Labour’s Brexit capitulation?

10 December 2020

Starmer wants Labour MPs to back Tory Brexit. This argues Alan Thornett would be madness.

After years of Brexit and ‘the end-game’ of ‘the end-game’, we still don’t know if there will be a deal with the European Union. What we do know is that any deal will be reactionary, economically and socially regressive, and racist. We will be in a race-to-the-bottom, deregulated, little-Englander future based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. Johnson refers to this as ‘an Australian-style’ deal, but he could just as reasonably call it an ‘Uzbekistan-’ or ‘Mali-style’ deal.

It is remarkable that Starmer is considering backing the deal whatever the detail, in order, it appears, to bury the hatchet with the Brexiteers. It is hard to envisage a more disastrous position. This would tie Labour into every disaster, crisis, and reactionary decision produced by Brexit as the realities unfold. Any opposition would simply be met with the response ‘you voted for it’.

We have to be clear: there is no acceptable Brexit. Whilst the full impact of Brexit on top of the Covid pandemic has yet to be calculated, the results are going to be brutal. Not only will there be chaos in the ports, but food prices will rise as tariffs are imposed (40% on lamb, for example), supply chains clog up, and some goods become unavailable.

Car manufacture in Britain, for example, with its just-in-time European-wide operation, is very unlikely to survive what lies ahead.

Higher prices, further unemployment, more attacks on working conditions, more casualisation: it is working class people who will pay the price – and the already disadvantaged among us most of all.

Racist deportations

We see a glimpse of the future with Priti Patel rushing to deport scores of vulnerable asylum-seekers, including suspected victims of trafficking, back to EU countries before this becomes more difficult after the end of the month. There are three flights this week, two to Germany, one to France, with other possible transfers to Austria, Poland, Spain, and Lithuania.

According to the Guardian, there is ‘growing unease’ in the Labour Party over Starmer’s anticipated position. A conference call to affiliated unions, however, seems to have been indecisive. Some were hesitant, though Len McCluskey is understood to be supportive of a Brexit deal – to show Leave voters that the party accepts the referendum outcome. This is a dangerous road to tread.

It would be better for Labour and trade-union activists to be louder in demanding solidarity with workers organising to defend themselves against attacks. Standing with the education unions organising against unsafe working conditions, or with workers demonstrating against job losses at Nissan in Sunderland on Friday night, would be a much better way of reaching out to voters in so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats than the serial abstaining of the Labour Front Bench.

Amongst Labour MPs said to be torn the Guardian lists Anneliese Dodds, David Lammy, and Emily Thornberry. Several others, it says, were ‘really pissed off’ by what they saw as a concerted attempt by Starmer to marginalise anyone with doubts about backing a deal. Even Neil Kinnock, from the House of Lords, is worried.

The Left must demand that Starmer pulls back and leaves the door open for a fight-back against the consequences of Brexit. The conference organised by Another Europe is Possible on 12 December will be an important opportunity to discuss our response to the looming disaster of Tory Brexit.

Alan Thornett is a former car-industry militant, a revolutionary-socialist activist, and the author of Facing the Apocalypse.

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