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Posts Tagged ‘Lexit

Labour, the Customs Union and a Marxist Case against Brexit.

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Lexit Mythomania.

It has been said that Trotskyism is noted for ‘mythomania’. (1)

Whether on not that is true for Trotskyists the word fits the myth-spinning Lexit’ – pro-Brexit – left to a T.

Recently the leader of Counterfire asserted,

Labour should stick with its People’s Brexit strategy argues John Rees”.

I can’t recall Labour ever campaigning for or deciding in favour of a ‘People’s Brexit’, although few would doubt that Labour is in favour of a “A new economic settlement that works for the many.”

And Rees’ wish list of “better than the EU not worse than the EU.” is an interesting suggestion coming from a faction that supported leaving the EU under a Tory government that was bound to make things worse.

As Catherine West MP has written in the Independent (30.1.18),

It has often been argued by advocates of “Lexit” that a hard Brexit will allow a future Labour government to end austerity. That by leaving the single market and customs union and shaking off the shackles of Brussels we will have more freedom to invest in the economy.

This is nonsense. The reality is that austerity in the UK has been a political choice, made by this Tory Government, and has nothing to do with the EU or single market rules. EU rules impose no restriction whatsoever on the level of public spending. Its strictures are about deficits, that is, how much, in normal times, governments finance their spending by borrowing instead by taxation. Crucial is that the rules allow governments the flexibility to deliberately spend in a Keynesian manner during a recession and to invest.

Let’s be clear: a hard Brexit, whereby we leave the single market and customs union, will cause an economic loss that will reduce tax receipts and therefore risk an extension or intensification of austerity.

All credible economic analyses of the long-term cost of Brexit have found broadly the same hierarchy of effects: the further Britain travels from the single market, the greater the economic loss. Indeed, the Government’s leaked analysis, published by Buzzfeed, of the impact of Brexit says that the UK would be worse off under all scenarios. Furthermore, most estimates of the cost of Brexit may well be conservative and do not include uncertainty, business confidence and flight of EU workers, which will have a negative effect on the UK’s productivity.

She concludes,

for as long as the Conservatives remain in power, leaving the single market risks the extension of austerity for years to come, on top of the last decade of public spending cuts.

This is the report the article is based on: Busting the Lexit Myths.

The choice is clear. We can sit back and wait for the consequences of a hard Brexit to become so severe that it topples this terrible Tory government. Or we can stand up for those who will be worst affected and fight for membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union. Future generations will not forgive us for inaction or for perceived complicity in a Brexit that damages our country and our economy. Those of us on the left who believe in building a more equal, more prosperous and sustainable country must not be duped into supporting a Tory agenda that would do the opposite.

This brochure comes highly recommended from the guardians of Parliamentary Sovereignty in the Communist Party of Britain, as the product of  “Forces set on subverting the Brexit vote (who) have targetted the labour movement.”

Perhaps Counterfire, who campaigned for Brexit, alongside Trade Unionists Against the European Union (recently embroiled in controversy over their funding from hard-right millionaire Arron Banks), could bear this in mind and take a look at the real political debate over the EU.

If it’s not too much trouble

The BBC reports today,

Labour and customs union: Evolution not revolution. 

The Labour position has been to argue that “a” customs union was “a viable option” and that the government should “keep all options open”.

What we are likely to see on Monday is wording that makes plain that “a” not “the” customs union would have distinct benefits and is the most logical way to solve the thorny issue of the Irish border.

It won’t just be a viable option but a viable end point. And the policy is likely to evolve in another way too.

Currently Labour recognises that when we are out of the EU, we are out of the single market.

So it is arguing that it wants to retain the same benefits as single market membership – such as tariff-free trade.

I’m told the same formulation could be applied to “a” customs union, that in the long term a future Labour government could sign up to one, if the UK got the exact same benefits as it gets from “the” customs union – frictionless trade and a say over the external tariff on imported goods.

As Labour has talked about the benefits of some form of customs union before, this would be an incremental not dramatic move forward.

However party insiders say that Jeremy Corbyn can’t guarantee that a future Labour government would definitely be in such a customs union because it would have to be negotiated with the EU.

