s leading export destination after the EU) are slight in the era of Trump.

So the Tory government, pushed on, no doubt, by big-business lobbyists who want the trade routes open, is edging crabwise towards some sort of “soft” Brexit. The explicit hard-Brexiters are on the back foot.

Even Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the few right-wing Tories who openly criticised the “alignment” agreement, is reconciled to May’s way. He said on 17 December: “She has to stay until Brexit is completed”.

In some ways all this is to our advantage. It means that the Tories are constrained to deflate, bit by bit, the hopes of those who really expected good things from Brexit. The evidence is that most Brexit voters didn’t really expect good from Brexit, but rather voted to express “identity” and “values” and hostility to immigration; still, those who did expect good face discredit and demoralisation.

The Tories will still be avid to limit the rights of people wanting to move from EU countries to Britain, but are likely to settle for much looser limits than Ukip types would want.

All such advantages could however prove slight or entirely illusory. Mishaps and crises in the Brexit talks, causing higher barriers than any rational capitalist calculation wants, remain likely.

Needed, in order to give substance and sticking-power to the advantages, is a solid positive campaign for free movement, for keeping borders low and easy, for solidarity and social levelling-up across Europe – and, in fact, to give people the democratic right to a second verdict on Brexit when the shape of any deal emerges. Labour should be waging that campaign.

Instead, it is still equivocating. On 17 December, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who spoke up occasionally for free movement in the months after the 2016 referendum, and had said in a constituency newsletter that the electorate should have the right to vote on a final deal, backtracked and said: “The Labour party does not support a second referendum”.

John McDonnell is taking refuge in obfuscation about “a” single market and “the” single market. Labour still rules out continuing free movement, though front-bench Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer has talked vaguely of “easy movement”.

All that must be turned round. Support the Labour Campaign for Free Movement!

4 Comments

  1. rotzeichen said,

    Labour are not in disarray over Brexit, their stated aim is to leave the EU but to get the best possible arrangements so that we can trade where possible between the two without creating unnecessary damage to either.

    What anti Labour voices are saying is that the Labour party who are not at present at the negotiating table should spell out in detail that to which they are not privy to at the table.

    In other words, the Tories are doing the negotiating not Labour so they can’t as much as they would like to, influence anything other than opportunities that present themselves in Parliament. Which they are doing with some success.

    Once again I have to refer to this sites anti Labour stance which appears to want to link absurd claims on Labour which as the opposition has only limited ability to effect.

    It is the Tories who are deliberately ballsing the negotiations up, which this site is letting them off the hook for by deliberately attacking the Labour Party.

    We are coming out of Europe, like it or lump it that is the stated facts.

    If Labour were in office we would have a much more open debate about the real negotiations taking place, but can’t because the devious Tories are playing Ducks and Drakes with the public; so that no one knows what is being genuinely discussed, the reason they are doing this is patently obvious to serious onlookers, who see them performing negotiating somersaults, saying one thing one minute then reversing it via another the next. Can you imagine going to negotiate without so much as a document outlining your position in front of you as the Tories did?

    Clearly this site is promoting the Tories for some inexplicable reason as they are happy attacking the Labour Party over something Labour has little or no control over.

    IT’S THE TORIES WHO ARE NEGOTIATING NOT LABOUR. WHY NOT CHALLENGE THEM INSTEAD OF LETTING THEM OFF THE HOOK.

    • Jim Denham, said,

      Socialists take a view on things, in or out of government. Then leadership’s present stance is a cop-out.

      By the way, “We are coming out of Europe, like it or lump it that is the stated facts”: “stated facts” from May and the Tories, yes!

      Your stupidity, rotters, is proven by this: “Clearly this site is promoting the Tories for some inexplicable reason”; no rational person, whatever their disagreements with us, could seriously believe that statement. You really are a bit thick, aren’t you?

    • Maybot rebooted said,

      Or:

      disarray all round

      both parties are trying to square the circle of leaving the EU while getting the best deal [ie, staying in the EU: every iteration of a good deal is basically:stay in the EU but dont get a vote].

      • rotzeichen said,

        That may be your view, or should I say the view of a lot of people who think we can believe one side or the other.

        In fact I voted remain because this whole debate is a total distraction from what this government is doing, whilst we pontificate on lots of unknowns, the Tories are busy dismantling our state, just as they are doing in Europe, the Germans are privatising their motorways as we speak, do you think that’s a good idea and what can we do about that?

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