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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,

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“Brexit is a blessing for the world”, Trump. How will the pro-Brexit Left react?

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Trump and His Blessed Friend.

Before the UK EU Referendum the Editor of New Left Review wrote,

…a vote to remain, whatever its motivation, will function in this context as a vote for a British establishment that has long channelled Washington’s demands into the Brussels negotiating chambers, scotching hopes for a ‘social Europe’ since the Single European Act of 1986. A Leave vote would be a salutary shock to this trans-Atlantic oligopoly. It would not bring about a new golden age of national sovereignty, as Labour, Tory and UKIP Brexiters like to claim; decision-making would remain subordinate to Atlanticist structures. It would certainly involve a dip in GDP—around 3 per cent, on the most plausible estimates, so smaller than the contraction of 2009. But the knock-on effects of a leave vote could be largely positive: disarray, and probably a split, in the Conservative Party; preparations in Scotland for a new independence ballot.

Susan Watkins Oppositions. New Left Review. No 98. March-April 2016.

Immediately after the result Watkins’ partner Tariq Ali, who had campaigned for a Leave vote with an array of groupuscules, stated this to Tele Sur (a multi-state funded  pan–Latin American terrestrial and satellite television sponsored by the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Bolivia that is headquartered in Caracas Venezuela, about which little needs to be added…)

Tariq Ali ‘Pleased’ Brexit Has Given EU ‘Big Kick’ up ‘Backside’.

British-Pakistani intellectual, writer and journalist, Tariq Ali, told teleSUR on Friday that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside,” explaining that the majority of working class “leave” voters felt that overall the EU did not benefit them, was undemocratic and an organization for the rich and the banks.

Ali lamented the fact that “right-wing “leave” supporters used xenophobia and racism to attack refugees and migrants.”

His principal suggestion, however, was that there should be ” new elections, because we want a newly-elected government to carry through the negotiations—hopefully a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and not some wing of the Conservative Party.”

Alas,  there were no new elections and Corbyn did not form a Labour government.

In her analysis of the result Susan Watkins concluded (Casting off ? NLR 100, July August 2016)

For now, though, it is plain that Blairized Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianized eu. Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed. Which will ultimately prove more important, and what the side-effects of each will be, remains to be seen.

Ali at least  appears to be one of those who consider that Trump’s victory was in part a result of opposition to this ‘neo-liberal order’.

This is a transcription of some of Ali’s words in a video talk about Trump.

A very deep cancer at the heart of modern liberalism today that since the 90s since the birth and emergence of this particular form of capitalism under which we live and which is referred to as neo-liberalism to give a new tag, but which is capitalism all the same, and which is concerned with making profits but nowadays concerned with making profits with no regard for people who are less well off… And so they imagine living in an insider bubble, cocooned from reality that they can get away with it endlessly. Well what the Trump triumph unprecedented in the 20th and 21st century reveals is that you can’t get away with it all the time.”

The idea that because people have become unhappy with the results of ‘globalisation’ or ‘neo-liberalism’ that they vote ‘populist’ (heavily inflected by the nationalist defence of the ‘people’ not just against elites but against other nations) is so well-worn that it operates as en excuse for considering anything more than the origins of this discontent. Watkins’ account of the Brexit ballot is a long and contentious essay on this theme.

If there’s any political thrust to this stand it’s as if there’s a healthy push to protest against the market, and the left’s task is to give it an extra shove.

Thinking about where the urge is going to end up once it gets into the political system is ignored.

Watkins and Ali are only some of the apparently left-wing people who failed to think through the consequences of their call for Brexit : what would happen after  leaving the EU “Neo-liberal” framework (a gross simplification that ignores the weight of EU regulation) in a world dominated by large large capitalist powers.

The biggest capitalist power, the USA, is now in the hands of somebody who, whatever the motives of his supporters, who is pretty sure that Brexit is good news for his turn to an America First planet.

We await a response to the new shape of the “trans-Atlantic oligopoly” from the pro-Brexit left’s “insider bubble”.