But one insider said that people listening on Monday will have no doubt where Labour is headed: That a customs union is the preferred option.

Speaking on LBC radio, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry gave credence to this by saying: “We have to negotiate a new agreement. That, we think, is likely to be a customs union that will look pretty much like the current customs union.”

On the strategy to take the New Statesman carried this article a few days ago,

A Marxist case against Brexit: Trade union leader Manuel Cortes on what Labour should do.

The TSSA General Secretary  states,

Cortes has called for the UK to remain in the EU. “Any Brexit deal that introduces friction and borders will finish off the job that Thatcher started because our manufacturing industry will just dwindle away,” he warns. A “soft Brexit” (remaining in the single market and the customs union), meanwhile, would condemn the UK to “vassal statehood” by making it “a rule-taker, rather than a rule-maker”.

Will Labour listen to this pro-EU view, one which many on the left (outside fringe groups like Counterfire or the Sovereigntist Morning Star) share?

But Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledged to end free movement and Corbyn has refused to endorse a new referendum on Brexit (Cortes was said to be “furious” when the issue was not debated at last year’s party conference). “The Tories are having a conversation with themselves, I think we need to have a conversation with the country,” says Cortes. “Labour is ideally placed to start that conversation.”

Does he believe that Corbyn, a lifelong Eurosceptic, could yet change his mind? “My view is that Jeremy listens to people and he will continue to look at what the facts are,” Cortes says. “And as those facts change, and he continues to listen to people, I’m sure he could change his mind. I see no reason why he would be fixated on any position.”

The AWL certainly agrees,

The resignation of the Blairite Lord Adonis from his position as adviser to the Tory government has shown the issue of Brexit, and whether or not to try and stop it, is not over in the Labour Party.

A new survey has suggested that allegedly 78% of Labour members want Brexit to be stopped or at least want a second referendum.

Up until last year’s election the right-wing of Labour (notably Progress) had only half-heartedly taken up the issue of stopping Brexit. They avoided directly opposing Brexit because they feared the electoral power of nationalistic sentiment.
They couched their opposition to Brexit primarily as the need to retain membership of the EU single market, aware that there was considerable cross-party concern about the impact of withdrawal on business.

For the left in the Party, issues of migrant rights and the growth of political nationalism were the major concern. Last autumn the Labour Campaign For Free Movement collected hundreds of signatures on a statement calling for the Party to be unambiguous in its defence of migration.

For Workers’ Liberty, opposing Brexit required taking the issue of defending migrants into “Leave” sections of the working class. These were often poorer sections of the class: unorganised and politically demoralised by decades of austerity.

Our positive case should include developing real links with the rest of the radical workers’ movement in Europe and transforming the EU.

Moving toward government, a radical Labour Party can energise the European labour movement. We can stop Brexit, challenge austerity on a cross-European basis and stop the nationalist narrative trapping British workers.

We need a working-class campaign to stop Brexit.


(1) A term which is something of a leitmotif in Christophe NickLes Trotskistes, Fayard, 2002,


Defend Freedom of Movement Against Draconian UK Brexit Plan for ‘National Preference’.

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British Government Plans to Introduce ‘National Preference’ in Jobs Market.

Leaked document reveals UK Brexit plan to deter EU immigrants reports the Guardian.

Exclusive: Home Office paper sets out detailed proposals including measures to drive down number of low-skilled migrants from Europe

It proposes measures to drive down the number of lower-skilled EU migrants – offering them residency for a maximum of only two years, in a document likely to cheer hardliners in the Tory party. Those in “high-skilled occupations” will be granted permits to work for a longer period of three to five years.

The document also describes a phased introduction to a new immigration system that ends the right to settle in Britain for most European migrants – and places tough new restrictions on their rights to bring in family members. Potentially, this could lead to thousands of families being split up.

Showing a passport will be mandatory for all EU nationals wanting to enter Britain – and the paper proposes introducing a system of temporary biometric residence permits for all EU nationals coming into the UK after Brexit for more than a few months.

The determination to end free movement from day one and drive down lower-skilled EU migration, end the role of the European court of justice in family migration and extend elements of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” measures to long-term EU migrants without residence permits is likely to please hard Brexiters.

