James Tweedie, former International Editor of the Morning Star, argues strongly for a merry Brexit
By James Tweedie
Sunday December 13th proved unlucky for some as the Brexit can was kicked down the road yet again, dashing hopes of celebrating a merry Brex-mas before the 25th. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen extended the deadline to agree a post-(post-Brexit) transition period trade deal.
The Tories have long had to grapple with a conflict within the capitalist class over EU membership
One could read into that statement that BoJo had chickened out again, or that UVDL had made last-minute concessions. More likely it was a continuation of the strategy of our “friends and partners” in Brussels trying to punish us for leaving their rotten club, in the hope of dissuading the Poles, Huns, Dutch, Danish, Italians and even French from following suit.
But it could just be a “charade”, as Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage tweeted the day after. Maybe a deal was agreed weeks ago and they’re just stalling until they can present it to their respective parliaments scant days before the transition period ends on New Year’s Eve, barking: “Don’t read it! Just vote for it!”
The prospect of a trade agreement seems to be falling between the stools of the German position – they want to keep selling their cars to us – and the French demands on fishing, which looks like Marshall Ney’s reckless charge towards the British infantry squares at Waterloo.
The UK’s trade with non-EU countries is greater than that with the EU, and has been growing ten times faster over the last decade.
So where is Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party? Why is it sitting on the fence instead of demanding BoJo make good on his election promise to “get Brexit done” and just walk away from the tortuous, fruitless talks?
The Tories have long had to grapple with a conflict within the capitalist class over EU membership: roughly speaking, finance capital wants to stay in and productive capital wants to go. Farage, then leader of UKIP could not have forced Conservative PM David Cameron to agree to the 2016 membership referendum otherwise.
The UK’s trade with non-EU countries is greater than that with the EU, and has been growing ten times faster over the last decade. Trade with the EU 27 will not just stop in the event of a no-deal Brexit and tariffs being applied, it’ll just be regulated by tariffs and duties like that with most other nations. A ‘no-deal’ Brexit is a misnomer – the government has already signed trade deals with 58 nations, covering 93 per cent of our non-EU imports and exports.
Starmer, Emily Thornberry and others … sabotaged the 2019 election campaign by insisting on a policy of holding a second membership referendum if they won.
The Leave vote forced Cameron’s resignation in 2016 and that of his successor Theresa May in 2019. Brexit and Farage have dethroned more Tory leaders in five years than Labour has in 30. It also did for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour – aided by Starmer, Emily Thornberry and others who sabotaged the 2019 election campaign by insisting on a policy of holding a second membership referendum if they won.
Five out of every six grass-roots Conservative Party members – small and medium business owners, professionals, farmers and so on – are Brexiteers. So are the great majority of Tory voters, and all those habitual Labour voters in the north and Midlands of England who help give BoJo his 80-seat majority. About two-thirds of the 17.4 million who voted Leave in 2016 support the Conservatives, close to all of the 14 million who voted Johnson’s party back in by a landslide a year ago.
Five out of every six grass-roots Conservative Party members – small and medium business owners, professionals, farmers and so on – are Brexiteers.
Remember those Europhile Tory grandees Kenneth Clark, Oliver Letwin and Philip Hammond? BoJo ended their political careers without batting an eye after they plotted with the opposition to form a Ramsay Macdonald-style ‘national government’ against honouring the 2016 vote.
For the ruling party, Brexit is a no-brainer and the momentum is inexorable.
What did the EU ever do for us?
Most of the British left, along with liberals, regional nationalists and the Greens, have tried to paint Brexit as a reactionary, xenophobic act of senseless rage and nostalgia for the empire by ‘White Van Man’, or whatever classist trope they choose to apply, egged on by ‘disaster capitalists’.
But the EU is in fact the monolithic fortress of the status quo, of class dictatorship by big capital and neo-colonialism. It unites most of the historical imperial powers under one flag, led by Germany and France – a republic that spans five continents thanks to its remaining ‘confetti of empire’.
Most of the British left, along with liberals, regional nationalists and the Greens, have tried to paint Brexit as a reactionary, xenophobic act of senseless rage and nostalgia for the empire by ‘White Van Man’
Most ordinary people voted Leave because they’d never seen any personal benefit from EU membership, and many lost out from it. Remember when they used to make Ford cars in Dagenham, London? That was offshored to Germany and eastern Europe after we joined the bloc.
The EU enshrines a particular model of neoliberal capitalism, dubbed the “Four Freedoms” – freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and labour across borders without restrictions.
One might support that model, as the Labour Party has since 1983, but does really it have to be set in the stone of treaties which no country can withdraw from without being punished by the others? What if the people of one country vote to take a different path, like the Greeks did in 2015? The “Europe of Solidarity” crushed them under its iron heel. This is one of the ways the EU overrides national democracy.
The “Europe of Solidarity” crushed them [Greeks] under its iron heel. This is one of the ways the EU overrides national democracy.
The EU rules that the provisions public services must be “contestable”. Any government contract for services worth more than € 139,000 (£126,000) or construction contract over €5,350,000 (£4.850,000) must be put out to public tender, and any company in any of the 27 member states can bid for it. To state the obvious, those figures are chickenfeed. £126,000 might just about cover a handful of low-paid cleaners in an office for a year, but the EU says a government department can’t even keep that kind of operation in-house.
The wave of railway franchise privatisation here in the 90s was the experiment for the current EU-wide system of deregulation, and we were the guinea pigs.
The EU rules that the provisions public services worth more than €139,000 must be “contestable”; i.e. outsourced.
