Thursday, 1 March 2018

May Crucified By Her Own Bad Faith

It's not a good look for Theresa May, the daughter of a vicar, to be racked and contorted, by her continual dissembling and bad faith, as she tries to hold her divided party together, reconciling the irreconcilable over Brexit. The EU tried to help her out before Christmas, as her government looked to be on the rocks, and undermined by the Brextremists over trying to reconcile the impossible contradictions they had brought upon themselves over the Irish border. The EU threw her a bone, so as to be able to beat down the rabid dogs on her back benches, and give her time to rally around her the pro-Remain forces. But, as I pointed out back then, May repaid them, instead, by capitulating once more to the Brextremists at the earliest possible opportunity, redefining the agreed “full regulatory alignment” as instead “regulatory divergence”

As I pointed out, back in December, 

“Having already effectively committed to keeping Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and Single Market, and to thereby accepting the role of the ECJ, she was now forced to commit to keeping the whole of the UK in the Customs Union and Single Market, so as not to have any regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. Her only fig leaf, was to dress this up, for the benefit of the Brextremist wing of her party, as being a commitment to “regulatory alignment” rather than what it actually is, which is de facto continued membership of the Customs Union and Single Market.” 

But, as I also pointed out, 

“The Brextremists began to claim that “regulatory alignment” meant “regulatory divergence”, and the freedom for Britain to determine its own regulations divergent from those of the EU. The public face of Brextremism, David Davis, said that the deal May had done, was effectively not worth the paper it was written on, Gove said it and any subsequent deal arrived at in Stage 2 could be ripped up, by a future government, and so on. It's quite clear that for the Brextremists in May's government no deal has been done, and any thought that Britain has committed to paying its debts in the Brexit Bill, that the rights of EU citizens have been protected, or that Britain will align its regulations with the EU so as to avoid the need for a border in Ireland, is entirely misplaced.” 

And May failed to slap down the Brextremists as they pushed forward this line. On the contrary, in recent weeks, we have heard leaks that the Tories were threatening to not pay up their financial commitments, unless the EU gave them the trade deal they want. That is like someone going into a restaurant, eating a large meal, and then saying they will only pay for it, if they are given exactly the dessert they require, at a price they are happy with! Throughout the process, the Tories have acted in bad faith in their negotiations with the EU. It's no wonder then that the EU faced with such dissembling by the Tories have decided to pin them down in a legal document that now takes away the flexibility the EU had given to May, so as to deal with her Brextremist wing. 

It is total nonsense for May to now say that no British Prime Minister could agree to the proposal set out in the new draft EU Treaty, that requires Northern Ireland to remain in the Customs Union and Single Market, unless Britain can produce some other practical solution to the question of how an Irish border can be avoided, because that is precisely what May herself agreed to in December, as the EU tried to provide her with a fudge, and a way out of her immediate difficulties. She has simply been crucified on the cross of her own bad faith, as she bit the EU hand that fed her, in order instead to cosy up to the Brextremists in her party's ultra right-wing, and the bigots of the DUP that are keeping her government in office. 

As I pointed out in December, the EU had given May a lifeline. She could have pushed through a soft Brexit based on staying in a Customs Union and Single Market, by isolating the Brextremists, and gaining the support of Labour and the SNP. 

“...instead she did yet another volte-face, and herself reneged on all of the commitments she had given to the EU just days before. She accepted more or less in toto the claim by Davis that the deal was not worth the paper it was written on, that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", and consequently that if the EU did not give Britain the trade deal it was demanding in Stage 2, the promise to honour its debts by paying the Brexit Bill, the guarantees to EU citizens in Britain, and the commitment to regulatory alignment so as to avoid the need for an Irish border would all be reneged upon! The rest of the EU, seeing this capitulation to Brextremism must surely conclude, when they meet on Thursday, that the deal is off, because they, like the British electors, have been lied to by May and the Brextremists.” 

In fact, Barnier and the EU were more generous, and gave her more rope, but she has simply, once more used that additional rope only to fashion a noose with which to hang herself, seeing the EU's concessions to her as weakness, and pushing forward herself with an even more intransigent, Brextremist line. No wonder the EU have lost patience. It's no wonder that it seems that the EU are undertaking shadow negotiations with Corbyn's Labour Party. 

May is leading the country to disaster and isolation. There is probably no hope that she is going to change course. This government needs to fall, and we need a General Election to replace it. But, in that General Election, we need a Labour Party committed to telling the truth that the Brexit vote was a huge mistake, and represents a significant reactionary threat to the working-class. We need a Labour Party that is committed to ending Brexit, and rescinding the Article 50 notification, and which instead commits itself to fighting alongside other socialists in Europe to change the course of the EU itself, towards a Workers Europe. We need CLP's, and trades unions to start flooding the party with demands for a Special Conference on Brexit, so as to commit the party to such a course of action, ahead of any snap election. 


George Carty said...

How would you respond to Hugo Dixon's claim that removing the Tories is not a necessary precondition to stopping Brexit?

I don't buy it, because while the Brextremists still form a minority of Tory MPs, they form a majority of the (now-diminished) Conservative Party membership. In fact I've seen some arguments that non-socialist Remainers ought to join the Tories en masse in the hope of taking the party back from the Brextremists!

Boffy said...

As I said before, the EU gave May the option before Xmas of isolating the Brextremists and lining up Labour and the SNP with staying in the Customs Union and Single Market. That would have still meant Brexit, but the logic is that if you are staying in the Customs Union and Single Market, why would you not want to be in the EU, because, as I will be writing on Sunday, Corbyn's new position of remaining in a Customs Union, whilst wanting to negotiate additional trade deals, and wanting to have a seat at the table is a non-starter.

Its just a different version of have cake and eat it, that the EU will not accept.

So, any position that starts from the UK staying in the or a Customs Union and Single market, is really just code for either, a No Deal Brexit, if its used as an ultimatum that demands the right to have cake and eat it, or else it is code for No Brexit, because there is no sense in being in the institutions with all the obligations, but with no seat at the table. On that basis, had May gone for the latter, it would ultimately have meant No Brexit.

However, as I also said before Xmas, that option would also have meant a Tory civil war, and a split, which has been verbalised by Anna Soubry in her call for the Brextremists to be expelled. I think ultimately the issue kills the Tory party anyway, because the closer this thing moves to an actual Brexit, the more the representatives of global capital begin to apply pressure on the Tories, by the back channels, and we can yet expect that to take the form of a run on the Pound, and so on.

May clearly does not have either the backbone or the political skill to take on the Brextremists, so I expect it to spiral toward further chaos. Corbyn needs to provide an even greater degree of clear water from this poison. The least cost option will be a general election fought on an opposition to Brexit, but even if Brexit happens, I expect that within the next ten years, the UK would be applying to be let back in, but would do so on much worse terms than currently exists.

The EU holds all the cards, so there is no reason for them to budge. In fact, I would, if I was them already be making clear that even withdrawing the Article 50 notification will require the UK to sign up to the Euro, Schengen, loss of the rebate, and all the other op-outs.