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  • Published in Analysis
Theresa May, House of Commons, 29 January 2019

Theresa May, House of Commons, 29 January 2019

Theresa May temporarily unites her party by appeasing the hard right Tories and DUP. Whether or not it lasts, we need an alternative plan for Brexit, argues Chris Nineham

For the first time anyone can remember, Theresa May had something approaching a good day. She did it by tacking to the right. On Tuesday, May got the DUP and the hard right of her party back on board by u-turning and promising to seek changes to the Irish backstop proposals, so making a show of defiance to the EU. Pretty much the whole of the rest of the party fell into line, partly no doubt in response to her brinkmanship over a no deal Brexit.

May’s position was strengthened by the failure of an amendment to put back the March 29 deadline and the right were pleased by the defeat of Yvette Cooper’s amendment outlawing a no deal exit, even though a non-binding amendment on the same subject went through.

In case of doubt, this underlines May’s opportunism, and how ready she is to embrace the agenda of the Rees Moggs, the Boris Johnsons and the loyalist bigots of the DUP. But it also exposes the cynicism of the Tory MPs all but eight of whom voted for the Brady amendment despite the fact they have been voicing many objections to the deal that the amendment doesn’t address. This was above all a political vote, driven by the desire to close ranks against the main enemy – a Corbyn led Labour Party.

It underlines too the dangers of Labour adopting the strategy of waiting for the Tory Party to fall apart. For now, Theresa May has united her party and achieved the first majority for anything approaching a withdrawal plan. There is a long way to go and Tory rejoicing may well not last long. Most reports suggest that the EU negotiators are not prepared to budge over May’s new demands to put a time limit on the backstop arrangements. But in other respects, this deal is not the worst outcome for the EU, and undoubtedly better than a disorderly exit.

The left needs to make it absolutely clear that this Brexit plan led by the likes of May, Johnson, Rees-Mogg and the DUP will lead to more attacks on working people and the end of free movement and will do nothing to strengthen democratic control over our society. We need a very different plan which puts workers’ rights at its heart, and that’s something no Tory government is going to deliver.

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.

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