A People’s Brexit beckons

22nd July 2018


 Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – ready for a snap election

Where politicians start to call for a government of national unity you can usually be sure that there is a war on.  It may not be a shooting war but it is a war all the same.  This week the Tory Remainers, ostensibly to fight off the threat from the so-called European Research Group, headed by the oleaginous Jacob Rees-Mogg, made such a call through their regular mouthpiece, Anna Soubry.

The Remainers are of course fearful that the Rees-Mogg gang will hi-jack the Tory Party and their places and positions of privilege will be lost.  However, they are more fearful still that any moves on the part of the hard core Brexit faction will lead to the downfall of the precariously balanced Theresa May government and allow Jeremy Corbyn into 10, Downing Street.

Soubry and her Remainers, both in the Tory Party and the Labour Party, are pitching to be the new voice of the establishment in the UK.  Along with the Liberal Democrats, a few Scottish Nationalists and the craven Ulster Unionists, who will do all in their power to prevent Irish unification, the Remainers are essentially an extension of the politics of David Cameron, George Osborne and a whole host of Tory leaders before them, including Margaret Thatcher, who saw the future of British capital as being safer inside the European Union than outside it.

The push to become part of the European Economic Community (EEC), as it then was in the 1970’s, was very much an acknowledgement that the post war UK economy needed a new direction and required significant investment in order to develop.  The nationalisation of key industrial sectors, the introduction of comprehensive education and the establishment of the NHS had all provided a firm basis from which to extend social ownership and control of the UK economy.

Counter to this, resistance to controls upon the outflow of capital, lifting constraints upon the City of London and opposition to a progressive tax regime, had been core to the developing Tory agenda, which coalesced around the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.  The reliability of markets in former UK colonies, while still strong and linked through the neo-colonial framework of the Commonwealth, were always likely to diminish, as indigenous capital took hold or liberation resulted in more socialist orientated development.

Alignment to Europe was seen as a buffer against the future diminution of Commonwealth based markets, while at the same time providing an opportunity for UK capital to extend its reach into Europe.  The inability of the ideologically weak 1970’s governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan to build upon the gains of the post war socialisation of the UK economy, paved the way for the election success of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

The first act of the Thatcher government was to free controls on the export of capital and over the course of the following decade went on to oversee the deconstruction of nationalised industries, trade union rights, local government and a progressive education offer.  This was all undertaken with, at the very least the benign indifference, if not the complicity, of the European Union.  The idea that to remain in the EU will in any way guarantee the rights of immigrants, employees, women, the elderly or anyone else is a fantasy with no firm basis.

The current Remainers recognise, as did Thatcher, that the EU is the safest bet for British capital in an increasingly complex and globalised market place.  The call for national unity is merely a call for the defence of British capital.  It in no way reflects the interests of working people in the UK any more than the EU defends the rights of the low paid or unemployed in Greece, Spain, Portugal or Italy, the guest workers in Germany or those on zero hours contracts in the UK.

While the Brexit faction may not yet have hi-jacked the Tory Party they have, with the complicity of the media, hijacked the political debate on Brexit.  Long term the case for a non-aligned republican Britain, outside of both NATO and the EU, a re-united Ireland, Trident missiles de-commissioned and the military budget reduced by 50%, with re-investment in the NHS a priority, can easily be made.  None of which would be to the liking of Rees-Mogg and his ilk.

It is probably too big a leap for a first term Corbyn led Labour government.  However, it is encouraging to see that the Labour Front Bench have no less than 35 bills ready for introduction following victory if there is a snap election.  A government which made zero hours contracts illegal, embarked on a programme of Council house building, invested in the NHS and increased penalties for tax dodging corporations would be a start.

The Brexit question would still have to be addressed but it would be from a very different starting point.  An EU resisting a truly popular Labour programme of public investment, which according to current rules it would, may find its liberal façade rapidly crumbling.  Under such a scenario, a people’s Brexit may yet be on the cards.  That General Election would be a start……


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