Take a chance on May? No Thanks!

26th November 2018

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 Jeremy Corbyn outlines a Labour Brexit at the CBI last week

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, follows her party conference Dancing Queen embarrassment with another Abba themed pitch today, as she appeals to the British public and the House of Commons to take a chance on me.  The Brexit deal negotiated over the last two years with the EU is, May tells us, the best possible deal.  It is a rare moment of concurrence with President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also desperate to get a deal concluded, who has made it clear that this is the only deal on the table.

It took leaders of the EU 27 states less than an hour to sign off on the deal and the mood music suggests that there is little if any room for manoeuvre as far as the rest of Europe is concerned.  For May, in a premiership which has been defined entirely by Brexit, it is a case of this deal or no deal at all.  She clearly sees the endgame in terms of her time as both PM and Tory Party leader and has decided that she will stand or fall on the ground she has marked out.

The deal will go before the House of Commons this side of Xmas.  All of the politics and Parliamentary arithmetic at the moment suggests that it will not be passed.  The fascist bully boys of the DUP, whom May has leaned upon to prop up her government, have branded the deal “pitiful and pathetic”.  They are unhappy about Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the UK due to its land border with the Republic of Ireland but are essentially scared that the deal opens the way to a United Ireland by the back door.

May herself has vowed to defend the fiction of the so called United Kingdom, a defence of the historic partition of Ireland, but the DUP do not regard this as enough assurance.  The pro-Brexit European Reform Group, led by the anti-charismatic Jacob Rees-Mogg, are equally concerned by the defence of the union issue, as well as the timescale on any transition period, and would rather see a no deal scenario with the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules than a deal which gave the EU any say beyond 29th March 2019.

The much vaunted challenge to May, which Rees-Mogg and his plotters have trailed for months has still failed to materialise, betraying either a lack of nerve or a lack of numbers in their ranks.  While it seems likely that they could muster the 48 ‘letters’ needed to trigger a leadership contest, the 150+ votes needed to oust May seem less likely to be forthcoming.   Without a clear leader, who could command majority support even amongst Tories, the pro Brexit faction are worried about handing the keys of No 10 to Jeremy Corbyn.

In his speech to the CBI recently, Corbyn set out the key elements of what he has described as Labour’s “sensible” approach to the Brexit issue.

Instead of the temporary customs arrangement May has signed up to as a backstop, to prevent a hard border in Ireland, Corbyn has underlined Labour’s backing for a permanent customs union.

Corbyn has been quite emphatic that,

“This is a bad deal for the country. It is the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds. It gives us less say over our future, and puts jobs and living standards at risk.

“That is why Labour will oppose this deal in parliament. We will work with others to block a no deal outcome, and ensure that Labour’s alternative plan for a sensible deal to bring the country together is on the table.”

Corbyn has also stressed the need for workers’ rights and environmental standards to be protected to prevent a “race to the bottom”, a live issue given that EU membership has seen a proliferation of low paid jobs and zero hours contracts across the UK.

Corbyn has also called for “a strong single market relationship that allows British business continued access to European markets for both goods and services – while also ensuring we have the powers to support our public services and industry and transform the economy in all our regions and nations.”

With the Commons vote now confirmed for 11th December the ground is likely to move quickly.  Support for Brexit within Labour’s ranks is by no means solid, with a cohort led by Chuka Umunna seeking to press for a second referendum, rather than accepting the result of the first.  A lack of discipline in Labour ranks could certainly complicate the Parliamentary arithmetic in the short term and even jeopardise the chances of a Labour government being elected.

There are those in Labour ranks who would rather see a pro Remain Tory government than a pro Brexit Labour, such is their lack of class awareness.  Now is the time for Labour to hold firm to its present position, defeat the shambles which is the May government, then from a position of strength in government, negotiate a Brexit deal which works for the people of Britain, not just its banks and corporations.

 

 

A “People’s Vote” for the people?

