Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Tory Brexit Chaos Exposes Labour Leave MP's

The right-wing Labour Leave MP's have always been a miserable bunch. Their nationalistic agenda, and obsession with immigration has left them looking and sounding increasingly like Kippers who have found themselves stranded within an alien environment. Most of them have associated themselves with some reactionary cause or another, as with Kate Hoey, who may almost as well just sit openly with the DUP. But, Brexit is acting like an acid test of politics in so many ways, and it is exposing the Labour Leave position very clearly. 

The Labour Leavers are driven primarily by anti-immigrant sentiment. They want, above all else, to be able to pander to the bigots, by insisting on an end to free movement of labour. So, unlike the official Labour line, which is itself deluded, contorted and based upon the idea of wanting to have cake and eat it, the Labour Leavers would be quite happy, as with Rees-Mogg, to be out of any Customs Union or Single Market, if that is what is required to stop free movement. But, as with Rees-Mogg, they suggest that Britain could simply negotiate an even better deal for itself outside those bodies. In other words, it is the idea, based upon those old colonialist sentiments, that Britain is somehow still the great world power it was a hundred years ago, and that it is being held back by the EU, which would be forced to come to terms with it, once Britain was out. 

It is, of course, totally deluded. At the start of last week, that idea that Britain could somehow negotiate a better deal for itself, outside the EU, and outside the Customs Union and Single Market was being put forward by some Labour Leave MP's. The EU is a $17 trillion economy with 500 million people; the UK is a $2.6 trillion economy with 70 million people. In other words, the EU's economy and population is about seven times that of the UK. The idea that a relatively small economy, like the UK, can negotiate from anything other than a subordinate position, with a large economy like the EU, is as deluded as thinking that a corner shop can negotiate from a position of strength with TESCO! 

If the UK is outside the EU, and outside the Customs Union and Single Market, it will have stark choices. All such countries, particularly where, as with the UK, they rely heavily on international trade, have to subordinate their own laws, regulations and standards to those larger economies and trading blocs with whom they want to trade. This is where the notion of political sovereignty meets reality. Yes, of course, a country can have political sovereignty, it can choose to carve out its own rules and regulations, but at a cost. Its a bit like the old claim about the beggar and the millionaire both being free to sleep underneath the railway arches. North Korea is a sovereign state, and free to take political decisions, but look what happens when it does! 

That is an extreme example, but it illustrates the point. Britain, as a sovereign state, could choose to set a whole host of different standards and regulations. It would be free to design a whole new set of electrical plugs, say, with four prongs, and require all electrical equipment, and so on to be compatible with this new standard. Or it might enable sheep farmers to use genetic engineering to produce new breeds of sheep with six legs, so as to bring about a 50% increase in the quantity of legs of lamb for sale. The question is, what other economies would they be able to sell any of these commodities to? In reality, Britain would find that it would have to choose between accepting the standards of the EU, with whom more than 40% of trade is done, or accepting the standards of the US, which accounts for 18% of UK trade. Either way, the political sovereignty is really an illusion. For all of the Brextremists complaints about the EU dictating to the UK, the reality is that, currently, the UK has a say in what rules and regulations are adopted; it has Ministers sitting on the Council of Ministers, it has Commissioners sitting on the European Commission, and it has MEP's sitting in the European Parliament, all representing the interests of the UK in formulating EU laws and regulations. 

Outside the EU, the reality will be that the UK will still have to abide by all those EU rules and regulations, including those formulated by the 40 odd EU regulatory bodies, to which the UK currently is a member, but will no longer have any say in the formulation of those rules and regulations. Even if Britain were to leave the EU, but remain inside the, or a, Customs Union and Single Market, which is the position that the soft Brexiteers in the Tory Party, and the Labour front bench are proposing, that would still leave Britain as a vassal state, having to accept those rules and regulations, having to pay its subscriptions to belong to those various bodies, but with no right to have any say in determining those rules and regulations. The notion now being put forward by the Labour front bench that they would somehow negotiate a deal whereby they would create some new Customs Union with the EU, in which the EU would allow the UK to have co-authorship of any new rules and regulations, is absurd. Why would the EU hamstring its position, by giving the UK as an external power such a veto? 

Theresa May's Chequers fudge has already collapsed, as the Tory Brextremists sank it below the water line within days of the White Paper being published. Its clear that the Tory party is under the control of the Brextremists. They only need March 29th next year to come and go, so that Britain is officially out of the EU, then, if they have not ditched her before, May will be pushed aside and one of the Brextremists will take over on the back of support from the Tory grass roots. Then all of the deals and promises given to get to that point will be cast aside, and they will push through their no deal Brexit. 

The tragedy is that all of this is happening without Labour having either a clear opposition to it, and without it putting up any kind of principled position of opposition to Brexit. Labour says that it will hold the Tories to the six tests they have laid out. But, it's already clear that the Tories cannot get a deal that meets those tests, so why is Labour not making that clear now, and mobilising against the Tory chaos? What is more, if Labour itself were in government, they could not get a deal with the EU that meets those six tests either! So, a Labour government would be faced with the same choices 1) A no deal Brexit, 2) rolling over and accepting whatever the EU will offer, based on being in the Customs Union and Single Market, but with no say, i.e. becoming a vassal state, 3) realising that Brexit is a reactionary and diversionary dead end, and having to campaign against it. 

No one would accept option 2) for long if at all. So, it comes down, as the EU said at the beginning, to a hard, no deal Brexit, or no Brexit. Labour should have been making that clear for the last two years, and campaigning for a reversal of Brexit accordingly. Instead, like every other bourgeois party it has decided to play parliamentary and electoral games, rather than stand on a clear matter of principle to oppose a reactionary policy. 

In the last week, we have seen the pecking order set out of the new Nationalist international. Putin kicks Trump, Trump kicks May, Rees-Mogg kicks May, May kicks Grieve/Soubry and Co. At every step along the way, the underling looks up and says “kick me again, master.” 

Trump could hardly have been more submissive to Putin had he tried, it was the highest level of submissiveness, so to speak. May having been well and truly shafted by Trump the night before, with his Sun article, exposing the bankruptcy of May's Chequers fudge, stands and smiles alongside him the following day, whilst Trump spews out a further load of racist bile about immigration, offering up virtually no criticism. Rees-Mogg blatantly attempts to undermine May, with his wrecking amendments, and May duly accepts all of the amendments, and, as on every such previous occasion, then tries to pretend that “Nothing has changed, nothing has changed”! Meanwhile, having accepted those amendments, the Tory RINOS (Rebels in Name Only) cannot even mobilise sufficient support to vote down those wrecking amendments, and will probably go along with parliament itself being shut down early for the Summer recess, so as to prevent further scrutiny, and try to preserve May's skin. 

These are the conditions when a disciplined, principled socialist party would have been making hay setting out a clear principled position against all of this unprincipled, reactionary clap-trap and double-dealing. Instead, Labour's position has itself been contorted, unprincipled and founded upon parliamentary and electoral game playing, whose result leaves Labour's official position not just confused, but barely distinguishable from that of the Tories themselves. They are not, however, alone. Social-democracy across the EU has also failed to adopt a clear principled stand against the rise of the nationalists, populists and racists. 

It is a disgrace that in France, Macron was enabled to don that mantle, and that in Britain it has been Blair, Clegg, Cable, Soubry, Lucas and Co. that have been able to put themselves in that position given that Labour's leadership have deserted the struggle. The rank and file of the Labour Party, as with the rank and file of social-democratic parties across the EU, must say enough is enough, before it is too late.

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