Donald Trump says ‘Brexit is a blessing for the world’ after meeting with Theresa May, as UK and US vow to deepen the special relationship

Describing Brexit as a “blessing to the world”, the president said the vote to leave the EU was a “tremendous asset, not a liability”.

He vowed to do a free trade deal with Britain, while attacking the European Union – which he described as “the consortium” – for making it hard for companies to do business.

Mr Trump said that the people of Britain voted for Brexit because “people want to know who is coming into their country and have control of trade”.

Then there’s this:

Brexit Good for Terra Firma, Bad for Most People, Hands Says (22nd of January, Bloomberg Markets).

The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union is going to lead to dramatic changes in the way the country’s economy operates, which could create opportunities for a firm like Terra Firma Capital Partners, Chairman Guy Hands said.

The country will have to get rid of much of its social safety net and may see a 30 percent decline in wages in real terms in the next 20 years to enable it to compete outside of Europe, Hands said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. Debt will command higher interest rates as more risk is ascribed to an independent U.K., and immigrants from Europe will be replaced with workers from the Indian subcontinent and Africa, who may be willing to accept “substantially” lower pay, he said.

Still, ultimately, the exit will be a good thing for the economy, Hands said.

No doubt the pro-Brexit left imagine that this will all melt away with some big demonstrations and other protests culminating in a left ‘populism’.

There are few signs of anything with this degree of coherence or support emerging in the UK in the immediate future.

There is no sign that a force of this nature, based solely in Britain, outside the institutions  in which  the majority of the  European Left operate, the EU, could stand up for a progressive model to oppose to Trump and his Tory friends.

Brexit Left in Disarray as May and Trump Float Trade Deal and Revive “old fashioned imperialism.”

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May “left the door open for the greater involvement of US corporations in British healthcare.”

Before the Referendum the Socialist Workers Party warned against the EU’s ‘project’.

Another example of the neoliberal essence of the project is given by the secretive negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade deal the EU is brokering with the US. TTIP will further prise open sectors such as education and health to the multinationals, and equalise environmental protection and workers’ rights at the lowest level across the two regions.

The Socialist Party claimed,

Voting to leave the EU would set TTIP back, and send shockwaves through the unelected command of the bosses’ EU.

Trade Unionist Against the EU published this claim:

Vote for an exit and vote no to TTIP

A vote to get out of the EU is a vote against TTIP.

They claimed:

these ‘trade deals’ are nothing new, just good old fashioned imperialism; a word that EU enthusiasts in the labour and trade union movement rarely like to use and with good reason.

Oddly, not only has no shock occurred, but TTIP Mark 2 looks already underway: this time negotiated directly between two bosses’ representatives, Trump and May.

Theresa May suggests UK health services could be part of US trade deal  reports the Independent.

PM insists Government remains ‘committed to an NHS that is free at the point of use’.

Theresa May has left the door open for the greater involvement of US corporations in British healthcare as she arrives in America to lay the groundwork for a future trade deal.

Ms May would only say that she was committed to a health service that is free at the point of delivery, but made no comment on whether the NHS would be off the table in any future talks.

Trade and the UK’s economic relationship with the US will be one of the key pillars of the Prime Minister’s visit to Philadelphia and Washington DC.Asked whether health services might form a part of a potential deal, she said: “We’re at the start of the process of talking about a trade deal. We’re both very clear that we want a trade deal.

“It will be in the interests of the UK from my point of view, that’s what I’m going to be taking in, into the trade discussions that take place in due course.

“Obviously he will have the interests of the US. I believe we can come to an agreement that is in the interests of both.”

The Telegraph reports that the agenda is set out within the following framework,

  1. Defence: Mrs May will be keen to ensure that Mr Trump remains fully committee to the Nato military alliance which is a vital organisation to keep Russia in check in eastern Europe. Both leaders are expected to urge other Nato countries increase their defence spending to 2 per cent of gross national product.
  2. Trade deal:  Mrs May and Mr Trump will seek to find common ground on trade and lay the groundwork for a new deal after Britain leaves the European Union around March 2019. Mr Trump is keen to agree deal within three months.
  3.  Russia: Mrs May and Mr Trump will discuss the West’s concern about Russia.Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will speak directly for the first time since the US president’s inauguration in a telephone call on Saturday.

