Tendance Coatesy

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John McDonnell Rails against “Elites” and stands by “British people” for “Positive Brexit”.

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McDonnell Drops Internationalist and European Principles for Brexit “Enormous Opportunity”. 

John McDonnell backs Brexit as ‘enormous opportunity’ for Britain reports the Politics site.

Labour today promised to get behind Britain’s exit from the European Union, saying they now believed Brexit is an enormous opportunity for the country.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that Labour would not seek to prevent or delay Brexit, labeling those trying to do so as being “on the side of certain corporate elites”.

He told a meeting in central London that Labour “must not try to re-fight the referendum or push for a second vote,”

“If Article 50 needs to be triggered in Parliament, Labour will not seek to block or delay it,” he said.

He added that: “to do so would put us against the majority will of the British people and on the side of certain corporate elites, who have always had the British people at the back of the queue.”

In a shift from Labour’s previous support for the EU, McDonnell said he believed it had been run in the interests of big business.

“While Labour supported remaining in the EU to protect workers’ rights, we cannot hide from the fact that too much of the EU also had aspects of the old model, putting the interests of big business over ordinary people,” he said.

“Labour accepts the referendum result as the voice of the majority and we must embrace the enormous opportunities to reshape our country that Brexit has opened for us.”

He insisted that the party needed to change their attitude about Brexit

“It is time we all were more positive about Brexit,” he said.

McDonnell was asked how Labour could have any influence over the Brexit process when he had just ruled out voting against it, or seeking to block it.

He replied that the party would use “moral pressure” to influence the government.

“I think it’s the moral pressure that we’ll be able to exert… I don’t think it will come down to parliamentary procedures…” he insisted

“No government can resist (the moral pressure).”

Labour were accused of “capitulating” on Brexit, following McDonnell’s speech.

“Labour’s premature capitulation on Article 50 leaves those of us who oppose a hard brexit in a weaker position,” Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said.

“As a result we now have less power to persuade the government to give us proper details on their plans ahead of a vote.”

This language, the “British people” and the terms,  “certain” (which ones?) “corporate elites”, reflect national populist rhetoric.

They have no place in an internationalist socialist movement.

What exactly are the “enormous opportunities” McDonnell  is talking about?

Kicking out European workers, for example?

Ending EU legislation that promotes the workers’ and social rights that he cites, so that labour can be – even – more ‘flexible’?
More corporate giveaways and, perhaps, protectionism now that EU rules on a level playing field for the single market will be gone?

Negotiating with Donald Trump for a special US-UK trade deal?

The Shadow Chancellor gives no examples.

Nor does he specify  what the phrase “moral pressure” means, beyond insulting people’s intelligence with the assertion that, “”No government can resist (the moral pressure).”

One might suppose that McDonnell considers that one only has to think “positive” in front of the mirror, and, hop, positive things happen.

This intervention goes against the grain of the international democratic socialist left:

Left-wing parties across Europe are telling Jeremy Corbyn to block Brexit November the 14th.

Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure from left-wing party leaders across the continent to reverse Labour’s Brexit policy and block Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Socialist parties across Europe, including Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), are calling on the leader of the British Labour Party to form a parliamentary opposition to Brexit.

We endorse this recent statement by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Labour should vote against Article 50. (9th of November).


On 5 November Jeremy Corbyn told the Sunday Mirror that Labour will vote in Parliament against triggering “Article 50” — the formal procedure for Britain quitting the EU — unless the Tory government agrees to Labour’s “Brexit bottom line”.

That, he said, is mainly continued UK membership of the “single market”, within which customs duties and checks are abolished and trade regulations are uniform.

Better if he had said that the bottom line is freedom of movement in Europe — the freedom of EU-origin workers in Britain to stay here securely, for their friends and compatriots to join them, and for British people to work, live, or study in other EU countries with almost citizens’ rights, including such entitlements as public health care.