27th October 2018

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 A people’s vote? Protesters in London march against Brexit

Over half a million people descended upon the streets of London last weekend to demonstrate in favour of a vote on whatever Brexit deal is finally agreed, the hidden agenda clearly being to campaign against any deal and force a rethink on the whole Brexit process.  The People’s Vote campaign brings together Tories, right wing Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats in a coalition of those disaffected with the outcome of the June 2016 referendum.

The organisers have made much of the lack of media coverage, given the scale of the demonstration and have, justifiably, criticised the BBC for its reporting priorities and adherence to ‘balance’, which saw a minor gathering in Harrogate, featuring Nigel Farage, gain airtime alongside the bigger London protest.

However dubious the BBC’s editorial approach, and they do love any opportunity to give Farage airtime, in this instance two wrongs do not make a right.

The People’s Vote campaign premise is based upon the assumption that the EU is a good thing and the equally questionable presumption that a second referendum would lead to a vote in favour of remaining in the EU.

The June 2016 referendum itself, although close, did result in a vote to leave and there is nothing to suggest that the conditions which led to large parts of the country expressing their disaffection and voting that way has changed significantly.  With millions living below the poverty line, public services crumbling, transport infrastructure in disarray and austerity continuing to bite, whatever Theresa May might say, there is nothing to suggest that turning back the clock to the day before the 2016 referendum would improve life for the majority of people in the UK.

On the contrary, 40 years of EU membership, compounded by the 2008 banking crisis has brought the UK and much of Europe, to the position it is now facing.

The People’s Vote campaign reflects much of the post war social democratic consensus that capitalism can somehow be made to work for all of the people, not just the few at the top and, that by clubbing together in an ever expanding union of European states, this goal will somehow be achieved.  Currently on their third tranche of bail out and having to sack thousands of public sector workers in order to meet payments to the international banks, it is unlikely that the people of Greece would agree.

The 40% of young people under the age of 25 who are unemployed in Spain would probably have a different view.

Having been signed up to a failed consensus it is little wonder that voters across Europe are turning to parties which promise to deliver on their behalf, provide easy ‘answers’ to their problems, such as blaming immigrants for lack of opportunity, and generally take a critical view of the EU hierarchies and bureaucracy.

People know from their own experience that their lives have not improved greatly over the past 40 years.  In the UK alone, we have seen the demise of comprehensive education, underfunding of the NHS, the selling off of council houses, mass unemployment, zero hours contracts, university tuition fees.  The list goes on.  Being in the EU has not stopped any of that. Why should people believe that sticking with the same deal will make it better over the next forty years?

If the demagogues of the so called populist parties, such as the Front National in France, the Five Star Movement in Italy and right wing government in Hungary and Poland, are not to consolidate their positions the Left needs to articulate credible alternatives to their views and those of the EU bureaucracy.

The EU will remain for as long as it suits the interest of the banks and corporations which back it.  As we saw with tragic consequences in the 1930’s they are quick enough to change allegiance if they see a new centre of power emerging.  The only way to stop history repeating is to make that alternative centre of power a true expression of people power.  That will take more than a so-called people’s vote, it will take the people demanding a real people’s socialist alternative to the both the EU and the right wing demagogues.

 

 

A People’s Brexit beckons

22nd July 2018

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 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……

 

Fooling no-one

14th July 2018

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Protesters in London object to the visit of US President, Donald Trump

The current UK heatwave, or what used to be known in the past as Summer, seems to have addled the brains of both inhabitants and visitors to these sceptre isles over the past week.  As TV drama it would have been reviewed as far-fetched, implausible and unworthy of the high standards we have come to expect from British TV culture.

Yet the improbable political soap around Brexit continues to throw up new plot lines and unlikely character twists on a daily basis.  A bit like the most intricate Scandi noir, it is not always possible to know what is going on exactly, but it is still sufficiently gripping to make you want to know the outcome.

