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It’s time to smash the Tories, stay in the EU and deliver the Corbyn project

We must stand up for working people by fighting Tory Brexit, says MANUEL CORTES

THE myth on the left that European Union (EU) state aid rules will prevent Jeremy Corbyn’s nationalisation programme is still too pervasive. 

Yet, when Chris Grayling — Secretary of State for Transport Incompetence — renationalised services on the East Coast Main Line last year, the EU did not raise an eyebrow, never mind a finger to stop it. Twelve months on there’s still no EU sanction over this. 

In June last year, in these pages, I was the first to say that a general election was a solution to Britain’s Brexit problems. Our country’s biggest division remains the gap between the gilded Gatsbyesque 1 per cent and the rest of us.

With the possibility of a general election inching ever closer, it’s time for the Corbyn-supporting left to rally behind him. Remainers and Leavers alike must build the electoral momentum needed to defeat the nasty Tories. Winning power is now the prize. 

The publication of a myth-busting briefing by the respected Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on state aid rules provides a platform on which we on the left can come back together. It clearly shows we can have Labour’s radical policies for the many while staying within the EU — a win/win scenario which will unite our voters and our country.

While Westminster buzzes with every twist and turn of the Tory Brexit disasterclass, our people continue to suffer. 

The English language struggles for words to describe the magnitude of the colossal mess the Tories have created. 

Not only is this the first government in history to be found in contempt of Parliament, Theresa May’s botched Brexit deal was rejected by 230 votes, the worst parliamentary defeat in the history of British democracy. 

After a decade of austerity and four decades of neoliberalism, the Tories have ruined the lives of the many. 

We need an election now because so much in our country has gone wrong and only a Labour government, with Jeremy as prime minister can put it right. 

Some comrades see the EU as part of the status quo which they rightly hate. They see it as a neoliberal institution that would stand in the way of a Corbyn government. They have focused on the wrong target. 

Just as the far right blames the problems of local communities on migrants, the elite try to blame the problems of this country on the EU rather than taking responsibility themselves. 

Austerity was the political choice of George Osborne — not even the Tories claimed it was the fault of Brussels, though for decades they have blamed the EU for everything imaginable. 

I don’t have any illusions that the EU is some sort of socialist nirvana, far from it. The French and German governments have hidden behind it to inflict endless austerity on Greece, Italy and other countries. Yet EU treaties are a product of their time and reflect the neoliberal consensus. 

But that's an argument to fight for our beliefs — not to walk away. Solidarity means standing shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers in socialist parties across the EU demanding a Europe for the many as an integral part of building a better world. As internationalists we never walk away from our comrades. 

Sadly, Lexit has no basis in reality; and a Tory Brexit will keep state aid rules while building walls rather than bridges for migrants. It will be a great victory for our enemies and allow them to further intensify the hostile environment that has harmed so many migrants. 

Some comrades fear that remaining in the EU would be a constraint to the Corbyn project. Lots of different voices have argued various points of view on this question. That’s why our union wanted the facts, so we have worked with the IPPR to lay them bare.

This think tank was the home of the Commission on Economic Justice which John McDonnell rightly described as a “Beveridge report for the economy.” 

It made a strong an unambiguous case for a radical redistribution of economic power, giving new rights to trade unions and workers. 

Its latest research reveals that Britain spends far less than the EU average on state aid. If Britain were to match the proportion of spending of Denmark it would mean an extra £24 billion a year; if Britain matched Hungary, we would spend an additional £34bn. 

Taken over a decade, that would mean we could spend £260-380bn more on state aid than we currently do. That’s vastly more than Labour’s National Transformation Fund (which includes infrastructure and housing, neither of which count as state aid).

Others worry that the EU prevents nationalisation or forces privatisation. The research also finds that isn’t the case. 

The rules are confusing and complicated because they are designed to work for 28 countries across an entire continent. 

On railways, they do not prevent a fully integrated, nationally owned and operated railway. What they do say is that if a country chooses to go down the neoliberal path — as Britain has done — then they must not favour their own private companies over those from other countries. 

The important point is that Britain can choose to have a wholly public railway, and an incoming Labour government will do just that. The EU will also not stand in the way of nationalising water and other utilities or protecting our NHS from private competition. 

We must stand up for working people by fighting Tory Brexit. It’s a disaster that is heading towards a catastrophe which will harm our living standards. 

The only way to stop it is by giving our people the final say on any deal agreed by Parliament. Let’s fight for internationalism and solidarity and campaign to Remain. 

Manuel Cortes is general secretary of TSSA.


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