Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The Delusions of a ‘People’s Brexit’ and Corbyn’s Custom Union speech.

with 5 comments

Image result for people's brexit

How long ago it all seems.

Counterfire originated in a split from the Socialist Workers Party in 2010. They led the Coalition of Resistance (CoR) – the grand title ‘resistance’  US term ‘coalition’ referring to liberal pressure groups, obscuring an alliance of national trade unions, local trade union and anti-cuts activists against austerity. CoR became the more successful People’s Assembly, which, held successful national anti-austerity demonstrations, thousands of local meetings, and continued the campaign against austerity with more political presence and energy.

Leading figures of Counterfire, Lindsey German, John Rees and  their small circle, run the Stop the War Coaltion (StWC) in a long-term partnership with other figures, notably Andrew Murray of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), who now plays a major role in the Labour Party.

Coutnerfire activists are extremely competent and widely appreciated organisers of national campaigns and demonstrations.

Nevertheless there are many problems with their politics.

One that is of pressing concern is that their leadership feels, while the People’s assembly is sidelined in Labour’s project of becoming a “social movement” in a position to act as “player” in the Labour Party.

As keen supporters of the Respect adventure Rees, German, and others published on their web-site, have a distinct take on international issues, which continue the ‘anti-imperialist’ politics of the original Stop the War Coalition, in conditions, above all Syria, where this has led them into irrelevance at best, and at worst, a refusal to take an internationalist human rights approach to the slaughter.

In UK politics Counterfire takes a variety of positions, but they are guided by a pro-Brexit strategy which they call a ‘People’s Brexit’.

To this end they have used their control of the slimmed down People’s Assembly to adopt a list of what might be generously called ‘impossibilist’ demands for Brexit.

That is a list of what the PA said in 2017 on Brexit, without any indication of the political means in Parliament or how these principles could be achieved.,

 “We say no to  ‘No to A Bankers Brexit’. We need to overhaul  the tax system to clampdown on tax avoidance, to increase corporation tax, the personal tax and  inheritance tax of the wealthy.

4. The Peoples’ Assembly calls for a new charter for workers rights and for the abolition of the  anti-union laws. We need an end to Zero Hours contracts, and we call for mandatory collective bargaining for large workplaces.

5. We demand a  Charter for migrant rights: No scapegoating of refugees, full retention of rights for European workers

6. No TTIP and all neo-liberal trade deals (NAFTA and CETA etc.)

Unlike some of their allies this is not based on a specific policy of restoring national Parliamentary sovereignty detached from the rest of the world.

The whole wish-list is part of strategy to “take control” – they leave the ‘how’ for the ‘movement’ to decide.

Counterfire’s reaction to Corbyn’s speech on Monday can be taken in the light of these remarks.

Martin HallWhat does Corbyn’s Brexit speech really mean?

Overall, the speech reiterated Labour’s overall aims and objectives in terms of the kind of government it wants to be, and very good points were made regarding the rights of EU nationals, the refugee crisis, internationalism, workers’ rights and the paramount importance of keeping the NHS safe and out of any future deals the EU might cut with other countries.

As a strategy Hall comments of Corbyn’s intentions,

He will hope it will be seen as the continuation of the manifesto position of a jobs-first or People’s Brexit, and that it provides a big enough tent for most Labour voters to get under.

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto makes no mention of a People’s Brexit.

This is a term unknown to the general public. It is used by pro-Brexit ‘Lexit’ forces, and employed by Counterfire through the People’s Assembly to disguise their alignment with the right-wing pro-business nationalists who led the Brexit drive. The other group which used the expression is Trade Unionists Against the EU, TUAEU (What We Need Is A People’s Brexit)  TUEAU has yet to respond to the revelation that they received a generous donation from far-right Millionaire and arch-Brexiteer, Arron Banks.

What Labour said was.

We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.

We will end Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit, and seek to unite the country around a Brexit deal that works for every community in Britain.

We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.

Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.”  (Negotiating Brexit. Manifesto). In this context, supporting the idea of the UK being part of a European Customs Union, that is an free trade zone based on the same import duties, entirely consistent. It is, in short, no innovation.