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, must have thought last week that the main drama was behind her and she could look forward to a satisfactory denouement.   At a four hour session in her country retreat at Chequers last Friday, May cajoled and coaxed agreement from a recalcitrant Cabinet around her Brexit ‘vision’, published later in the week as the White Paper, The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The news on Friday night was that they had all signed up and yes, May was right, this is the way forward to an acceptable UK Brexit.  By midnight on Sunday the Secretary of State with responsibility for Brexit, David Davies, had resigned from the Cabinet, unable to sign up to May’s vision.

Unable to miss a ride on any passing political merry go round, bungling Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, decided to catch a ride out of the Cabinet chamber and back onto the Tory backbenches, proclaiming in characteristically histrionic style that the ‘Brexit dream is dying’….

May attempted to swat aside the loss of two Cabinet ministers in less than 24 hours and published the White Paper anyway.   Dominic Raab was appointed as the new Brexit Secretary and given orders to get the White Paper up and running in the House of Commons.  MPs who dutifully assembled to hear the new boy on his first day in the job were disappointed to find that, while the Secretary of State was about to make a statement, there were no copies of the White Paper for them to scrutinise.

The Speaker suspended the session and MPs rushed off to scurry around the darkest corners of the House of Commons print room (or wherever White Papers emerge from) before emerging with boxes full of the worthy document.  Distribution followed and scrutiny ensued…..

Enter stage right, the fool….

A stock element of Elizabethan drama first time round, the Fool seems to have taken on a new lease of life in the second Elizabethan age, not least in the form of the current President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Trump arrived in the UK with all of the pomp and ceremony a non-State visit allowed, which included meeting the Prime Minister, taking tea with the Head of State and having dinner with business leaders.  Quite how this will be topped if there is a formal state visit remains to be seen.  In any event it appears that the UK is all too willing to suffer fools gladly, especially if they are going to make a trade agreement.

However, this fool was not going to do that, according to an interview he gave to that high powered journal of record, The Sun, because Theresa May’s White Paper was rubbish and left the UK too close to the EU for comfort.  He also thought Boris Johnson would make a good Prime Minister and did not think that Theresa May was any good a negotiating deals.  That sorted, the fool, who had already told NATO leaders that they did not spend enough on weapons for his liking, set off for tea and cake with the Queen, making sure he and his wife got a nice pic for the photo album.

The joint press conference between Trump and Theresa May, looking as though she could be sick at any moment, saw Trump proclaim that all of the bad things he had said about May were simply ‘fake news’ and that the UK/US relationship was ‘super special’.  He also said she would do a good Brexit deal, so it turns out that he was just kidding about the other stuff all along.  That’s alright then…..

Trump is such a fool that he believes, in spite of the thousands on the streets protesting against his presence, that the people of the UK love him, so he jetted off to Scotland to play golf, in preparation for his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this there is a discussion going on about the White Paper, the UK’s negotiating position on Brexit and whether the EU will even tolerate it.  Maybe some rain in the coming weeks will help dampen things and proper political discourse will emerge.  Unfortunately, history suggests that the Summer is not the time for that.

Brexit – the hidden agenda

4th March 2018

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Theresa May – desperately trying to keep the Tories together

Billed as a clear statement of the UK’s bargaining position regarding Brexit, the speech by Prime Minister, Theresa May, on Friday offered little by way of clarity and barely served to hold off the crisis in her own party.  The speech has been welcomed by 18th century throwback Jacob Rees-Mogg, from the hardline Brexit European Reform Group, and by soft centred Remainers such as Anna Soubry.  Long standing Europhile Michael Heseltine however has characterised the speech as more “phrases, generalisations and platitudes.”  All of which underlines the lack of clarity in May’s rhetoric.

In May’s view, three things were made ‘clear’.  The UK would not participate in the single market, or the customs union, or tolerate a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

In her statement May said,

“I want to be straight with people because the reality is that we all need to face up to some hard facts.  We are leaving the single market.  Life is going to be different.  In certain ways, our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now.  How could the EU’s structure of rights and obligations be sustained, if the UK – or any country – were allowed to enjoy all the benefits without all of the obligations?”

