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THERESA MAY’S squalid deal that purports to deliver the June 2016 referendum decision to quit the European Union should be opposed root and branch.
Her priority all along, while reciting deceitfully the mantra “Brexit means Brexit,” has been to concentrate negotiations with the European Union on a package of priorities demanded by the City of London financial sector and her Business Advisory Council.
When she, David Cameron and George Osborne led the Remain side into the referendum campaign, they warned that leaving the EU would mean turning our backs on both the EU single market and the customs union.
Yet the Prime Minister has settled on a leave-in-name-only position that will compel British governments to follow most if not all regulations related to the single market and the customs union while having no input into their formulation.
The leaked note from EU deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand makes this clear.
“They must align their rules, but the EU will retain all the controls. They apply the same rules. UK wants a lot more from future relationship, so EU retains its leverage.”
Did 17.4 million voters back the Leave option in the expectation of seeing such an abject surrender? Of course not, especially since most voiced “taking back control” as their major motivation for their vote.
No socialist, trade unionist or green campaigner should take comfort from binding clauses in the draft deal related to overblown EU workplace rights and environmental safeguards because this package also includes curbs on state aid to industry.
This clause is not aimed at neoliberal governments — any configuration of Tory, Liberal Democrat and New Labour. Its target is a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell with plans for greater state intervention in the economy, in the form of common ownership, public investment and government direction.
Both the May government and the EU establishment are united in opposition to such an alternative to their consensus on locking in neoliberal policies through capitalist austerity and competitive tendering.
Labour put forward a qualitatively different approach at last year’s general election, recognising that problems of low investment, stagnant wages and ageing infrastructure cannot be tackled effectively through neoliberalism.
The Achilles’ heel in Labour’s approach is confusion over EU membership, with the leadership’s consistent position of respecting the referendum decision — which can only mean carrying it through — coming into conflict with flirtations with a “People’s Vote” designed to thwart it.
Subverting Corbyn’s principled stance on the referendum vote would mark a deliberate weakening of his leadership.
It would also undermine Labour’s vote in wide swathes of England and Wales, especially in traditional strongholds that have suffered deindustrialisation and neglect in recent decades.
Corbyn’s resolute determination to put an end to laissez-faire capitalism’s willingness to let entire communities and multiple generations sink into inexorable decline encouraged many to believe that they might have a future, based on interventionist socialist policies.
Were Labour to renege on these hopes, the consequences would be incalculable.
Labour MPs must refuse to pluck May’s leave-in-name-only chestnuts from the fire and should reject her bogus deal in unity.
If, or rather when, the Prime Minister’s policy falls apart, they should insist on the Tory government standing aside, preferably through a general election, so that Labour can negotiate with the EU — acting with respect for the 2016 democratic decision to leave.
A mutually beneficial trading relationship, without subservience to EU rules or institutions, would still be negotiable rather than May’s corporate-driven dodgy deal that incorporates City financial domination and the neoliberal status quo.
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