The paper updates with this comment,

Analysing the document, Alan Travis, our home affairs editor, said:

It proposes that after Brexit day all newly arrived EU migrants, unless they are highly skilled, will lose their rights to live permanently in Britain. At a stroke they will be turned into temporary workers with a maximum two-year permit.

The Independent,

Brexit: Tory government EU migration plans labelled ‘economically illiterate’ and ‘plainly cruel’ amid angry backlash

Ministers accused of planning ‘cruel’ restrictions which would damage the economy, split up families – and allow rogue bosses to exploit workers

Draconian post-Brexit curbs on immigration revealed in leaked Government proposals would wreck public services and fuel an “underground economy”, Theresa May has been told.

The plans – which would strip all newly-arrived EU migrants of their rights to live permanently in Britain, including the highly-skilled – triggered a furious backlash within hours.

Ministers were accused of planning “cruel” restrictions which would not only damage the British economy and the NHS, but allow rogue bosses to exploit migrants and undercut good employers.

Those who follow French politics will recognise that in the scheme is a policy of National Preference, close to the demand of the far-right Front National, for jobs to go to first of all to UK Nationals.

p46 - Potential measuresp40 - we are clear


Criticism of the ideas is pouring in:  4 things wrong with the goverment’s Brexit immigration plans  COLIN YEO

It is to be hope that the majority of the left will respond to these plans along the lines advanced by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.

Ana Oppenheim, a spokesperson for the Labour Campaign for Free Movement and an international students’ representative for the National Union of Students, said: “Our party should stand for a system of free movement. This is in the interests of all workers, by giving everyone the right to work legally, join a union and stand up to their boss without fear of deportation or destitution. Migrants’ rights are workers’ rights.”

The Labour Campaign for Free Movement was launched on 4 August by trade unionists and Labour Party members and supporters. Prominent signatories to its founding statement include MPs Clive Lewis, David Lammy, Geraint Davies and Tulip Siddiq, and the General Secretaries of the TSSA, BFAWU, UCU and UVW trade unions. Over 2,300 Labour members and supporters are already backing the campaign, which intends to bring proposals for free movement policy to next month’s Labour Party Conference.

With these measures on the cards those on the left who voted Leave, and who claimed that the vote paved the way for a ‘socialist’ Brexit are in disarray.

How they ever imagined that a  few street protests would change the Cabinet’s course is hard to explain, even for those accustomed to the mythomania of some on the left.

A specific dilemma is faced by those within the labour movement and Labour Party who are hostile to freedom of movement.

The small ‘Trotskyist’ Socialist Party is representative of this current.

The organised workers’ movement must take an independent class position on the EU free movement of labour rules that will be raised in the EU negotiations.

The SP has written this,  “The single market and free movement

The socialist and trade union movement from its earliest days has never supported the ‘free movement of goods, services and capital’ – or labour – as a point of principle but instead has always striven for the greatest possible degree of workers’ control, the highest form of which, of course, would be a democratic socialist society with a planned economy. It is why, for example, the unions have historically fought for the closed shop, whereby only union members can be employed in a particular workplace, a very concrete form of ‘border control’ not supported by the capitalists.

It will be interesting to see what kind of ‘closed shop’ they and others of this opinion would offer as an alternative – if any –  to the latest Tory plans.

Boost for ‘Another Europe is Possible’ Remain Campaign: Varoufakis, McDonnell, Lucas and Clive Lewis Join.

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Ex-Greek finance minister will help launch nationwide campaign alongside John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis will join the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Green party MP Caroline Lucas for the start of a tour to persuade leftwingers to vote to stay in the EU.

The senior figures from the political left are teaming up as part of the Another Europe is Possible campaign, in which they will make a progressive case for the UK to stay in.

The tour will start with an event in London with Varoufakis, who was severely critical of the EU’s dealings with Greece’s debts when he was finance minister but has recently warned that Brexit could plunge Europe into a 1930s-style depression.

Other rallies will involve trade unionists, as well as the Labour MP Clive Lewis, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, at cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester.

Lewis said: “This referendum will define relationship to the world for decades, and we will be joining together with progressives across Britain and Europe, not just to make the case that we are better off in Europe, but also to talk about the kind of society we need to build.