In short, May is insisting that the free movement of labour ends, implying stricter immigration controls, and that the UK has a free hand in negotiating trade deals with third parties post Brexit.  A “customs partnership” sitting alongside a “highly streamlined customs arrangement” would be on offer, although most observers seem bemused as to what either of these things mean.

The reality is that May is not being straight at all.  In spite of pitching the speech at critics who state that the government is pursuing a “cake and eat it” strategy over Brexit that is precisely what May is attempting to negotiate.   What is being obscured by May and the Tories generally is the politics beneath the surface of the UK position, in the context of the changing face of Europe.

The bargaining position of the UK is not just predicated upon the items May has indicated publicly but also by two significant others.  One is the dominance of the City of London in the UK economy, the second is the level of military expenditure as a percentage of GDP.  Both of these are distorting factors in terms of the economic development of the UK but are highly prized by sections of the British ruling class as defining national identity and maintaining the illusion of great power status.

The pre-eminence of the City of London as a clearing house for international capital means that the UK can effectively function as a safe tax haven for the dirty money of anyone from Russian oil gangsters to Saudi dictators. The major international transactions of the key banking groups within the EU all pass through the City, or rely upon its largesse at one time or another.

In relation to the Brexit debate the discussion has been framed in terms of the dangers of Brexit to the City, as financial operations relocate to Paris or Frankfurt.  While aspirations to this effect may be harboured in some quarters, the French and Germans also know that the City can only maintain its position by sucking the life blood out of the manufacturing base of the UK, contributing to the low wage, low skill economy that the Tories have dreamed of since the days of Thatcher.

Quite why the French or Germans would want to take on this role, when the City can do the dirty work, may never come out publicly in Brexit negotiations but will form part of the sub plot.

Likewise, military spending has a similar function.  The only two nuclear powers in the EU, and therefore permanent members of the UN Security Council, are France and the UK.  The French have always pursued a slightly leftfield policy based upon the Gaullist “force de frappe” concept and, notionally at least, not tying their nuclear capability to NATO.

The UK on the other hand has placed great store by its “special relationship” with the United States. It also boasts more spend on its military than other EU partners thus assuming a, somewhat perverse, moral high ground.  The “special” element of the relationship with the US amounts to little more that the UK agreeing to buy an overpriced and militarily redundant nuclear arsenal, Trident being the case in point, in order to protect a small number of defence jobs while the NHS and other essential services go to hell in a handcart.

The much vaunted German economic miracle of the post war years relied on a massive injection of US dollars into the former West Germany, to prove its superiority to the socialist German Democratic Republic, and a miniscule level of military spending.   This has enabled investment in more productive areas of German industry and facilitated expansion eastwards into former socialist countries.  When it comes to the crunch would the Germans look to exchange this for being a US nuclear outpost?

Like the role of the City, the military issue will not be front and centre in the Brexit negotiations but it will also form part of the sub plot.  In Tory hands the hidden Brexit agenda will inevitably seek a quid pro quo which recognises both the City of London as Europe’s banker and preserves the role of the UK as a NATO nuclear power allied to the EU.

It is an irony of the Tory Party schism that the right wing forces of Brexit are happy for the economy to be run by unelected bankers, and defence issues to be dictated by the foreign policy of the US, yet they struggle to co-operate with their capitalist cohorts elsewhere in Europe.

May stated in her speech that the Brexit process would be governed, amongst other things, by “bringing our country together, strengthening the precious union of all of our people.”  Front and centre in this respect is the status of the Northern Ireland statelet, created as a bulwark as the Irish revolution ran out of arms and energy, in order to keep a foothold in the island of Ireland.

The Rees-Mogg’s of this world quite possibly cherish the hope of the whole of Ireland returning to British control.  For the moment however, the Tories they are not going to let Northern Ireland leave the “precious union” and certainly not when their Parliamentary majority is reliant on the neo-fascist thugs of the DUP.  That particular negotiating point may not make it onto the published Brexit agenda either.

