The idea that British capitalism is superior to European capitalism is a
delusion born of imperial grandeur
Many on the Left who support leaving the EU (Lexit) somehow
believe that an independent British capitalist state is preferable to European capitalism.
It is difficult to understand why given the support for Brexit of people like
William Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson and others on the Tory Right, to say nothing
of UKIP. Indeed the original apostle of Brexit was none other than the original
monetarist and free marketer Enoch Powell.
That the European Union is based on free-market
capitalism is undeniable. However that
is a problem that needs to be opposed by the labour movement on a European wide
basis. The idea of a British state going it alone with a low tax regime and
further anti-union laws hardly seems to be a progressive let alone a socialist position.
It is clear that Theresa May’s agreement is a humiliating
one in that Britain will remain in the customs union and Northern Ireland
within the single market with a backstop guaranteeing that this is subject to an
EU veto. The alternative, no deal, is
one which is horrific to contemplate.
The break-up of the European Union is something which
unites the Far-Right throughout Europe. Brexit is seen as a something to aim at
by those who would clearly love to see the break of the European Union. It is not too much to suggest that if the EU were
to break up we could eventually see the return of military conflicts between
different states. This was, after all,
the original reason for the setting up of the Iron and Steel Confederation
which later became the Common Market.
It is no coincidence that Donald Trump, a self-declared
nationalist and in reality a White Supremacist welcomes Brexit. It means imposing trade terms on Britain, for
example the dropping of existing food standards, that are inherent in the
Single Market. It is welcomed by Steve Bannon and the alt-Right who see Brexit
as bolstering nationalism, racism and the demonistation of Muslims.
Theresa May’s deal is unacceptable not least for its hostility
to State aid to industry. We stay half-in and half-out of the EU. A Brexit
without a deal is equally unacceptable. This means inevitably that the only
real option is a second referendum.
Of course there will be squeals and howls from those who
cry that it is ‘undemocratic’. Why? It is simply giving people a right to make an
informed decision, based on what they have seen for the past two years. Of
course it is possible that a majority will still vote for Brexit but I somehow
suspect that after having been lied to in the first referendum (the £300m+
promised to the NHS) that many people will not have the wool pulled over their
eyes for a second time.
The position of Corbyn has been described by some as
masterly. I disagree. Doing nothing is not a brilliant strategy and
it is clear from Corbyn’s comments today and those of McDonnell yesterday that Labour
is moving towards a second referendum . The
opposition to the EU based on opposition to free movement of workers is
reactionary. Low wages are not caused by
immigration but by weak trade unions. It is the lack of a fight by the British working
class which has led to Britain being a low waged economy.
People seem to forget that it wasn’t the EU who closed
the mines, shipbuilding yards and much else but Thatcher and free market
economics. Those in the North voting Brexit do it from a position of weakness
and despair. The EU is a handy scapegoat
but it is hardly responsible for what the Tories have done.
The idea of an independent British capitalism is a belief that Britain is strong enough to form its own trade treaties and on its own terms. The USA and other countries are likely to disillusion them. This is a left-over from the British Empire. It is Suez repeated all over again but as farce. Deliberately destroying your own trading relationships hardly seems to me to be a socialist strategy.
I believe Labour should throw its weight behind staying
in the European Union and give its support for a second referendum. I have no
doubt that this will create its own momentum towards a Labour victory at the