Tories learn Brexit can't please everyone
By Jeremy Dewar
IN HER Florence speech Theresa May outlined her desired outcome as somewhere between membership of the European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), which includes access to the EU’s single market, and the free trade agreement it recently concluded with Canada, which covers a limited range of commodities and took ten years to negotiate.
But EEA membership would mean accepting “free movement of persons, goods, services and capital.” It “would also mean the uk having to adopt at home – automatically and in their entirety – new EU rules”, while the Canada deal would “represent such a restriction on our mutual market access that it would benefit neither of our economies”. So neither was a model and hence the two-year transition period.
Scheduled right before the Tory party conference, this was primarily not just for a domestic audience, but for her own front bench. As a real negotiating position, it is deeply flawed, as Alan Beattie wrote in the Financial Times:
“This may be a fruitless quest. In thousands of trade deals worldwide, no two economies have replicated the frictionless cross-border commerce of the eu single market by forcing regulators to accept each others’ rules as equivalent.”
Britain’s big bourgeoisie, the 1 per cent if you like, are overwhelmingly of the view that, even at this stage, the government should either find a way to avoid Brexit altogether or enter a long enough transition period to make that politically feasible.
Deal or no deal?
The trouble is the party of government – the bosses’ natural choice – is in thrall to its chauvinistic, xenophobic base, right from its core electorate, its membership to its mps. Ironically, against the interest of the class it serves, it is in the grip of a right wing racist populism that their friends in the media helped whip up.
So we have Tory Remainers and Brextremists at each other’s throats, with the battle lines drawn. Threaten no deal while trying to negotiate some mutually beneficial agreements, whip up chauvinist resentment at the Europeans when trade falls off, and hope for a bailout from “America First” Donald Trump. Or go for a long transition, giving uk-based businesses time to adjust, while seeking as close a deal to the eea without (full) freedom of movement, i.e. not that close.
Neither is a realistic policy from the capitalists’ point of view. And both are a real threat to the working class: UK-born and EU citizens working here as well as European workers across the EU.
Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, negative consequences are unavoidable:
- Loss of jobs as businesses relocate and trade is lost;
- Continued suppression of wages, as investment dries up due to trading uncertainties and productivity stagnates;
- A fall in public revenue, further threatening vital services, not to mention the effect of losing hundreds of thousands of skilled migrant workers who run them;
- A constant diet of chauvinism and racism against migrant workers and all ethnic minorities, with millions of workers denied the right to live and work where they choose.