The Tories are divided between the dogmatic believers in Empire on the one hand and the Eurocentric capitalists on the other, who see the EU as their salvation.  The EU is divided between those who want to embrace the UK as a military and economic power and those who see that as a threat to their own ability to exploit the European market.

Every effort is made to dress the debate in the language of principle and philosophy.  In reality it is like any other capitalist negotiation, nothing more than an attempt to see who can get the upper hand.  Until there is a collective socialist approach to the problems facing the people of Europe, not just its bankers and corporations, that is all it will ever be.

 

Walking the Brexit tightrope

10th December 2017

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 May and Juncker – deal, or no deal?

The UK government continues to lurch awkwardly towards departure from the European Union, caught in a web of contradictions that it is struggling to untangle.

First of all, the Tories never intended to be here in the first place.  David Cameron only called a referendum in the certainty that he would win it and thereby strengthen his hand against the Euro sceptics in his own party.   He failed and Theresa May succeeded him.

Theresa May called a General Election in the certainty that she would sweep aside the opposition and strengthen the slim majority she had inherited from David Cameron.  She failed and now leads a minority Tory government propped up by the votes of the gangster Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the political face of paramilitary loyalist thugs in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson, now a leading Tory Brexiteer was shouting Remain from the rooftops when that suited him under David Cameron.  Hitching his chariot to the Leave battle bus was purely tactical opportunism on Johnson’s part.  Expecting Remain to win, he could still court the votes of disaffected Tory MPs who voted Leave in a future leadership battle.  As ever, issues of principle are never really matters of great import in the Tory Party.

Theresa May herself was a quiet Remainer who now finds herself in the Brexit driving seat, at least to the extent that DUP leader Arlene Foster allows her to take the wheel. Like their Tory bedfellows the DUP are not great ones for matters of principle either, although they would argue otherwise.  They have been steadfast in their claim that Northern Ireland should not be treated any differently to the rest of the UK in the Brexit negotiations, for example.

The DUP though are very keen for progress to be held back in Northern Ireland when it comes to questions of same sex marriage, abortion and Sunday trading, just three areas in which they insist that Northern Ireland is treated differently to the rest of the UK.

The contradictions multiply.

While the Tories are compelled to drive Brexit forward, in part due to the referendum result, in part due to opportunist considerations inside their own party, the finance houses which are traditional Tory backers in the City of London are no great fans of Brexit.  The great boon for the City of London of EU membership is nothing to do with the free movement of people or goods but the free movement of services, capital and financial services in this case.

It has been something of a heresy on the Left to suggest that membership of the EU is anything less than a good thing.  However, the EU has always been about the best options for Europe’s banks and corporations, not its people.  For the City of London this means significant clout across a wide range of the continent, a position it is not going to give up lightly.

The financial backers of the Tories are not in a strong enough position to suggest a reversal of the referendum outcome.   A minimalist Brexit, which effectively keeps the UK within the orbit of the single market and the customs union, may achieve the next best thing.  The hardline Brexiteers in the Tory Party will go along with this for the moment, as even Theresa May in No. 10 is preferable to Jeremy Corbyn.

The DUP share the hardline Tory desire to keep Corbyn out, with the added hope that they can continue to be the tail which wags the Tory dog, as May remains dependent upon their votes in the House of Commons.

The “sufficient progress” which Jean-Claude Juncker declared this week as enough to get the UK and EU into trade deal discussions is merely a staging post.  The UK’s £39bn divorce bill could yet be a cause of division.  The Irish border question, which can only ultimately be resolved by the political and economic withdrawal of the UK and a United Ireland, still has mileage as a sticking point.

Theresa May is simply the visible embodiment of the tightrope act which the ruling class in the UK continues to perform over the question of Brexit.  One slip could be fatal.  There is no safety net.

