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Editorial The left must fight to ensure May's crisis brings down this government

BUSINESS chiefs’ attempt to shore up Theresa May’s fragile grip on power by speaking out in favour of her deal with Brussels should sharpen the left’s understanding of the class character of the dilemma facing the British Establishment.

So too should the chorus of voices from the EU itself demanding that we drop all reservations about the 600-odd page document and sign on the dotted line or face the wrath of the gods.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s threat that there is “no question” of further talks is merely the latest bid to browbeat Britain’s Parliament into accepting the arrangement.

Merkel’s fear, like that of the Confederation of British Industry and the London Stock Exchange Group, is that if May can’t force the deal through the Commons, the government will fall — and a general election would return a radical socialist government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

As EU negotiators briefed the Times over the summer, the bloc’s main concern throughout the negotiations has been to prevent a socialist government committed to economic planning, public ownership and wealth redistribution from threatening the single market’s strict restrictions on those matters — which stipulate, for example, that nationalised companies must operate on the same commercial basis as their private competitors, and that decisions on awarding public contracts must also be made based on cost-based competition, which would hobble Labour plans for refusing to allow companies guilty of blacklisting to receive them.

And as the Financial Times’s guide to the proposed deal points out, there are “big policy restrictions” written into it and “the strictest bits relate to state aid and competition where the EU remains ultimate policeman and arbiter of what is illegal government aid to industries.”

That is not a deal a socialist left can sign up to. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell is absolutely right to emphasise that the solution is the formation of a Labour administration and the reopening of talks on a better deal. 

Talk of a “unity platform” within the current Parliament to avoid both this deal — effectively, a capitulation to all the worst aspects of EU law — and a no-deal Brexit beg the obvious question of what the supposed alternative is.

To Remainers such as the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, it is to stay in the EU. Pooh-poohing McDonnell’s suggestion of a new negotiation, she advises surrender in the face of EU threats not to engage: “The statements that there is no scope to renegotiate … are confirmation that this miserable deal is the very best form of Brexit that will ever be on offer,” she contends, saying that the answer is the so-called “people’s vote” rerun of 2016’s referendum.

May hasn’t had a convincing mandate to negotiate Brexit since she lost her parliamentary majority last year. If she cannot get a deal through Parliament, what mandate she did have is clearly in tatters.

But that does not authorise politicians to override a referendum in which more people voted to leave the EU than have voted for anything else in Britain’s history.

Pro-Remain Tories like Guto Bebb insist that “this isn’t just a crisis within the Conservative Party.” But it is a crisis for the Conservative Party and the left must press its advantage and bring the government down.

Tens of thousands of protesters will march against fascism and racism tomorrow in an emphatic rejection of years of racist government policy. Others will stage rallies in London to highlight the climate crisis that the Tory addiction to fossil fuels, fracking and corporate profit are turning into a catastrophe for the human race. There are plenty of reasons other than May’s botched Brexit why we need a Corbyn-led government sooner rather than later.

All efforts must be directed to achieving that goal via a general election. Second referendums and cross-party deals will do nothing to advance socialism. They let the Tories, the EU and the capitalist class off the hook.

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