Theresa May and the EU are the beneficiaries of the idea that this deal is the only option - it's not. We need to oppose it and fight for a general election, argues Lindsey German
So we’ve been told. If we don’t like Theresa May’s deal, then we just have to lump it. That is not just her view, it is the unanimous view of the EU leaders. This is despite the fact that millions of people in Britain don’t want this deal – from a range of different political perspectives – and that it looks very likely that parliament will reject it. This deal will be of no advantage to working people which is why it is so palatable to right wing European politicians like Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker.
Indeed, the EU27 governments are rather happy with the deal signed by Theresa May in Brussels yesterday, despite the rather transparently false expressions of regret. They have made few concessions and they keep a close economic and trading relationship with the UK. They also have an arrangement in Ireland which is different from that of Britain that will allow trading between north and south.
It has always been my view that the end result of Brexit would not alter fundamentally relations between Britain and the EU without some much greater social upheaval from below. The alternatives to this deal – for example, Britain joining EFTA in a Norway style agreement, as is being touted by some Tory ministers – would have similar outcomes.
The referendum was never about respecting democracy, but about trying to solve an internal Tory party conflict. The deal is about leaving in name but in reality little changing. The discontents which led to the vote in 2016 have not been addressed - indeed have in many cases been exacerbated by austerity policies.
May highlighted in recent days that the deal will stop free movement – even referring to EU citizens as ‘queue jumping’, when they are in fact exercising their right to live here. But the dishonesty over the immigration debate will not hide a number of uncomfortable facts for May. Since 2016, according to surveys, there is less concern about immigration among British people. EU migrants are also not coming here in the same numbers or returning home. Some are at least fearful of the consequences of staying here. Yet it is indisputable that Britain has an ageing population and needs migrant workers. So migrants will continue to come but will be subject to a harsh regime of visas and checks, and will face the hostile environment created by May as Home Secretary.
The deal should be voted down in parliament and we should demand a general election. Only that gives us a political choice about what sort of Britain we want to live in, and only that enables us to try to unite the two sides of leave and remain in campaigning around the issues which affect people’s lives.
This latter point is important for the left. I spoke at an inspiring People’s Brexit meeting last week where several speakers, including myself, stressed the need to overcome the divisions caused by the referendum and its consequences if the left is going to be able to provide answers to the crisis for millions of working people, and not leave them prey to the far right.
The meeting talked about the reality of the EU, how the referendum result was part of the unfinished business of the banking crisis in 2008, the attacks on workers carried out by ‘centre’ politicians like France’s Macron, the need for a future Labour government to control capital and to invest in public services. It is these issues we need to turn to, because under cover of the Brexit debate, many politicians are hoping that we will forget their attacks on us.
A band of bigots
There is little in UK politics more unpleasant than the DUP. Based on the most bigoted forms of Northern Ireland ‘loyalism’, its role in British politics, like that of its forebears, has been wholly negative. The party and its leader, Arlene Foster, have been showered with money and favours by this Tory government as a means of buying their votes – an arrangement now under threat. The whole tradition of Unionism and loyalism has been to preserve a Protestant ascendancy over the Catholics and Nationalists.
They preside over a statelet based on division and sectarianism. Foster has been under the shadow of corruption accusations, which have in part led to the suspension of the Stormont power-sharing executive. It is now approaching two years since that body met, but it is convenient for the Tories to do nothing about it and so placate their allies.
I sincerely hope that out of the whole controversy over the Irish border there are increasing demands for a united Ireland. There is provision for a border poll in the Good Friday Agreement, and it should happen. The six counties of the North are an anachronism (not even the whole of the historic province of Ulster, which is nine counties, but three were excluded because they would have threatened a loyalist majority). They were created to prevent full Irish independence and to ensure Britain maintained its economic interests in the industrialised north. If the result of nearly 100 years of partition is Arlene Foster and her band of bigots, then there must be a better solution.
We don’t need own goals when faced with the fascist threat
When May’s deal comes to parliament next month there will be a range of protests about it. No doubt the most dangerous is the call by Tommy Robinson to demonstrate against any Brexit betrayal. This has the potential to mobilise those who want Brexit but are very far from this fascist’s politics. Many anti-fascists will be demonstrating against him, unfortunately in several mobilisations. One major priority is to try to get a united demo on December 9th against him.
Unfortunately, Another Europe is Possible have called a counter-protest which links opposing Robinson with opposing Brexit. This is unbelievably crass politically. It links Brexit voters to the far right – wrong. It builds up Robinson as the leader of Brexit – wrong. It prevents leave voters who oppose fascism from joining their demo – wrong. And it narrows the number of people who potentially would demonstrate – wrong.
I hope the organisers will think again on this. But given their closeness to some of those who back policies which helped lead to the far right growing in the first place, like Vince Cable and Alastair Campbell, I’m not holding my breath.
Ghosn but not forgotten
Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan last week. His crime – under-reporting his salary as head of Nissan by millions each year. He also, it transpires, had four houses built for him – in Lebanon, Brazil, Switzerland and the Netherlands – at Nissan’s expense. Ghosn is much admired in the car industry, having been responsible for downsizing and restructuring in a number of different countries – cutting jobs, worsening conditions and forcing through redundancies. Obviously, there was one rule for him and another for the workers that he treated so badly.
Ghosn didn’t just run Nissan, but Mitsubishi and Renault as well. This is why we need nationalisation, so we don't just have one man running everything and enriching himself at the expense of others.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- Where do we go from here? – election briefing 13 December
- We have a world to win – election briefing Polling Day
- Ignore the naysayers and keep fighting – election briefing 11 December
- Lindsey German: don't underestimate how far we've come - video
- One nation or the one percent? - election briefing 10 December
- Ten points to remember before polling day – election briefing 9 December
- Antisemitism, politics, and voting Tory - election briefing 6 December