“State aid” to industry is also banned by Brussels. Governments can’t bail out or nationalise ailing companies, no matter how many jobs are at stake or how much the country relies on them. And the government cannot put tariffs on imports from the EU that undercut our home-grown produce and goods while we stay in the Common Market – or leave with a deal.
The EU does not set a minimum wage for its member states, but it does let employers undercut nationally-agreed wages and conditions for workers, as the European Court of Justice rulings against the International Transport Workers’ Federation in the Viking and Laval cases in 2007 showed. The “Europe of Solidarity” in action once again.
“State aid” to industry is also banned by Brussels.
The wealthiest EU member states of north and west Europe treat those in the south and east of the bloc as nurseries for migrant labour. The youngest and best-educated of their people have emigrated to France, Germany, the Benelux countries and Scandinavia to work as nannies, waiters, supermarket clerks and nurses for the elderly
Romania’s population peaked at over 23 million in 1990, but has since fallen by four million, and is predicted to lose another six million by 2060 – thanks to “free movement”. In the same time frame, Lithuania’s population has slumped by 22 per cent and is set to plummet by another 38 per cent by 2060. These are catastrophic levels of depopulation, equal to the Nazi genocides or the bubonic plague.
The wealthiest EU member states of north and west Europe treat those in the south and east of the bloc as nurseries for migrant labour.
Last week, even Greenpeace and local marine protection campaigners in Brighton appeared to support the government’s gunboat diplomacy towards the EU, demanding that Dutch super-trawlers be banned from British waters after dismembered dolphins and porpoises were washed up on beaches along the English Channel coast.
The EU’s price tag for a post-Brexit free trade deal is perpetual obedience of all those rules and regulations – including any made in future – and the continued plunder of 90 per cent of the catch from our vast fishing waters.
How can any social-democrat with their salt still support membership of this rotten institution?
Abandoning the field
To paraphrase the footballer Gary Neville Labour’s approach has been to walk off the field while the other side is still playing. Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband refused to tell the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday whether his party would vote for or against any trade deal – while insisting that a no-deal Brexit would be a “disgrace”. This is unsurprising for a man who publicly failed at the task of eating a bacon sandwich during his 2015 election campaign.
Starmer is clearly convinced that carping about the government while sitting on the fence on every issue is the way to win support from voters. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the never-ending Brexit saga, he has just about drawn level in the polls with Johnson.
Labour has never read the writing on the wall.
But there isn’t going to be an election any time soon. By next summer the transition period will have ended, deal or no-deal, we’ll all be vaccinated against COVID-19, the BoJo Mojo will be back and the Tories will be 10 points ahead in the polls again.
Labour should have been pushing for a cut-off to the trade talks and a no-deal Brexit at least since the first phoney deadline of October 15 – or since they first made their outrageous demands. But Labour has never read the writing on the wall.
The electorate confirmed the Leave vote in two subsequent general elections and the last-ever European Parliament election in this country. Labour lost northern seats it had held for a century in last year’s election because it sold out its heartland supporters on Brexit.
But Labour isn’t the party it once was. It has almost no working-class MPs and you’d have a hard time finding one who isn’t a lawyer, or married to one.
Labour isn’t the party it once was. It has almost no working-class MPs and you’d have a hard time finding one who isn’t a lawyer, or married to one.
Labour has steadily retreated from the old industrial towns into the big cities, swapping identity politics for class. The self-appointed “community leaders” who afflict every minority with their private agendas – the Fawcett Society, Lee Jasper, Stonewall, Peter Tatchell, the Jewish Chronicle – have lined up to call Brexit a ‘basket of deplorables’.
Starmer has managed to steer Labour to the centre-right, like Tony Blair did, but without Blair’s knack for winning votes. A party leader who can’t win is like a chocolate teapot – the only purpose of parties like Labour is to get elected and rule. Taking such an anti-majoritarian position is inexcusable.
And it’s no good pointing to the other opposition parties as justification for Labour’s sins.
The Liberal Democrats have been politically irrelevant since the Second World War. The have been driven back into a last few patches of London and the south-east, Lancashire, the south-west and Scotland.
Starmer has managed to steer Labour to the centre-right, like Tony Blair did, but without Blair’s knack for winning votes.
The Scottish National Party might rule the roost north of the ‘border’, but its Europhilia is born out of its knee-jerk opposition to anything the hated Sassenachs do and its constant opportunistic calls for another independence referendum. Or to put it crudely, Scexit good, Brexit baaaad!
The majority of Welsh voted Leave, so Plaid Cymru’s anti-Brexit rhetoric is just baffling. The Greens’ only MP Caroline Lucas – who represents the Brighton Pavilion seat – remains in denial about Brexit and ignores the butchered porpoises on her local beaches. Sinn Fein used to be anti-EU, until the Good Friday Agreement got them on the European gravy train.
Brexit makes possible various ‘progressive’ changes in how this country is run, but they will never be realised while Labour and the broader Left remains opposed to leaving.
James Tweedie was born in Hammersmith, West London, in 1975. He grew up in the shadow of the mushroom cloud in the time of colonial liberation, being taken to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Anti-Apartheid Movement events by his mother and father respectfully.
James has lived and worked in South Africa and Spain. He has worked as a reporter and the international editor of the Morning Star newspaper, a foreign reporter for the Mail Online and an online journalist for RT.com. He has appeared as a commentator on BBC Radio 4, RT’s Crosstalk, Turkey’s TRT World and Iran’s Press TV.
He maintains an occasional blog (http://ositorojo.blogspot.com/), describing himself as “one of the most deplorable purveyors of fake news about populist strongmen (and women) around the post-truth world.”