Socialist Worker

Crunch time for Brexit deepens the Tory crisis

A crucial week for the Brexit process will further expose the deep divisions that lie at the heart of the Tory party

Issue No. 2626

Theresa May is on the edge of a Brexit precipice—even a small push could see her gone

Theresa May is on the edge of a Brexit precipice—even a small push could see her gone (Pic: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr)

Tory prime minister Theresa May pleaded for “cool, calm heads” as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit drew nearer.

Socialist Worker went to press before key developments this week, but further chaos is guaranteed.

May was preparing for a European Union (EU) rulers’ summit on Wednesday amid an accelerating crisis over the British border in Northern Ireland—and other problems. It could even precipitate the fall of May herself and open the road to a general election.

The Tory government is desperate to avoid a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland with checkpoints and other physical barriers after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. The EU and the Irish government want the same.


Yet the Tories and EU have not been able to thrash out an agreement—and they can’t even agree on a “back stop” to keep an open border in Ireland.

Under May’s plan Britain will remain aligned with the EU’s neoliberal single market and customs union after Brexit. She accepted a “back stop” of extending this transition period beyond 2020 for Northern Ireland.

But the EU’s rulers opposed this proposal because it’s time-limited. And May faced a backlash from right wing Brexiteer backbenchers who want a “hard Brexit” without any long-term transition period.

The EU’s proposed “backstop” would see Northern Ireland remain aligned with the customs union after Britain’s transition period ends.

May hit back that the Tories would never support a Brexit deal that “threatens the integrity of the British state”.

She is reliant on the sectarian bigots of the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up her government in parliament.

Its ten MPs have already threatened to vote down the budget and “paralyse” the government if they’re unhappy with the Brexit deal.

The Tories, the EU and the Irish government have all said they could wait until December to find a solution. But time is running out—and that doesn’t guarantee May will get her deal through the Commons.


May held another emergency cabinet meeting on Tuesday in a desperate bid to muster support ahead of the summit on Wednesday.

The previous night a group of right wing Brexiteer ministers met to discuss the way forward.

Labour has said it will focus on demanding a general election.

But it has still left open the possibility of lining up behind big business calls for a second referendum to stay in the racist, neoliberal EU.

The left should exploit the Tories’ divisions to boot them out of office and put forward a socialist and anti-racist vision of Brexit.

That means solving the Irish conundrum by holding a vote across the whole of the island on unification. And it means saying, “Yes to free movement” for migrants and, “No to the single market”.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.