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An EU deal is the first step and not the end result to Brexit

Parliament has been given one simple task — get the UK out of the EU, says FAWZI IBRAHIM

THE convergence of the Tory European Research Group (ERG) and the Labour Blairites is toxic and dangerous. Labour, with its programme for rebuilding British industry and manufacturing, has nothing in common with either of these groups whose vision of the UK are not dissimilar — both want a neoliberal free-market Britain, the first as a free-wheeling, free-dealing unregulated offshore island and the other as a member of a union that would ensure the dominance of neoliberal economics regardless of which government the electorate chooses to put into Downing Street. 

The ERG behaves like an group of opportunist thieves hoping to grab the loot in one single night raid before they are uncovered. The Blairite anti-Corbyn Remainers wish to keep us in the EU, thus frustrating any future Corbyn government from carrying out its economic and social programme. 

The working class voted to leave the EU. They understand that this may not be done in one single swoop, that it may take time. They are in it in the long term, hence their acquiescence with a transition period. 

There is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn could negotiate a better Brexit deal than the one Theresa May has negotiated if only because Corbyn’s priorities will be based on rebalancing the economy, using state aid to revive industry and bringing back public ownership and control of utilities. But Corbyn is not in power and not likely to be this side of March 29 2019. 

Labour cannot be part of the scheme to play with numbers to such an extent as to make any Brexit deal and a no deal short of majority support in Parliament — a plan designed to portray Parliament as impotent, unable to reach decisions and, in the most blatant reversal of democracy, refer the matter back to the electorate in a second referendum, telling workers to vote again in a manner reminiscent of the detachment of Marie Antoinette telling people to eat cake. 

Labour must have no truck with this — Marie Antoinette had her head chopped off at the guillotine. Labour will be slaughtered at the polls.   

The fact that, prior to us actually leaving the EU, a withdrawal agreement is bound to leave a number of loose ends, by itself, should not be a reason to reject a deal. 

The purpose of a deal at this stage is not to tie up the government’s hands in future negotiations as some people seem to think, but to provide the best possible start after we leave the EU.  

After 45 years of being entrapped within the EU with its treaties, rules and bureaucracy, it’ll not be possible to escape in one single giant leap. At the present time, a deal is but a first step, not the end result. 

If Parliament rejects the draft deal, then May will have to go back to Brussels, not to beg for changes, for that would be futile and humiliating, but to inform them that the UK will trade with the EU under WTO rules after we leave the EU and that preparations ought to be made including a transition period. That won’t be the disaster it is made out to be and workers will accept it.

Once that first step is taken and we leave the EU, we can start the process of consolidating our economy, rebuilding our industry and ensuring our security. Then we can assert our full sovereignty from a position of strength and demand the changes to the treaty that we want and need. All of this can only be achieved with a Corbyn government in Downing Street. 

Treaties are not written on tablets of stone, otherwise we would still be living under treaties that were signed in the 19th century.

Treaties are amendable and, in the final analysis, disposable — they carry weight only if both parties are willing to abide by them. 

We can give notice of the changes we wish to make and, if the EU refuses to negotiate, we can give notice of our intention to terminate all or parts of the treaty — and that includes the backstop.

The EU will not be the same after we leave it. It would be weakened.

It’s already fracturing, with anti-EU sentiments rising and the forces of disintegration outweighing those for integration. 

This is the reason behind the call for a European Union army. Its purpose is not to defend the EU from China — China poses no military threat, it has no borders with the EU. It is not to protect the EU from Russia — that threat, if it were real, is the stated aim of Nato to prevent. This army is not intended to fend off a threat from without but to quell a rebellion from within. 

The driving force behind Brexit has always been the working class and that must continue to be the case after we leave next year. This is the true guarantee for the future and not tightening this or that wording on a piece of paper. 

Parliament has been given one simple task — get the UK out of the EU. So far it has done its job — Article 50 has been triggered, the EU Withdrawal Act has been passed and a date set for leaving the EU. 

For a Parliament with a majority on the Remain side, this is truly impressive.

If MPs fail to complete the task by ensuring we leave on March 29 next year — and Labour has a central role to play in this — the whole Westminster set-up will be brought into disrepute. 

People’s revenge will be subtle, but it may not be very pretty.

Fawzi Ibrahim is national officer of Trade Unionists Against the EU.

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