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Defend free movement—not the single market

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Issue 2532
Anti-racists marched in Glasgow last Saturday. Socialists have to defend freedom of movement for migrants
Anti-racists marched in Glasgow last Saturday. Socialists have to defend freedom of movement for migrants (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Theresa May’s Tory government wants to “have its cake and eat it” in Brexit negotiations—but that’s not going to happen. The revelation about the government’s strategy came this week from photographed notes carried by MP Mark Field’s aide.

They highlight the deep problems facing the Tories.

Field is Tory party vice chair for international affairs. Most troublingly for them, the document admits, “We think it’s unlikely we’ll be offered the single market”. As the MP representing the City of London bosses, Field knows all too well the demands of the banks and big business.

The majority of bosses opposed leaving the European Union (EU)—now they demand access to the EU single market.

But the Tories are also chasing after racist votes, and are determined to deliver fresh attacks against migrants’ rights and the freedom of movement.

They also know that there’s a deep-seated anger against those at the top of society.

May has been quick to promise business a shopping list of financial sweeteners if Britain does leave the single market. Unfortunately, Labour’s left wing leadership has also courted business and promised to defend access to the single market.


Socialists should instead expose the single market’s rules that clear the ground for the bosses—and rule out a genuine welfare state, let alone socialist measures.

At the same time, many Labour figures are making dangerous concessions on freedom of movement for migrants.

While immigration was a factor in the Leave vote, racism against migrants was not the central driving force. As Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said at the time, it was a “cry of rage against the Westminster elite”.

The government is appealing against a Supreme Court decision that MPs must vote before Article 50 can be moved to trigger the Brexit negotiations.

The court will rule on Monday.

Now the danger is that opposition to what the Tories plan will fuse around a neoliberal defence of the single market.

Guardian newspaper columnist Polly Toynbee pondered a second referendum—then said MPs should decide because people can’t be trusted. Green MP Caroline Lucas, who is supporting the Lib Dems in the Richmond by-election, also outrageously said she would block Brexit.

For Labour and most socialists to line up with David Cameron, the bosses and the EU was a tragedy that allowed the right to shape the debate.

To now side with the single market would allow the right to capitalise on anger at the establishment.

Socialists must seize on Tory divisions to put forward a socialist, anti-racist vision of Brexit.

We say “no to the single market—yes to freedom of movement”.

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