Since all sides now more or less concede that Britain cannot stay in the “single market” without also continuing freedom of movement — presumably with European Economic Area membership, or a sort of EU semi-membership, like Norway — it comes to much the same thing.

Then Labour’s right-wing deputy leader Tom Watson intervened to say that Labour would push “single-market” amendments, but would vote for “Article 50” regardless. Corbyn seems to have deferred to Watson.

Corbyn’s initial stance was right, and Watson is wrong. When the judges ruled that Parliament must vote on “Article 50”, that was an assertion of democratic norms.

The Tory government, in its legal dispute with the judges, has taken its stance on “Royal Prerogative”, the most undemocratic feature of British politics, the residue from the old absolute monarchy, the supposed right of the government to bypass Parliament.

The referendum result of 23 June creates no compelling democratic mandate for the abolition of freedom of movement, or for that matter the removal of EU citizen rights from over 50 million people. Or to impose the re-entrenchment of partition in Ireland. Or trigger the erection of a further probable new border between England and Scotland.

Aside from the facts that 16 and 17 year olds were excluded; that EU citizens living here were also excluded (though they can vote in local authority elections); that the referendum was run on poor electoral registers; and that opinion polls now show a Remain majority, the referendum could create no mandate for any particular form of Brexit. The Brexit campaigners were definite only on promises which they would scrap on 24 June (£350 million more each week for the NHS) and vague on the hugely different post-Brexit models (Norway? Switzerland? Canada? Albania? Singapore?)

It is more democratic for Parliament to decide the terms of Brexit negotiations than for May’s Cabinet to do it behind closed doors.

May has given secret assurances to the Nissan bosses. Labour should demand she give public assurances to migrant workers, and to workers and students who may want to migrate.

Maybe the combined votes of Labour, Lib-Dems, SNP, and Europe-minded Tories will be able to win terms to “soften” Brexit. That will be good.

If May refuses to trigger “Article 50” on “softened” terms, insists on “hard” Brexit, and can’t get it, then that’s her problem, and Labour should not help her out of it. It will be good, not bad, if the government cannot pass “Article 50” through Parliament — that is, if Parliament, in one way or another, upholds the rights of migrant workers.

Jeremy Corbyn told the Sunday Mirror that he welcomed the prospect of May calling an early general election. Activists should prepare for that possibility.

Under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, passed by the Cameron government, May can call an early election only by engineering two successive votes of no-confidence in her government — not a good ploy — or by getting a two-thirds majority for it in Parliament, that is, only by getting Labour to vote for it too.

In circumstances like the present, where the Labour right’s relentless sabotage has given the Tories a not-yet-diminishing average 11% lead in polls over the last three months, Labour has an interest in gaining time to sort out the saboteurs, and a right to do so.

We have no interest in helping May to get a mandate from a snap election which she’d be fairly sure to win (despite “Remain” now having a majority in opinion polls), and which she could then cite as a “mandate” for hard Brexit.

Labour should fight every inch of the way to minimise barriers and divisions which the Tories want to raise with Brexit.


Written by Andrew Coates

November 15, 2016 at 5:31 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Scratch a Corbynista and find a Trumpist.


    November 15, 2016 at 8:26 pm

  2. Isn’t McDonnell’s idea of “enormous opportunities” about government support of British industry, increased public sector borrowing and investment and reshaping the economy rather than about restricting freedom of movement? Admittedly hard to judge with no concrete examples given, but that would be more in line with his politics as I understand them.

    I do think saying in advance that you won’t oppose Article 50 is rather like putting your poker hand on the table face up, though.

    Ted Alleyne

    November 15, 2016 at 9:07 pm

  3. Corbyn needs to bring back Ken Livingstone and George Galloway into the Labour Party!
    Trump is a bit like Galloway, a bigmouth megalomaniac who likes to grab ’em by the p**y with a younger exotic wife.

    He should be the leader of the Labour Party. He is like a left wing Trump.

