In what she probably regards as a great achievement, Theresa May has made it through to parliament’s summer break.
She avoided both a vote of no confidence from fellow Tories and defeats by MPs.
True, this was possible only by dumping essential elements of her own tortuously-constructed white paper.
It also meant cheating over the “pairing” arrangements for Commons votes, persuading a handful of Labour MPs to back her and wilfully ignoring inconvenient questions such as the Irish border. But she survived.
The only problem remaining now is that what has emerged will be unacceptable to the people she has to negotiate with—the 27 other European Union (EU) countries.
“I am not negotiating, of course, on the basis of the white paper,” said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
The EU will bully and squeeze the British government and demand further concessions.
It cannot allow the idea to spread that it is easy or profitable to leave the EU because that would put other governments under pressure to depart.
Big business will command May to do whatever is necessary to secure the best environment for making money. And she will be tempted to obey.
As the Financial Times newspaper notes, the negotiations to date show that, “The EU holds the highest cards. On every issue of substance, the UK has folded.”
Turmoil is guaranteed. The issue is whether the working class will gain from it.
But if May does concede, then the 70 or more MPs in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group will step up cries of betrayal and block a deal in parliament. Such forces will use the Tory conference to harass May and demand more. And it will all be entwined with endless speculation about a looming leadership contest.
As so often, May has avoided a defeat, but created the conditions for her party’s catastrophe and splits more fundamental than anything for decades.
Turmoil is guaranteed. The issue is whether the working class will gain from it. Ukip and the far right hope to benefit from the Brexit chaos—they must be stopped.
But the opposition to the Tories over Brexit cannot be left to those who do so on the basis of support for the neoliberal, racist EU.
They plan a major protest at the Tory conference in Birmingham in September.
But we need a break both from the EU and the Tories’ appalling version of Brexit.
That’s why it is very important that the Midlands TUC has called a demonstration at the Tory conference. Everyone who is against racism and austerity—whatever their view on Brexit—should be on it.