WHEN Donald Trump declares that Boris Johnson is “the right man to deliver Brexit,” he seeks to shore up a hard-right transatlantic alliance in which the US wants British support on a number of fronts.
Washington’s immediate goals include ensuring Britain provides support for its escalation of tension with Iran.
The US is isolated internationally — all parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw from it and all are officially committed to maintaining it.
Mainland European countries have not responded enthusiastically to heightened US sanctions on Iran and have declined to join the US, Britain and Australia in sending warships to the Persian Gulf.
The US has other concerns. Even close allies are not on board with the president’s trade war against China, which has unsurprisingly refused US demands to stop investing in home-grown high-tech industries because this allows them to outcompete US rivals.
France, Germany and Brazil have stood up to US bids to bully them into banning the Chinese tech giant Huawei, as did Britain until Johnson took over. Since then, noises from Downing Street have indicated that Britain may line up with Trump after all.
And Trump’s advisers know that if they need Johnson, Johnson also needs them.
The Tory right’s desperation to strike new trade deals with the US to substitute for any loss of free movement of capital, goods, labour and services within the EU stems from its inability to move away from an economic strategy that is impoverishing the majority and doing serious damage to the environment.
Johnson’s demand that the US start importing more British beef and lamb is a case in point.
Currently Britain imports tens of thousands of tons of lamb every year — while simultaneously exporting tens of thousands of tons of lamb. Yet a remodelled economy with sustainable development at its heart would subsidise localised food production and question whether increasing the sheer volume of products exchanged across oceans is necessarily a good thing.
Trump talks of Britain striking deals with the US once it is free of the “anchor round [its] ankle” that is membership of the EU.
But to replace one set of treaties imposing privatisation and deregulation with another set doing the same would merely tie Britain into another race to the bottom.
All Labour’s warnings about the threat posed by US trade deals ring true, though campaigners whose memories stretch back more than a year or two will note that the EU itself has repeatedly tried to strike “trade” deals with Washington that undermine workers’ rights, public services and consumer protections, TTIP being the most recent example.
Johnson’s riposte is that Labour plan to betray the Brexit vote.
It is true that committing to a second referendum with a Remain option will look that way to millions. Politicians like to lecture us on supposed nuances in the straightforward victory of Leave over Remain three years ago — saying that “nobody voted for no deal” or “nobody voted to be poorer” as excuses to disregard the result.
But it is not reading too much into Brexit to say that the referendum was a vote against the status quo, a vote for change. Johnson’s dead-end politics represent a betrayal of that mandate.
More privatisation, more deregulation, more war — more of the same tired formula that has hollowed out communities, ruined industry and torn up international law over four decades of neoliberalism.
Labour offers something different — green energy, new industries, rising pay, secure jobs, properly funded publicly owned services.
Such policies already have majority popular support. The left’s task is to build confidence that this project is achievable and that electing a Labour government is the first step towards achieving it.
Helped or not by the Labour Party’s current approach to the EU, socialists need to persuade voters that Johnson may be the right man to deliver Trump’s Brexit — but he represents everything we voted against in 2016.
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