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Tories split on Brussels—it’s time to sprout resistance

This article is over 7 years, 2 months old
Issue 2534
Tory chancellor Philip Hammond

Tory chancellor Philip Hammond (Pic: UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

One thing will be certain in 2017—the Tories will continue to tear one another apart over Brexit.

This week chancellor Philip Hammond said there was an “emerging view” that Britain might need more than two years to leave the European Union (EU). This is the period allowed under the EU’s Article 50.

This could mean a “transitional deal” that would continue with the present set-up while trade and immigration deals are painfully negotiated.

Meanwhile, Brexit secretary David Davis told a private meeting in the City of London that he was “not really interested” in any such transitional deal.

Theresa May would like a transitional deal that goes on forever. The final agreement will enrage one or other crucial section of the Tory base.

Big business demands that Britain stays in the single market, whose rules enforce a neoliberal straitjacket.

EU leaders have made it clear that to stay in the single market Britain must retain the highly limited free movement of workers. But many Tory MPs, and a large section of their voters, are obsessed with restricting immigration.


This contradiction will dog the Tories for the next two years and beyond. At some point it could bring down May’s government.

But Labour is also divided over Brexit.

Most Labour MPs voted last week to support triggering Article 50 by April 2017. But 23 Labour MPs voted against because they feared the effect on business.

And on Tuesday, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer also backed the single market.

As the Tories flounder, we need a clear alternative to racism and business priorities.

We need a Brexit based on extended free movement and a break from the single market and all austerity policies.

The political and economic turmoil that marked 2016 is not going away.

We need to redouble our efforts to build a mass anti-racist movement in Britain and to fight austerity.

In particular we need a stronger defence of the NHS. On 4 March there is a major demonstration to defend the NHS in London.

And every activist should be on the streets of London or Glasgow on 18 March for the Stand Up To Racism demonstrations. They are backed by the TUC and many trade unions.

We need to march against the scapegoating and Islamophobia pumped out by politicians and the press.

A working class divided by racism will be hugely weakened in the battle to beat austerity.

The Tories are split—it’s time to seize the chance to beat them back.

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