“Capital long ago fled national borders. In order to build a society which is fair for everyone, we need an international response to austerity and the financial crisis. That’s why we are campaigning on an unapologetically progressive platform – for social justice, the environment and freedom of movement.”.

This follows last week’s decision by the Fire Brigades Union,

Fire Brigades Union conference says, ‘Stay in Europe to change Europe’

National conference agrees to support campaign for Britain to remain a member of the European Union. But brilliant speech from General Secretary Matt Wrack rejects status quo Europe and calls for alternative

Delegates at FBU conference debated EU membership at length both in a fringe meeting on Wednesday and in a plenary debate today, but ultimately decided by some margin to remain and campaign for change with trade unionists across Europe.

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, gave a fiery speech, critical of the current EU but strongly in favour of staying in to defend workers’ rights and change the union from within.

In particular, Wrack passionately defended the free movement of workers, saying that problems such as unemployment and housing crisis were caused by banks and the failure of markets, and not by migrants.

Kieron Merrett, trade union officer for Another Europe Is Possible , who spoke at a conference fringe meeting the evening before the vote, said:

“It’s terrific to see one of Britain’s best organised trade unions back the workers’ case for ‘In’ with an explicit ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’ line. It was an excellent debate that we were delighted to participate in. But the message must now go out, not only to every firefighter, but also every trade unionist in the UK. There is only one way to vote in this referendum to defend the vital interests of working people. That’s to vote to remain inside the European Union.”

Supporters of leaving the Union are also holding a rally this week.

Lexit: London left leave rally WEDNESDAY

All London meeting this Wednesday 18 May – 7pm:

The Internationalist Case against the EU – Friends Meeting House (Small Hall) 173-177 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ.

Speakers: Philippe Cordat (CGT union confederation France), Brid Smith (TD (member of parliament for People Before Profit, Ireland), Quim Arrufat (international secretary of the left wing Catalan party CUP), Lindsey German (Counterfire), Argyri Erotokitou (Greek doctor and leading member of Antarsya, Alex Callinicos (Socialist Workers Party) and Rob Griffiths (Communist Party).

In the Morning Star today Alex Gordon Lexit convener on the Left Leave Campaign writes on the present conflicts about new labour laws in France.

French Trade Unions Fight EU Attacks on Workers’ Rights.

Startled by this link between the EU and the El Khomri Law?

It’s backed by the following extraordinary claim.

LAST week France’s Socialist government issued an emergency decree to weaken workers’ rights at the behest of the European Commission.

Last Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls imposed the hated “El Khomri” law — named after Minister of Labour Myriam El Khomri — using an emergency constitutional mechanism (Article 49.3) to prevent a debate or vote that his government would lose in the French parliament.

Gordon repeats this assertion,

President Hollande’s decision to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution to comply with radical measures the European Commission demanded in November 2015 brutally exposes his own government’s weakness.

Article 49.3 of the Fifth Republic was designed to prevent repetition of the chronic instability that characterised France’s Fourth Republic (1946-58), which famously saw 22 governments come and go in a mere 12 years.

In other words, it’s French Sovereignty which is is being used to……obey Brussels.

Every single report indicates that the El Khomi law originates in the demands of the French employers’ organisation, the MEDEF (” le basculement idéologique dans lequel François Hollande et Manuel Valls, inspirés par le Medef. Liberation. Passim). The Communist Daily, L’Humanité noted the same in February, “le Medef est devenu extrêmement offensif pour remettre en cause le modèle social français, pour réclamer des baisses d’impôts et de cotisations sociales, pour exiger la remise en cause du droit du travail. S’appuyant sur son vaste réseau de médias et d’économistes, il prétend cogérer l’État en imposant la réduction de la protection sociale, le report de l’âge de la retraite, la baisse des dépenses publiques..).

This is the first I’ve heard of an involvement of the European Union in the El Khomri law.

But, you’ve guessed it, the news hounds of  RTRussia Today, have sniffed it out for the benefit of all, no doubt including the Morning Star,

Bruxelles, discret chef d’orchestre de la loi El Khomri.

Brussels, discrete Chief Conductor of the El Khomri law.