Hall however continues,

What Jeremy Corbyn has set out today is, in some ways, a brave attempt to stymie the most rabidly pro-remain aspects of his party, while keeping Leave voters in the tent. This was most strongly seen in this statement towards the end of his speech:

‘The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems. Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.’

The “rabid” Remain supporters are no doubt there to contrast to the non-rabid Leave supporters….

The ventriloquists of Counterfire then speak for the Leave vote.

All the evidence from June 2016 points to the prime drivers of the Leave vote as a desire to take back control, including a variety of differing positions on the question of immigration and borders, allied to an attendant anger at what neo-liberal, free trade economics had done to the UK’s industrial heartlands.

That is, a key drive behind the Leave vote was…to “control”…immigration and frontiers.

No other example is given.

Counterfire avoids the fact that few people, outside of their restricted circles, talked about “neo-libralism” by pointing to the effects of economic restructuring. That is a way of claiming anybody who dislikes the way the economy has gone for their ‘anti-capitalist’ side.

What Jeremy Corbyn has set out today is, in some ways, a brave attempt to stymie the most rabidly pro-remain aspects of his party, while keeping Leave voters in the tent. This was most strongly seen in this statement towards the end of his speech:

The European Union is not the root of all our problems and leaving it will not solve all our problems. Likewise, the EU is not the source of all enlightenment and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country.

In other words he said everything and nothing about whether the future of the peoples of the UK is better or worse inside or outside the EU.

It remains to be seen how achievable any of this is, though. It is also possibly a speech designed in the hope of winning an election rather than securing a future relationship with the EU. If and when this is rejected by the EU, what will be next? Staying in the Single Market from the point of view that the EU is reformable? Reform from a position of sitting on the edge of the tent? It is quite likely that the EU will state that it will not countenance any deal that gives full access to the Single Market that allows Britain not to be bound by all of the four freedoms. So what happens then? That will be the real test and it may be one that the Labour Party is required to address sooner rather than later.

True: at some point there will be a show-down between the Sovereigntist left that stands with the Right and left-wing internationalists  opposed to Brexit, full stop. 

For the moment the below, from Kevin Maguire in the Mirror,  is a fair assessment,

Jeremy Corbyn blasted May for being on the road to nowhere – now his own journey is finally getting somewhere

The penny is dropping that Parliament could honour the referendum decision and still be in a customs union or the single market

 

Advertisements

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Counterfart’s line is virtually identical to the Morning Star’s: https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/a-brexit-of-workers-rights-or-a-brexit-of-fear

    Jim Denham

    February 27, 2018 at 4:57 pm

  2. They appear to believe in their own private fantasy that Boris Johnson was not “really” for Brexit.

    “For all Boris Johnson’s efforts to portray himself as champion of an undiluted commitment to leaving the EU, everyone remembers the amazement of fellow Bullingdon boys David Cameron and George Osborne to learn of his decision to back Leave, so his “EU colony” and “Labour white flag” rhetoric can be disregarded.

    Andrew Coates

    February 27, 2018 at 5:44 pm

  3. Lots of Brexiters are today accusing the EU of trying to “annex” Northern Ireland with the publication of the Draft Withdrawal Treaty.

    Funnily enough, the Morning Star was singing from the same hymn sheet last November –

    “Brussels wants to site that border not on the already existing demarcation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic but between Northern Ireland and Britain.

    It insists on a special arrangement for the six counties to place it inside the EU single market and customs union, effectively extending the EU in defiance of the UK leave vote.

    Britain’s refusal to accept this formula is portrayed as a dangerous provocation that could scupper the Good Friday Agreement and reignite sectarian hostilities.”

    https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/brussels-wants-irish-border

    John Rogan

    February 28, 2018 at 2:28 pm

  4. They’re totally wretched, aren’t they, John?

    Jim Denham

    February 28, 2018 at 3:19 pm

  5. Cut away the waffle and the message is “we support May against the EU”:

    https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/may-handed-an-easy-eu-propaganda-victory

    Jim Denham

    March 1, 2018 at 8:55 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: