Bankers and bosses are piling pressure on Tory MPs to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, spoke to the annual conference of the bosses’ organisation on Monday. “The prime minister’s agreement is not perfect,” she said. “It is a compromise, but it is hard-won progress.”
Big business breathed a sigh of relief when the European Union (EU) Withdrawal Agreement was published last week.
The deal includes a transition period that would bind Britain to EU single market rules until 2021. These rules include regulations on competition and state aid that protect bosses’ profits.
But now bosses fear a no-deal Brexit is becoming a real possibility.
Analysts from City Group bank said the political situation amounted to a “full-blown constitutional crisis”.
The share prices of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds fell by more than 10 percent in a day and a half.
Europe has split the Tories for decades.
There were different positions over joining the Common Market in the 1970s, and over the Maastricht Treaty in the 1990s.
Now Brexit has brought serious fissures between the Tory party and business to the fore.
One banker said, “Politics is always going to be in the driving seat in this process, but now it is swerving all over the road.”
Bankers and bosses want to remain in the neoliberal EU’s single market and customs union because it protects their profits.
For instance, EU rules wouldn’t allow a Labour government to nationalise the whole rail industry and run it as a public service.
Instead it would only be allowed to nationalise individual rail firms—as long as they continued to compete alongside other ones.
EU rules also block policies that are seen to give state-owned companies an advantage over private ones. And the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has the power to levy financial penalties against governments and overturn laws.
These rules would apply during the transition period and the ECJ would still have power to intervene against policies the EU’s rulers and bosses didn’t like.
Any disputes would be overseen by a “Joint Committee” of British and EU officials during the transition period. And the EU would still have some power afterwards.
Bosses want assurances that Britain will keep free market rules and access to European markets on its statute books after a transition period.
And large sections of business also fear Brexit will make it more difficult to hire migrant labour.
Yet May has also tried to win over racist, right wing voters by promising to dump freedom of movement for EU migrants. This has split the Tory cabinet and backbenches.
Vile reactionaries such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson are jockeying for position by screaming betrayal when May has leaned towards the demands of big business.
May has also been hemmed in by EU rulers who are determined to make an example of countries that try to leave their club.
The Tory deal has not resolved the divisions within the Tory party or the wider crisis facing the ruling class that the Leave vote unleashed.
Bosses will now try to force MPs into looking after their interests, but they still see the deal as a compromise.
Some US banks are pushing for Britain to remain in the European Economic Area, which would mean keeping all of the single market’s free market rules.
And right wing Tory backbenchers will use the opportunity to argue that May is betraying Brexit.
The solution isn’t to line up behind any of these rival sections of the ruling class.
The answer is to use their crisis to fight for a Brexit in the interests of workers and migrants—and to force the Tories out.