 

 

 

The Brexit Roundabout

23rd September 2017

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She’s behind you…Boris Johnson and Theresa May

Pundits, politicians and pollsters love to refer to the summer as the ‘silly season’.  This is the time when Parliament is not sitting, party leaders go on holiday and, short of a national catastrophe, the business of government just ticks over.  This year the silly season featured nothing quite as silly as the talk of Jacob Rees-Mogg MP being a prospective Tory leader.

Rees-Mogg, the self styled representative for the eighteenth century, is the man who regards abortion as morally indefensible, whatever the circumstances.  This includes rape victims.  This is the man whose pretentions to upper class respectability lead him to name his sixth child Sixtus.  As if having Rees-Mogg as a father would not be burden enough in life.

Rees-Mogg, being a dyed in the wool Brexiteer of the right wing Little Englander variety, is a darling of the hucksters running the Leave EU campaign, a thinly veiled excuse for a diatribe against foreigners and a desire to restore the ‘glory days’ of Empire.  Every utterance of JRM, as Leave EU trendily refer to Rees-Mogg, infects the Twittersphere and feeds the myth that the desire to leave the EU is the prerogative of xenophobic fools.

Rees-Mogg’s candle flickered briefly but has been comprehensively snuffed by the return of the big beast in the Leave EU jungle in the form of Boris Johnson.  With his boss Theresa May priming the BBC, and anyone else who cared to listen, that she would make a definitive position speech on Brexit in Florence yesterday, Johnson sharpened his quill and penned a note of his own.  More than a note in fact, over 4,000 words, published by that faithful hound the Daily Telegraph just a week before May’s Florence curtain raiser.

The proverbial Zebedee  to May’s Florence, Johnson suddenly bounced back from his summer perambulations in hurricane hit tax havens, calling ‘time for bed’ on the fragile Tory truce around Brexit.  Not only did Johnson beat loud and hard on the Little Englander drum, he even resurrected the widely discredited claim that £350m a week was being spent on the EU and, upon leaving, this could be diverted to support the NHS, amongst other things.

Clearly a lot of UK taxpayers money is being diverted into the EU and it could be more usefully employed.  Harking back to the £350m per week claim however was a clear provocation on Johnson’s part, purely a piece of internal politics rather than an appeal to the people.  It is no secret that Theresa May’s tenure as Tory party leader is only sustained due to the fact that no one else is currently prepared to take on the dirty work of Brexit.

However, as Johnson knows, the merest slip could change the balance and being in position to step in could give him an advantage.  For many the Johnson brand is toxic, even in some parts of the Tory party, but others may conclude that his high profile may be enough to help the Tories cling to office.

May’s address in Florence attempted to placate the ‘leave at all cost’ lobby on the one hand, while balancing out the demands of British business and capital, to be given more time to prepare for the changes Brexit will bring.  The two year transition period proposed by May sees her please no one, with the hardline leave camp seeing it as too long and many businesses seeing it as being too short.  On this timetable the UK would not fully leave the EU until 2021, five years after the referendum vote of June 2016.

For British capital the EU departure process is one of working out ways in which the City of London and UK corporations can have their cake and eat it.  They want to enjoy the benefits to exploit a captive market, which the EU provides, including the free movement of cheap labour, but not be constrained by the limited social and human rights legislation, which are part of EU law.  The irony is that the fabled social protections of the EU, much beloved of the Remain camp, are built on shifting sands and are uneven across the EU.  The unemployed of the second rank EU states in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland are testament to the EU’s failings.

Outside of the EU, able to determine its own public spending priorities; able to determine an open and fair immigration process; able to set its own trade union and human rights agenda; able to disassociate itself from the aggressive NATO alliance; it is possible to see a different future for the UK based upon socialist values.  Not surprisingly, Theresa May’s speech made no reference to this.  There is no room for such values in the script being prepared by Boris Johnson.  Labour has its own internal struggles in uniting around such a vision but getting the Tories out and seeing Jeremy Corbyn in 10, Downing Street would be a start.