Socialist Worker

Tories rip each other apart amid Brexit deal shambles

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2648

Theresa May

Theresa May (Pic: GovernmentZA)


How much worse can it get before the government collapses?

Michael Roth, Germany’s Europe minister, last weekend called Brexit a “big shitshow”. The Financial Times newspaper added, “Ironically, the same phrase is being used by members of Mrs May’s Downing Street team.”

Such figures are not thinking about the interests of ordinary people. They worry about “chaos” destabilising their serene profit-making system.

But their views underline the sense of crisis and collapse.

On Tuesday evening May deepened the Tories’ splits after she offered to work with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to come up with a compromise Brexit deal.

The move is a retreat towards a version of Brexit where Britain will not be able to make its own trade deals outside EU control and where many EU rules continue to apply.

It enraged the hard Brexiteers in her party. Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, said it was “very disappointing that the cabinet has decided to entrust the final handling of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the hardline European Research Group, accused May of trying to collaborate with “a known Marxist”.

Trap

The move was a sign of May’s weakness. But it is also a trap for Labour.

What deal endorsed by May and her cabinet could possibly represent a Brexit that meets the needs of working class people? A May-Corbyn compromise is not going to be an anti-austerity and anti-racist Brexit.

"National unity" has always been a cover for delivering the bosses' interests. So are these talks.

May has already said that any joint plan would have to endorse the 585-page exit treaty she has negotiated.

After a cabinet meeting lasting more than seven hours on Tuesday, May said she hoped to agree a new Brexit plan with Corbyn before next Wednesday’s emergency meeting of EU heads of government. At this meeting she intends to seek an extension to Britain’s current 12 April exit date.

Because there is potentially another delay to Britain leaving the EU, the government has said that preparations will begin for European Parliament elections.

If these go ahead, they will be a focus for the far right who will seek to harvest the anger from politicians’ failure to deliver Brexit. Anti-racists should prepare for major mobilisations.

If talks with Corbyn fail—which is very possible— May would disinter the rotting corpse of her Brexit deal that has been rejected three times by MPs.There would be a “run-off” vote in the House of Commons between her deal and other options.

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May's offer of talks with Corbyn follows months of manoeuvres that have led nowhere.

Her Brexit deal, hammered out after more than two years of tortuous negotiations, was rejected three times by MPs. On Monday MPs voted against all the alternative options to it.

A chasm divides the governing party. Chancellor Philip Hammond used one of his close aides to signal that he now backed a second referendum on Brexit. This is completely against May’s policy.

After the second referendum motion failed on Monday Tory MP Mark Francois told a BBC radio programme, “If you’re listening, Mr Hammond, my fraternal message to you is, ‘Up yours!’”

Whatever May does, she faces massive obstacles. 

Some government ministers believe May should abandon the attempt to get a deal and begin preparing for a no-deal exit. Last week 170 Tory MPs, including ten cabinet ministers, wrote to May insisting Britain must leave the European Union (EU) soon.

But that will cause a revolt and resignations among Tories who oppose no deal.

Recession

And behind them stand powerful interests. Sir Mark Sedwill, Britain’s highest ranking civil servant, wrote a 14-page letter to the cabinet outlining the consequences of a no-deal exit. It warned of a recession and a depreciation in the pound.

Much of this is ruling class scaremongering, and business and state bureaucrats will intensify their pressure to mould this crisis to their will.

Some Tories are rumoured to be pushing for a general election to break the deadlock. That would be hugely welcome.

It would give a chance to shift the agenda away from Brexit to austerity, racism and climate change, presently ignored and drowned out.

But most Tories are going to oppose a move towards their own potential demise.

The missing element is an independent working class intervention into the crisis. That is why the government has not collapsed.

It’s more urgent than ever.


Labour MPs tack to the right to attack freedom of movement

The Labour Party moved sharply to the right over Brexit this week.

On Monday party leaders told their MPs to vote for the “Common Market 2.0” deal.

This would keep all the worst aspects of the EU’s single market and customs union. It would entrench the EU’s pro-business and anti-nationalisation rules, while completely removing any ability to change these rules.

It was a huge concession to the corporations’ demands to vote through a Brexit that is as similar as possible to staying in the EU so they can continue to make their profits. Many Labour MPs refused to vote for this—25 voted against and 35 abstained.

But most of them did so for the poisonous reason that it might lead to maintaining workers’ freedom of movement.

Labour MP Kevin Barron tweeted a link to the Labour manifesto stating “free movement will end when we leave the European Union”. He added, “Small reminder of the manifesto that all Labour MPs were elected on in 2017. Clearly states that we will end freedom of movement when we leave the EU.”

Labour needs to be against a bosses’ Brexit, but for defending and extending freedom of movement.

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Labour also backed a “confirmatory referendum” on any Brexit deal. This could mean a vote between May’s deal or something similar and Remain. That would be an undemocratic farce, leaving millions of people with nothing to vote for.

Meanwhile Labour deputy leader Tom Watson increasingly acts as if he were Labour leader—and is allowed to get away with it.

Last Saturday he went as far as to suggest the solution to the Brexit crisis might be a “national government”.

In an interview Watson said, “I hope we never get to a point where our economy or security is so in peril that we get a government of national unity.”

He then added, “If needs must, we have to then do what’s right.”

And “close confidants” of Watson were quoted who claim pro-EU Tories have approached him about serving in such a government.

A national government would be a “save business” government that would continue to ram through austerity and racism.


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