Socialist Worker

Theresa May calms rebels but can’t please big business

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2594

All seemed calm after May left the press conference at Mansion House—but the divisions have already re-emerged

All seemed calm after May left the press conference at Mansion House—but the divisions have already re-emerged (Pic: Flickr/Number 10)

Theresa May managed to unite her ramshackle government last week—for at least 24 hours.

A speech about Brexit last Friday came after weeks of planning and “bonding sessions” at an away day last month.

The result was no less painful for a Tory government divided in the face of the European Union’s (EU) bullish rulers.

All seemed calm after May left the press conference following the speech. Even Jacob Rees-Mogg, would-be leader of a right wing Brexiteers’ revolt, said that “now is not the time to nitpick”.

But the divisions will soon re-emerge.

May had called for “pragmatic alignment of our regulations” with the EU after Britain left the single market and customs union.

It was an attempt to fudge differences between Tories who are torn between bigotry and big business.

She also wanted no “hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

But EU representatives said her solutions for the border were “magical thinking”. Her admission that British firms would lose some access to EU markets because of Brexit will anger big business and the banks.


The Tories want to deflect people’s anger at austerity by whipping up racism and promising to end freedom of movement after Britain leaves the EU.

But their friends in the City of London and in multinationals’ boardrooms want to remain in the single market.

May’s vision of Brexit will keep all the worst aspects of the EU—which is pro-privatisation, and against nationalisation and limits on companies.

She boasted about how Britain “drove much of the policy in this area” under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

“We may choose to commit some areas of our regulations like state aid and competition to remaining in step with the EU’s,” she said.

“We have much to gain from maintaining proper disciplines on the use of subsidies and on anti-competitive practices.”

For a Brexit from Ireland
For a Brexit from Ireland
  Read More

Under single market rules governments can nationalise companies, but they can’t nationalise whole industries.

And they have to give hefty compensation packages to fat cat bosses, instead of just taking their firms off them.

So a Labour government would be able to take back some private rail franchises and set up a publicly owned company.

But it would still have to compete alongside the likes of Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains.

Recently Jeremy Corbyn has said a Labour Brexit would help to “stop the tide of privatisation and outsourcing”. That means ruling out membership of the single market and confronting the right wingers who want to back it.

The left has to use the Tories’ troubles to fight for a socialist and anti-racist Brexit—that means defending freedom of movement and rejecting the single market.

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