Socialist Alternative

Brexit Negotiations in Crisis

Published on

Mobilize to Kick Out the Tories!

For a Socialist Alternative to the EU

Adapted version of an article from the Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party, CWI in England & Wales, sister organization of Socialist Alternative)

On December 11, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was supposed to be put to a parliamentary vote. Facing fierce opposition, the vote has been postponed and May faced a vote of no confidence within her own party, which she survived. Among the multitude of sharp divisions, what all sides can agree on is that it seems unlikely the vote will go her way. This presents a huge opportunity for our side —  workers, trade unionists, young people, and all who oppose austerity — to strike a final blow against May’s conservative Tory government. 

The Tory party ministers who advocated for a “Brexit” vote oppose May’s deal because it’s not “hard” enough. In other words, it doesn’t go far enough in giving the British government and corporations free reign to exploit the country’s workers and resources however they choose. But it’s not only the right wing who will feel this deal is a “no-Brexit Brexit”. Many workers will recognize that the deal comes as close as the government dares to ignoring the anti-establishment, anti-neoliberal sentiments that motivated millions to vote to leave the EU in 2016. The deal commits Britain to a “dynamic alignment” with the EU on things like state subsidies for industries —  which place obstacles in the way of bringing them into public ownership.

One key issue dividing parliament is the question of how to avoid creating a “hard” border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the independent Irish Republic, which would remain in the EU. Lack of an agreement would effectively force the UK to remain inside the European Customs Union, but the imposition of a hard border could be highly destabilizing to relations between the island’s two states.

Now that the vote has been postponed, what are Theresa May’s options? She will almost certainly try to come up with a new Brexit deal. But the reality is that any deal is likely to fail because the capitalist class —  and their representatives in parliament — are simply so divided that they are at stalemate.

Political Representation

This crisis of political representation for the capitalist class is an international phenomenon. The world economic crisis has undermined the authority and base of support for all capitalist parties. If Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing Labour party leader, fought for a Brexit on the basis of strengthened workers’ rights, it would have enormous appeal to workers across Europe. The opportunity in front of Corbyn and his supporters cannot be underestimated. 

But as yet this opportunity has not been seized. Theresa May has announced plans to send ministers around the country to sell her deal to the public. Where are the plans for mass Labour rallies opposing it and explaining a pro-worker Brexit alternative? Instead the space has been left for the far-right leader Tommy Robinson to call a protest against the “Brexit betrayal”. If Corbyn doesn’t step up, forces like these can misdirect anger at the Tories towards racism and division.

Corbyn has rightly accepted May’s challenge of a TV debate over the deal, but the important question is what he will argue. He could point to recent workers’ actions like the strikes by shipyard workers against planned layoffs and argue for nationalizing the shipyards to save the jobs. This is an opportunity for Corbyn to add meat to the bones of his proposal for a Brexit in the interest of the working class. Millions of workers could be mobilized around this type of program and would have the strength to kick out the crisis-ridden Tory government.


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