Socialist Worker

Labour’s position on the EU bends to the will of the right

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2672

Is siding with Remain really a winning strategy for Labour?

Is siding with Remain really a winning strategy for Labour? (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Labour Party conference, beginning on Sunday, looks set to be dominated by debates over whether to back remaining in the racist and neoliberal European Union (EU).

Leading Labour Party MPs including the right wing deputy leader Tom Watson want Labour to back Remain. Left wing shadow ministers John McDonnell and Diane Abbott have also said they would campaign for Remain in any new Brexit referendum.

Labour’s current position is to support a referendum on any Brexit deal, with options to support a “credible” plan to leave the EU, and to remain.

This would presumably apply to a Brexit deal negotiated by Labour—meaning McDonnell and Abbott could end up campaigning against their own government.

Now a motion to Labour conference proposes that the party should “campaign energetically” for Remain.

It even suggests that a Labour government could halt Brexit without a referendum to stop Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

The motion to Labour conference was written and ­promoted by the campaign group Another Europe Is Possible (AEIP), which considers itself left wing. AEIP claims that 90 motions submitted to conference by constituency parties are on Brexit, and that 81 of them specifically want Labour to back Remain.

It means that some form of Brexit motion is likely to be heard at the conference.

Attempts to make Labour back Remain will likely be opposed by some trade union delegates, including the powerful Unite union.

But groups such as AEIP believe they have united left wing party members with right wing MPs behind a ­supposedly progressive demand to Remain.

Yet Labour MPs have completely different reasons for backing Remain to Labour members who see it as essential to opposing the Tories’ racism and austerity.

A radical Labour can win a general election
A radical Labour can win a general election
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The right support the EU because of its pro-business, pro-austerity, anti-migrant policies. They’re against attempts to “reform” the EU—and they’re the ones who set the agenda if Labour backs Remain.

At last year’s conference, Labour agreed a fudged position that kept backing a referendum as an option “on the table,” but preferred a ­general election. That gave the right enough space to push Jeremy Corbyn into supporting a referendum over an election.

It’s allowed Watson to demand a referendum instead of an election.

The pressure on Corbyn over the EU led him to pass up the chance to get rid of the Tories—taking the impetus out of protests against Boris Johnson.

Instead Labour has followed a strategy in parliament little different to what it would have been if Corbyn hadn’t won the leadership election in 2015.

Backing Remain would not only strengthen the hand of the Labour right.

It would also allow Johnson and the racists of the Brexit Party to say Labour has betrayed the ordinary people who voted Brexit to hit back at the establishment.

Labour can win a general election—but it won’t do that if it excludes Leave voters and drops its radicalism.

It needs to return to the radical message of the 2017 general election that nearly beat the Tories—not put backing the EU above anti-austerity, anti-racist class politics.

EU is for the capitalists

The motion submitted by Another Europe is Possible claims the European Union (EU) can be “transformed” to challenge capitalism.

“Capitalism is transnational. We need transnational institutions and workers’ movements to challenge it,” it says.

“We will build cross?border alliances to transform Europe with socialist policies.”

But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt is more honest about what the EU is—a block of capitalist countries protecting their interests in competition with others across the World.

“The world of tomorrow is a world of empires,” he told last week’s Lib Dem conference, to great applause. “We Europeans, and you British, can only defend your interests, your way of life, by doing it together, in a European framework and in the European Union.”

Verhofstadt shows that another EU isn’t possible.

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