THERESA MAY’S visit to Washington has turned into a major embarrassment. Her “partnership” with Donald Trump which meant she refused to condemn his ‘Muslim Ban’ has sparked a wave of enormous demonstrations across the UK. May’s pathetic boasts about the “special relationship” between British and US imperialism are a stale ritual for UK prime ministers. But Brexit gives them a dangerous new dimension.
Trump is a strong supporter of Brexit. “I think Brexit is going to be a great thing,” he remarked. “I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.” But his reasons have nothing to do with sentimentality, and everything to do with a ruthless ambition to prioritise US interests above all. What part of “America First” do our Tory rulers not understand?
Trump has the measure of Theresa May: she needs him more than he needs her. That’s why just hours after she departed, he announced his ban on Muslims from seven states entering the USA - knowing she wouldn’t denounce it. May’s response? “The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees, the United Kingdom is responsible for the United Kingdom’s policy on refugees.”
In her first serious Brexit speech, the Prime Minister threatened to crash out of the EU with “no deal” if the other EU leaders offered her a bad deal. Following a howl of protest from British business leaders, she told MPs a day later that she would deliver an agreement that would avoid punishing World Trade Organisation tariffs on trade.
And while May has nominally acceded to a full White Paper, it is rumoured that it will be short and vague in the extreme. The reality is that she still has no plan beyond the rhetoric of “taking back control”, of “our borders” and “our laws”.
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt rubbished May’s pledge to deliver a new trade deal by 2019 as “impossible”. EU leaders have also insisted that Britain must agree to a £50 billion “divorce bill” for outstanding liabilities under the terms of Article 50. That will set up another hullaballoo from the tabloids and from Tory backbenchers.
And Trump’s offer of a trade deal is in any case a dud cheque. Tariffs between the USA and the UK are already low, meaning that Trump will probably demand the dropping of other barriers to trade: weakening the food regulations that have kept out hormone-injected US beef and genetically modified crops, for example. Or it will mean access to the NHS “market” for US pharmaceutical and private health firms, or a weakening of environmental and labour protections.
New business model
Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed the hardest part of Brexit when he suggested that Britain’s economic model might have to approach that of a corporate tax haven, if the EU blocks access to the single market. He admitted that this would also mean abandoning the European “social model”.
This will very likely involve adopting something closer to the US “social model”, meaning an end to a universal welfare and healthcare. Brexit provides the Tories with the ideal pretext for removing almost all the surviving gains of the 1945 Labour government.
May’s reorientation away from Europe towards Trump’s America will also entangle Britain in Trump’s “America First” military adventures, against ISIS and whoever else dares to clash with US interests. May has already indicated a shift towards Trump’s more brazen support for Israel.
Brexit will therefore prove devastating for all of Britain’s working class communities, whether they voted for it or not. And in the meantime we will have created new barriers to solidarity with and from Europe’s labour movements, our nearest allies.
This is why the campaigns to kick out Trump and stop Brexit are linked and must draw strength from each other. They cannot be separated from the struggles of our European sisters and brothers against the rising semi fascists of France’s Marine Le Pen, the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, of the Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany.
We need to make it clear that they shall not set the continent’s nationalities at one another’s throats nor ban refugees fleeing countries whose sufferings are the result of our rulers wars and occupations. They shall not destroy our education health and welfare systems. They shall not erode and dismantle our democratic and trade union rights. In short they shall not rule. We will drive them from power.
On March 25 we should all be on the streets against the nightmare of Brexit. It is why thousands of us should go to Hamburg to demonstrate against Trump and the G20 leaders on 8/9 July. And it is why we must put millions on the streets when Trump comes to London this summer