The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 20th January 2017

May’s Brexit hash

by Caroline Colebrook

PRIME Minister Theresa May last Tuesday presented her plan, so far, for Brexit negotiations.

Significantly she made the speech not in Parliament to our MPs but at a press conference in Lancaster House in front of an invited audience of ambassadors from European Union (EU) countries.

She confirmed again that she will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March, starting a two-year period of negotiation. Most agree that the full negotiations will take a lot longer. But May said that leaving the EU will be a gradual process, with various steps coming into force as they are negotiated and agreed, so that Britain will be more out than in within the two years. These agreements, May said, will be presented to Parliament as Bills as they come up.

The Supreme Court is about to rule on whether it is legal for May to use the royal prerogative to sign Article 50 without having to present this as a Bill before Parliament. May said that whichever way the ruling goes it will not delay her signing the Article in March.

She made it clear that Britain will in no circumstances remain in the single market — that would effectively put too many restrictions on Britain’s freedom to make trade deals with countries outside the EU. It would not amount to leaving at all.

So now her negotiators will have to try to negotiate new trade deals of the sort that the EU has with outside countries — threatening that if the tariffs were too punishing she might resort to lowering business taxes in London even further to attract business to London.

This led Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to accuse May of wanting to turn Britain into a bargain-basement tax haven.

May said she would like to assure EU nationals currently working in Britain that their jobs and status will be safe but that depends on her negotiators getting a reciprocal deal in respect of the many British citizens living and working within the EU. She said these negotiations would be a priority.

May said that Britain would be cautious about allowing any new significant migration from the EU into Britain and that once out of the EU Britain would adopt its own immigration policies. There is some division within the Tories over what form these should take — the business community all in favour of bringing in more cheap skilled labour from India, Africa and so on whilst the racist Right of the party firmly opposed to this.

Because it is unsettled, a mass progressive campaign in favour of better terms for British people with family in India, Africa, the West Indies and so on, with pressure on MPs, may be able to wring some advances. In particular, removing the punitive prohibition on spouses from outside the EU being able to live with their marriage partners in Britain unless they are rich would benefit many low-income working class families.

May indicated that Britain will no longer be making large contributions to the EU nor expecting funding in return, although there will some minor exceptions for projects that Britain wants to support. Britain’s biggest rural landowners will lose some huge subsidies.

May made it clear that Britain will leave the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg — which enforces EU laws. This is not the same thing as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in The Hague.

May stressed that she wants to keep Scotland, Wales and the six counties of the north of Ireland on board, and hinted that Brexit would not lead to a formal barrier between the six counties and the rest of Ireland.

Nevertheless the Scottish National Party (SNP), which opposes Brexit, is pressing for a new referendum on Scottish independence. And because the north of Ireland is now engaged in new elections to the Assembly at Stormont there could be more pressure for complete Irish independence.

May did say that Scottish MPs would not be able to vote on certain bills that would apply only to affairs in England.

Corbyn vowed to hold the Government to account every step of the way. He promised that Labour would unveil their vision for Brexit Britain soon.

One thing is clear: leaving the EU will not bring the social justice that we fight for; we will have to leave capitalism via a socialist revolution to do that. Nevertheless, in waging our fight for justice we are battling British capitalism, which is smaller and weaker that the might of the whole EU.