Socialist Worker

May’s Brexit deal has her government on the ropes

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2634

Angela Merkel (right) wont be able to save May

Angela Merkel (right) won't be able to save May (Pic: PA)

The Tories are on the ropes. Determined resistance could finish them off.

Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence from Tory MPs this evening, which could trigger a vote on her leadership.

If May lost it she would not be able to stand in the subsequent leadership contest. This could run through the Christmas recess.

May postponed a “meaningful vote” on her “final” Brexit deal in the face of a likely rebellion of over 100 Tory MPs.

If the vote had gone ahead, and she had inevitably lost, it was likely Labour would have initiated a vote of no confidence.

Now the government is focused on 21 January as the next stop in the Tories’ Brexit cavalcade of chaos. This is the final deadline for a vote on a deal.

After her humiliating retreat from the vote, May flew across Europe desperately seeking concessions from European leaders to stitch onto her deal.

She looked for guarantees that Britain can pull out of the so-called Irish backstop without EU confirmation. The backstop is a temporary customs arrangement which prevents a hard border in Ireland.

But EU president Jean-Claude Juncker poured cold water on that idea. “The deal we have achieved is the best deal possible. It’s the only deal possible,” he said.

French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau said the current deal was “the only possible agreement”.


May’s strategy has been to postpone decisive confrontations. But she could not avoid the reality that MPs from both sides of her party were opposed to her deal.

As one Tory MP put it, “Being in government is about making decisions. But all our options are shit so we keep making shit decision after shit decision, in the hope that it’s less shit than the alternative.”

The debate is being conducted by two rival wings of the ruling class. The need for an alternative is crucial—what’s largely missing from the debate is the impact on working class people.

When Labour MP Richard Burgon tried to talk about this on the BBC Newsnight programme he was sneered at by pro-Remain Tory Anna Soubry.

Pro-European figures such as Soubry, or Labour’s Chuka Umunna, don’t care about the impact of any outcome on ordinary people.

They are perfectly willing to sign away freedom of movement, human rights or anything else in order to protect bosses’ interests.

Labour is gradually moving towards a call for a second referendum. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said that if May’s deal is voted down a so-called “People’s Vote” will be inevitable.

Resistance to the Tory vision of Brexit can’t mean supporting a new referendum. It must mean putting forward an alternative vision of Brexit and of society where ordinary people’s interests are put before those of the bosses.

Membership of the EU is incompatible with such a vision. We must fight for an anti-racist, anti-austerity Brexit.

That must be coupled with active campaigns on issues such as Universal Credit, the NHS and against racism.

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