The author of the RT article, Pierre Lévy, is in charge of the journal Ruptures that claims to be, “progressiste et iconoclaste”. It is to say the least, a strange mixture of ‘communism’,  anti-globalisation rhetoric, and French nationalism. In other words it’s a ‘sovereigntist’ project, an assertion of French nation against the European Union. (1)

Instead of this claptrap, for a serious account of the long-standing employer pressure to get red of labour law ‘red tape’ see the Blog de Gérard Filoche

Or this article by Filoche, an expert in French labour law, from his experience as an Inspecteur du travail: Un nouveau bouquet de lois sur le travail en janvier 2014.

Meanwhile in the UK a ‘sovereigntist’ connection runs through Alex Gordon’s ‘Lexit’ rally.

Amongst the speakers we note Philippe Cordat  Cordat is “Secrétaire du Comité Régional de la Cgt Centre, that is a region of the French trade union federation, not the national CGT. He appears to have conflicts with the CGT union leadership –  as outlined in this Front Syndical de Classe.

Cordat has strong opinions on the ‘super-national’ forces at work in the European Union.

The« idée européenne » a été historiquement portée par deux forces : la social-démocratie et le Vatican.”

The European ideal has historically been carried by two forces, social democracy and the Vatican. (Here)

Cordat also has views on the activities of the Socialist Party, the NPA and other far-left groups, as well as Freemasons and religious networks not to mention bosses’ influence inside his union ,

A bien y regarder la déferlante anti-communiste qui marque le débat public dans le pays depuis plus de quarante ans a conduit de nombreux syndicalistes à faire une fixation sur « la mainmise de Moscou » sur la CGT sans ouvrir les yeux sur les pratiques du PS, de la LCR devenu NPA, des autres structures de l’extrême-gauche des réseaux maçonniques et religieux, du patronat qui s’activent dans et autour la plus importante organisation syndicale française.

The successive waves of anti-Communism that have marked public debate in this country over the last 40 years, we can see,  has led many trade unionists to be fixated by the ‘hand of Moscow’ in the CGT, without opening their eyes to the activities of the Socialist Party, the LCR which has become the NPA, and other far-left  structures, Freemasons and religious networks, as well as the bosses, operating in and around the most important trade union body in France.

Réflexions d’un syndicaliste de la CGT  Philippe Cordat. (2011)

These opinions form part of Cordat’s wider complaints against the the CGT’s own version of Another Europe is Possible (whose details are too similar to the UK campaign to need repeating).

He stated in 2012 (Front Syndical de Classe) that this strategy is completely wrong.

Elle ne remet en cause ni les fondements, ni même les principes pour lesquels l’UE agit en ce moment : effacement des souverainetés, remboursement des dettes au profit des marchés …

It does  not question the foundations and the principles which drive the present EU: the iblteration of soveriegnties, the payment of debts to the profit of the markets…..

This emphasis on the importance of national sovereignty is shared by the Communist Party of Britain as one can see here: Why the EU is a negation of parliamentary sovereignty and democracy. argues Robert Griffiths.

It is to be wondered if the ‘revolutionary’ speakers at the Lexit meeting, from Counterfire and the SWP, not to mention Antarsya, or even the ‘municipalists’ of the Catalan CUP, share this sovereigntist vision.

Or indeed if they have the slightest concern about this project:

Iain Duncan Smith says workers’ rights should be ‘flexible’ after Brexit in epic on air tantrum.


(1) Fondé par Pierre Lévy, ex-journaliste à L’Humanité, ex-militant du PCF et de la CGT Métallurgie1, BRN compte ainsi dans son équipeLaurent Dauré (UPR et Acrimed)2, Dominique Guillemin (UPR)3 et surtout Bruno Drweski, militant anti-impérialiste entretenant un réseau d’amitiés et d’alliances tant à gauche qu’à l’extrême droite4. Il est à noter que le directeur de la publication de BRN, Hervé Berbille, a participé ès qualité à une réunion de l’Action française à Bordeaux en 2005 visant à promouvoir le « non » au TCE, comme le relate le compte-rendu publié sur le site de l’organisation d’extrême droite5. Confussionnisme Info. “RUPTURES, NOUVEAU MENSUEL SOUVERAINISTE.”