By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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May and the Labour right defend the big bosses’ EU

This article is over 3 years, 8 months old
Issue 2603
Theresa May is facing mounting pressure
Theresa May is facing mounting pressure (Pic: Number 10/Public Domain)

Embattled prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans continue to unravel amid renewed Tory divisions and the European Union (EU) rulers’ bullishness.

From one flank she faces a revolt from some Tory MPs who oppose her proposals for a “customs partnership with the EU after Brexit.

This would allow British bosses to sell products in Europe, but maintains tariffs on goods from the rest of the world.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has branded her plans “crazy”. And the Tory-supporting Sun newspaper fantasised about defeating the “Europhile backbenchers” trying to “twist the prime minister’s arm”.

But pressure is mounting from other Tories and Labour right wingers who want to go further and remain in the European single market.

May faced defeats in the House of Lords with amendments on her approach to the single market debated as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday.

A Lords vote in favour of remaining in the customs union last month saw former Tory ministers opposing the government.

A fundamental contradiction lies behind these Tory divisions.

The Tories have tried to pull people’s anger against the establishment in a right wing, racist direction by scapegoating migrants.

To win back Ukip voters May dressed up the Tories as the party of Brexit and promised to dump freedom of movement for EU migrants.


But the Tories’ friends in the City of London and big business want to remain in the single market. They want as few barriers to their trade and profits as possible.

The Tories stuck together after their shattering blow at the general election. But May keeps running up against the EU rulers’ refusal to budge.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has branded the customs partnership plan as “magical thinking”.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is also under pressure to back the single market from the right within his party.

Right wing MP Chuka Umunna claimed it would “go against Labour’s progressive values” not to back the single market. This is nonsense—and would damage any future Labour government’s ability to push through left wing reforms.

The single market’s rules ban socialist policies such as wholesale nationalisation of industries or services.

The Sunday Times newspaper said that European officials want Britain to sign up to free market rules now to tie the hands of a potential Corbyn government.

Some left wingers and anti-racists wrongly argue that fighting against the Tories’ racist assault on migrants means staying in the single market.

But the likes of Umunna have argued that it’s possible to restrict freedom of movement within the single market.

And the Windrush scandal has shown that the problem of racism is about more than migrants who have come from within EU.

We should use the Tories’ divisions to fight for a socialist and anti-racist vision of Brexit.

That means rejecting the EU’s single market—and fighting to defend and extend freedom of movement.

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