    Scratch a Trotskyist and find a Neo Con, Scratch a Neo Con and find a Zionist.
    The problem perhaps is with Jared Kushner, his son in law.


    November 15, 2016 at 11:21 pm

  4. Scratch a Livingstone/Galloway/Trump fan and find an anti-Semite.

    Jim Denham

    November 16, 2016 at 10:22 am

  5. McDonnell has made a serious error in making this speech.

    See the New Statesman: JOLYON MAUGHAM. Labour has checkmated itself on Brexit.

    “If Labour’s Good Brexit preconditions are delivered, job done. But what about the – I would suggest more likely – situation where they are not? What then?

    Logically there are only three possibilities.

    First, Labour waves the deal through anyway, having failed to police its objectives.
    Second, Labour blocks the deal. We would leave the EU without one. Again, Labour would have failed to deliver its objectives.
    A third possibility would arise if Parliament retained a residual right to block the deal without leaving the EU. In demanding that right Parliament would, in effect, be saying: “Unless you the government do what Parliament demands, we will either reject the deal and Remain, or put the deal to the electorate in a Second Referendum.”
    The first two don’t achieve parliamentary control. Only the third does. And so long as Article 50 is legally revocable – which is likely but will need to be resolved elsewhere – it is a meaningful threat. Indeed, it is the only meaningful threat. Unless Parliament issues it, Labour demands for parliamentary control are mere sound and fury. They signify nothing.

    But here’s the problem. McDonnell has explicitly ruled it out. “This means we must not try to re-fight the referendum or push for a second vote,” he declared this week.

    He’s checkmated himself. And that’s a pity. It’s a pity because it removes any opportunity for Labour to shape the terms upon which we leave the EU. And it’s a pity, because it’s just the wrong course.”


    Whatever his strategy on Article 50 he has given away a lot and will gain little in return, and that’s apart from his hollow words about “moral” pressure.

    Andrew Coates

    November 16, 2016 at 1:13 pm

  6. Unfortunately Article 50 appears to be irrevocable. The only way to find out is to ask the ECJ. So, it would be really funny if the next episode of this nonsense was the UK Supreme Court asking the ECJ if the Article 50 notification can be withdrawn, once issued. And the fact that no-one definitively knows the answer to this question shows how surreal things are becoming.

    Colin O'Driscoll

    November 16, 2016 at 5:06 pm

  7. Thanks for the point Colin: one I suspect to ask somebody like John Palmer about.

    Administrative Law, and particularly EU Law, are areas of study that nature has intended for a very special minority of the learned.

    Andrew Coates

    November 16, 2016 at 5:44 pm

  8. Meanwhile,

    “Jobs of the future may not have stable hours, holiday pay, sick pay, or pensions, the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

    Damian Green described the trend in employment practices towards the so-called “gig economy” as “exciting” and said the changes had “huge potential”.

    The Cabinet minister’s endorsement of the approach comes a month after an employment tribunal found that drivers for the Uber car service should in fact get the minimum wage and paid holiday. The tribunal dismissed the taxi company’s claim that its drivers were in fact self–employed and not entitled to these rights.”

    Andrew Coates

    November 16, 2016 at 6:31 pm

  9. Motion passed at the last Unite EC; it is now Unite policy …

    – To ensure at the very least all workers rights currently in EU law come into force in UK law.
    – To ensure European works council structures are not affected and we continue and we continue to increase our co-operation and solidarity with our sister trade unionists in the EU.
    – To defend the free movement of people as it currently exists including our right to work in the EU and European workers rights to do the same here. The best guard against employers using Brexit as an excuse to attack pay and Ts and Cs not putting up new borders but strong trade unions organising all workers regardless of where they are from.”

    Jim Denham

    November 20, 2016 at 1:38 pm

  10. No mention of these issues by McDonnell.

    This however is his latest public intervention.

    Andrew Coates

    November 20, 2016 at 1:45 pm

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