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The single market is no solution for workers

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Issue 2537

Theresa May’s programme for Brexit is steeped in toxic nationalism and xenophobia. But nostalgia for the European Union (EU) is no solution—and neither is clinging to the single market.

These represent an internationalism of the most phony kind, the internationalism of bosses.

The people at the top of countries enriched by colonialism band together to rip off the rest of the world—and exploit those at the bottom.

The EU claimed to have brought peace, yet it has spearheaded the build-up of Nato in eastern Europe and backed Israeli oppression in the Middle East.

It claimed to be about the free movement of people. Yet it continues to build up a “Fortress Europe” of border controls that is directly responsible for the drowning of 5,000 refugees last year alone.

The single market was set up by the bosses for the bosses.

Theresa May

Theresa May (Pic: Number_10/flickr)

It bans many reforms that would threaten companies’ profits.

Renationalising the railways or taking back the NHS from its privatisers would require a break from the single market.

Its rules have even been used to fine trade unions for striking—and are the hope of Southern rail bosses as they try to outlaw the current strikes.


The single market follows the same logic as the TTIP treaty that the trade union movement across Europe rightly opposed.

Yet union leaders are lining up to defend it.

For example, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “If we leave the single market, working people will end up paying the price. It’d be bad for jobs, for work rights and for our living standards.”

Such a view is based on the fallacy that different classes have a common interest.

Bosses say that anything that’s bad for profits is bad for jobs. They say it about having to pay their taxes or the minimum wage. They say it about any remotely effective strikes.

But letting them get their way won’t stop them making layoffs if they decide it’s good for business. There’s no shortcut to building resistance.

There is an alternative to May’s racist nationalism and the bosses’ single market.

It is to fight for a Brexit that is based on working class demands.

These can be defending the NHS, abolishing anti-union laws and pushing for a £10 an hour minimum wage.

They must include defending and extending the rights of migrants and refugees as well as EU nationals living here, and full support for freedom of movement.

And they should defend our rights, demand tough action on climate change, a new referendum on Scottish independence, and solidarity with workers across the world.

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