Old fashioned imperialist bargaining between sovereign powers  indeed.

Teresa May Goes François Fillon and Plays the Christian Christmas Card.

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PM Defends Right to Speak of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. 

Much has been made, in the French media, about  François Fillon’s (successful) efforts to moblise the Catholic, and more broadly, conservative religious vote behind his Presidential bid.

Where Filly flows, May meanders behind.

CHRISTIANS must be free to speak about their faith and Christmas without fear of repercussions, the Prime Minister has said.

Her comments come as a report from a think tank warns religious freedoms are being eroded after teachers, magistrates and other professionals have been disciplined and sacked for living according to their beliefs.

Reports the journal of record, the Sun.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who sits on the Ecclesiastical Committee, warned that Christians have become “fearful” about mentioning their faith in public in case they encounter a backlash.

She told Prime Minister’s Questions: “Comments this week by the Equalities Commissioner not to be worried about talking about Christmas at work were important because many Christians are now worried, even fearful, about mentioning their faith in public.

“So would the Prime Minister join me in welcoming the recent Lawyers Christian Fellowship report Speak Up, which confirms that in our country today the legal rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech to speak about one’s faith responsibly, respectfully and without fear, are as strong today as ever?”

The Prime Minister fearlessly replied,

Theresa May, the daughter of a vicar, said religious tolerance is a fiercely guarded principle in Britain that must be respected.

She said: “You raise an important issue that matters to both you and me, and I think that the phrase that was used by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship was ‘the jealously guarded principle’ of that ability to speak freely, as you say respectfully and responsibly, about one’s religion.

“I’m happy to welcome the publication of this report and its findings.”

She added, we learn,

Of course we’re now into the season of Advent, and we have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.

I’m sure that we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and also feel quite able to speak freely about Christmas.”

Snipers comment (Left Foot Forward).

 

The report itself has to be read in this context. It offers Christians guidelines (which it makes clear are not legal advice) on how to talk about their religion so more people follow it or adopt its ideas.

As Speak Up‘s introduction says:

“As Christians, it’s our responsibility to share the good news …

We know what a difference the gospel has made to our lives, and we should be passionate about seeing as many people as possible know this transforming good news, as well. …

We should grab hold of this opportunity and tell our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues about the life-changing good news we have received.”

In the conclusion, Dr David Landrum, advocacy director for the Evangelical Alliance, writes:

“The lost need the gospel, so we need to be intentional about sharing it. We hope that this resource will inform followers of Christ about the freedoms we have to do this, and encourage confident and fruitful evangelism in every area of public life.

The report has sections on ‘sharing the gospel at work’, ‘sharing the gospel in public’, and ‘sharing the gospel on social media’. It includes advice on where you can talk about people’s ‘sexual orientation’ and how far you can go.

The report doesn’t appear to call for any rule-bending, and does seem like a good faith (excuse the pun) attempt to inform people about their rights and the law. But it does so in order that they know how best to ‘share the gospel’ as part of a clear political agenda.

How political? Dispatches investigation in 2008, In the Name of God, found Andrea Williams, then LCF public policy director, called the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill the work of the devil, supported banning abortion, considered homosexuality sinful and was a young earth creationist. Williams no-longer works for the LCF.

But both groups are committed to seeing their views shape public policy, with the help of friendly MPs like Fiona Bruce. How nice for the Prime Minister to give them a boost under the banner of the non-existent ‘Christmas wars’!

With less than 59 per cent of Brits identifying as Christian (most of them Anglican), and at least a quarter ticking ‘no religion’ on the census form, this is a strange move for a PM who wants a society that ‘works for everyone’.

My Advent Card:

Related image

Jack and Dinos Chapman: Fucking Hell.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm