By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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Pressure to reach Brexit deal adds to huge crisis for Boris Johnson

This article is over 4 years, 8 months old
Issue 2676
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson last week
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson last week (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)

Boris Johnson this week faces one of the biggest crises of his ­government.

On Saturday a highly unusual weekend session of parliament is set to debate the latest Brexit position. Johnson plans to meet European Union (EU) rulers just days earlier.

Tory and EU negotiators were involved in “crunch talks” before the two-day summit began. They have to come up with a new withdrawal agreement if Britain is to leave the EU with a deal on 31 October.

Johnson has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than not leave the EU on 31 October—with or ­without a deal.

But the “Benn Act” mandates the government to ask for an extension if there isn’t a deal.

And big business—whose interests the Tories are supposed to represent—wants to remain inside the neoliberal EU or leave the present structures hardly changed.

But if Johnson buckles to EU ­pressure, he risks being swallowed up by Nigel Farage’s right wing Brexit Party.

One of the biggest sticking points between Britain and the EU remains the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The dispute revolves around how to avoid a “hard border”—with physical barriers and border checks—after Brexit.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal involved Britain staying in the EU’s single market and customs union for a two-year transition period after Brexit.


This would have ­supposedly provided time to negotiate a new trade ­agreement. But the deal ­introduced a “backstop” to avoid a hard border if a trade deal wasn’t signed by the end of the transition.

A coalition of right wing Tory backbenchers and the loyalist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) scuppered the plan. They said it would separate the British state from its imperial possession in Northern Ireland.

Johnson and Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar last Sunday said there was now a ­“pathway” to a deal.

One possible alternative would see Britain enforce EU customs rules on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland. And the DUP and the republican Sinn Fein would have a veto over extending any arrangements.

Tory cabinet member Jacob ­Rees-Mogg, who branded a similar proposal by May “cretinous”, said he might have to “eat my words”.

But the EU chief negotiator, French conservative politician Michel Barnier, poured cold water over the plans. He said the proposals were an “untested” arrangement, meaning a deal couldn’t be ­hammered out by 31 October.

Any version of Brexit that is based on Tory policies will be bad for ­working class people. And the EU—with its own regime of free markets and racist borders—offers no alternative.

Labour and the union leaders should seize on Johnson’s crisis to drive the Tories out.

A second referendum would split opposition to the Tories

Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to join a “People’s Vote” march in central London on Saturday.

The march is calling for a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU).

It will likely attract many people who hate the Tories, oppose a trade deal with Donald Trump, and want to defend migrants.

But the leadership of the People’s Vote campaign is dominated by right wing liberals who offer no solution to problems facing ordinary people.

They include Remain-supporting Tories who have backed austerity and racism.

And some Remain politicians have said they would restrict freedom of movement for migrants.

The People’s Vote campaign acts as a front for corporate interests.

The real division shouldn’t be between Leave and Remain voters. It should be between those who want more attacks on workers, the poor and migrants—and those who want to fight austerity and racism.

A second referendum would reinforce Brexit as the main line of division in every workplace, campus and neighbourhood.

This would make it harder to mount a united fightback against Johnson, the Tories and their rotten policies.

The best response is to unite Remain and Leave supporting working class people in a fight to kick out the Tories, and to advance class issues.

A left wing and anti-racist version of Brexit would say yes to freedom of movement and no to the single market.

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