The Daily Express newspaper declared it was Theresa May’s “finest hour” as she defended her Chequers deal on Brexit last weekend.
By Monday it was checkmate for the prime minister.
Whatever the outcome of Tory infighting, she has run out of room to outmanoeuvre her enemies.
A majority of senior ministers were reported on Monday to back a “Canada+” alternative to the Chequers plan. This came on top of mounting pressure from right wing Brexiteers on the back benches.
And it’s not just the home front May has to worry about. Her Chequers proposals were savaged at the Salzburg summit by the rulers of the racist, neoliberal EU last week.
Without the support of her cabinet, May will find it hard to put the Chequers deal to MPs before Britain leaves the European Union (EU) in March. If MPs voted against her proposals, she could face a general election.
The left should seize on these divisions to boot out the whole Tory regime of austerity and racism.
That requires upping resistance in workplaces and the streets now, not waiting for the next general election in the hope of a Labour government. And that movement must unite working class people who backed both Remain and Leave. But the left and labour movement can’t avoid taking an attitude towards Brexit itself.
The substance of the row between a Chequers or Canada+ deals are born out of a row within the Tory party.
Brexit has torn the Tories between two sources of their support—big business and bigotry.
The banks and big business are desperate to remain in the EU’s single market because it protects their profits. But the Tories tried to make a play for right wing voters by promising to dump freedom of movement for EU migrants.
The options of a “soft Brexit” vs a “hard Brexit”, a deal or no-deal Brexit are false choices for working class people. So long as the Tories remain in office, all of these options will be based on austerity and racism.
The Chequers deal seeks to maintain the free market policies that are hardwired into the EU’s single market. These include competition rules that block the nationalisation of whole industries or running them as public services.
Tory planning documents for a no-deal Brexit have made clear they would still seek to keep the rules.
A Canada+ deal would break from the single market but—as May has repeatedly pointed out—it would mean checks at Britain’s borders.
Big business is enraged at such costly obstacles. And such a deal also offers no solution to the question of the Irish border after Brexit.
Meanwhile, the various alternatives being proposed by the Brexiteers are no better. Former minister Boris Johnson and David Davis’ alternative plan was cooked up by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank.
The IEA was a leading supporter of Margaret Thatcher. It pushes for slashing workers’ rights and health and safety regulations, trashing the environment and selling off public services for profit.
Outrage at the reactionaries leading the charge for Brexit has led sections of the left to back calls for a People’s Vote. Some of its supporters want to defend free movement, fight the far right and stop big business profiting more from public services.
But those leading the People’s Vote campaign are right wing liberals who defend the rotten status quo.
We can’t allow opposition to the Tories to come together behind a defence of the establishment. And we have to argue against the patronising and dangerous idea that most working class people who voted Leave are racist.
A recent nationwide survey ranked towns according to attitudes towards immigration. One of the most non-racist places was Leave-voting, working class Wolverhampton.
Lining up behind calls for a People’s Vote would mean saying the left and anti-racists had nothing to say to them.
There is an alternative that cuts across the Leave/Remain divide with class politics. That means fighting for a left wing, anti-racist vision of Brexit that’s in the interests of working class people.