Socialist Worker

May playing for time as Brexit rifts get deeper

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2638


May tries to take her mind off her Brexit mess on Monday night

May tries to take her mind off her Brexit mess on Monday night (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)

Theresa May declared on Monday that “it is clear that the government’s approach had to change” over Brexit. She then made clear that it is not going to change.

May has desperately tried to gain more time for her ramshackle government by putting off making any decisions.

Her Brexit deal suffered a ­shattering defeat of 432 to 202 votes last week—the highest government defeat in the Commons ever.

The ­government only survived a no confidence motion the ­following night by the votes of 325 MPs to 306.

After MPs voted down the deal, she was mandated by parliament to come up with a plan B within three days.

This turned out to be almost identical to plan A—except that MPs won’t have a “meaningful vote” on it for weeks.


May is putting forward what’s known in parliamentary jargon as a “neutral motion” on Tuesday of next week.

This means MPs will vote on a Brexit plan—but it won’t be binding.

May is heading back to beg the European Union’s (EU) rulers for changes to the deal. She vainly hopes to have something new for a “meaningful vote” in February.

But the EU has already said it won’t make any fundamental changes.

Tory and Labour Party MPs have piled in to add amendments to the deal. Voting on these amendments will widen the rifts within the Tory party over Brexit.

Home secretary Amber Rudd said dozens of ministers would resign unless Tory MPs were given a “free vote” on an amendment ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

This means the party leadership wouldn’t instruct MPs how to vote.Yet May had to say the government couldn’t rule out a no-deal Brexit for fear of resignations or revolt from right wing backbenchers.

The Tories are torn between the demands of big business and bigotry.

Their friends in the banks and big business are desperate to remain in the EU’s single market because it protects their wealth and privilege (see right).

They are also trying to chase right wing voters by appealing to racism and nationalism.

Millions of people are frustrated by the shambles in parliament, but Labour and union leaders aren’t mobilising against the Tories. This risks leaving working class people as spectators to a ruling class crisis.


Labour remains paralysed by its own Brexit divisions.

A Labour ­amendment would give MPs a vote on whether they think a second referendum—disingenuously dubbed a “People’s Vote”—is a good idea.

And Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer is now openly pushing for a second referendum in defiance of party policy.

But holding a second referendum would be dangerous and divisive.

The People’s Vote campaign is led by big business and Blairites who offer no solution to the problems working class people face.

The best response is to have more struggle, force a general election, drive out the Tories and their regime of austerity and racism.

It would also be to fight for a Brexit that works for workers and migrants, not the rich and racists.

Tories retreat over £65 fee for EU migrants

Theresa May has been forced to retreat over making European Union (EU) migrants pay to stay in Britain after Brexit.

The Tories were making migrants who already live in Britain pay a £65 fee to apply for “settled status” after Brexit.

Applying for the Settled Status Scheme would give migrants access to public services such as the NHS.

Now migrants won’t have to pay the fee—and those who have already paid will have their fee refunded.

There are still major problems with the scheme.

The 3 Million migrant campaign said, “Of the 69 EU citizens assisted through the Settled Status application by the Roma Support Group over one third hit technical difficulties or had to provide further evidence.

“In many cases the HMRC & DWP records wrongly stated that EU citizen applicants were only entitled to the lesser status of Pre-Settled Status.”

It went on to point out that “those who relied more on benefits were affected the most.”

Getting rid of the fee doesn’t make these problems go away.

EU citizens shouldn’t have to go through any processing—whether with a fee or not.

But the retreat shows the Tories’ weakness.

Bosses split over which deal best protects profit

The banks and big business are ramping up pressure on MPs to cobble together a deal that protects their interests.

Director general of the CBI bosses’ organisation Carolyn Fairbairn made clear it wanted cross party talks to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

She said, “While the government’s move to consult more widely is welcome, the fundamentals have not changed.

“There must be a new ­cross-party approach, where leaders compromise and find a path that safeguards the economy.”

By “economy” Fairbairn means bosses’ profits.

The CBI was willing to accept May’s Brexit deal as a compromise that committed to keeping the EU’s free market rules.

But now it can see that it won’t get through the Commons.

Sections of business are now pushing for a “Norway+ deal”.

This would mean staying within the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the EU plus Switzerland and Norway.

It would keep all of the neoliberal aspects of the EU.

The choices between Tory versions of “hard”, “soft” or no-deal Brexit are false choices for working class people.

The Brexit deal will always be bad as long as it is based on Tory policies that protect the super-rich and attack workers.

Say no to the neoliberal single market

The European Union (EU) is a bosses’ club that polices austerity across the continent.

The EU’s single market rules restrict left wing policies such as nationalisation.

Under these rules, a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government would only be allowed to nationalise individual rail companies for instance.

But it couldn’t nationalise the whole rail industry and run it as a public service. It would have to retain at least some form of private competition.

This would mean companies such as Northern rail could keep stuffing their wallets while running services into the ground.


And the overwhelming drive from the EU is to open up public services to private competition.

Labour’s talk of “renationalising” the whole of the NHS? Forget it while staying within the single market.

Unfortunately, some left wingers have lined up behind dumping freedom of movement after Brexit.

Immigration doesn’t undermine workers’ wages or put strain on public services—Tory cuts and greedy bosses are to blame.

We need stronger trade unions that unite people born here and migrant workers, not stronger immigration controls.

We say no to the single market and yes to freedom of movement.

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