The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 15th September 2017

Remain illusions

BREXIT is the main topic of debate and confusion at the TUC and Labour Party conferences this week and next, and there are some illusions that must be dealt with. Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to honour the result of last year’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU), but talk of a ‘hard’ or a ‘soft’ Brexit is a delusion. The single market is the core and essence of the EU and has been since the signing of the Treaty of Rome. To remain in the single market is to remain in the EU and for the British economy to be tied to all the trade regulations that go with it.

Ever since Britain joined the Common Market in 1973 Britain has been part of a continent-wide economic policy that allocated different economic roles to its nation states. Britain, because of the historic global strength and power of the City of London, originally based on the slave trade, was assigned to be the nation that dealt with financial services and our chief income as a nation has been based on that since 1973.

Our manufacturing and mining industries have consequently been run down: we have lost coal, steel, car manufacturing, train and rolling stock manufacturing, ship building and a host of other industries because of this EU policy. Our industries have been starved of investment and we have become a nation of ‘rentiers and coupon clippers’. Even our relatively new green energy production industry has been abandoned.

The shrunken industry we do now have is beset by low productivity because of decades of under investment.

Real wealth is created by work, by manufacture; Britain has earned its bread not by creating wealth but by rearranging wealth produced by others to the benefit of high finance. Most jobs in Britain are now in the service sector — a sector where unions have little leverage because, whereas strikes can affect the general public, they rarely affect the fortunes of the banking sector and capitalism does not care if the public are inconvenienced.

If Britain stays in the single market we will stay subject to this situation and we will be unable to set about reviving and modernising our manufacturing industries and we will remain tied to EU policies and regulations.

Another area of confusion is freedom of movement. The EU’s freedom of movement is not primarily about allowing workers a full choice of where they want to live and work — it is about using poverty and desperation to force thousands of workers to leave their homes, family and friends to seek work in other countries where they will find employment only on terms that will undermine the wages, conditions and trade unions of workers in the countries they move to. It is about breaking wages and conditions for all workers down to a lowest common denominator. It is about economic coercion. It is about freedom of exploitation for bosses. And it is about setting up stringent barriers to all immigration from places outside the EU except for a tiny, highly skilled elite. Economic coercion is not real freedom of movement, it is the manipulation of misery to benefit the profiteers.

The EU does not protect the rights of workers. Since 1973 workers in Britain have suffered a catastrophic loss of trade union rights and freedoms, mainly as a result of EU economic policy that dictated the closure of our coal mines and other big industries. But it is true that the Tory negotiators in Brussels are doing a terrible job — confusing confrontation and delivering insults with negotiation — whilst our lame duck Prime Minister Theresa May is probably hoping that the terms and conditions of Brexit will be so awful that the public in Britain can be bullied into another referendum that will accede to remaining in the EU.

There is no question we would fare much better with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and a team of proper negotiators in Brussels. The Tories are in a very weak position, deeply divided over Brexit. Few amongst them would want to swap places with Theresa May right now and she seems to be gritting her teeth to carry on as perhaps our worst Prime Minister ever, trying to appease her ruling class masters for her monumental mistake in calling an election earlier this year.

It is essential we bring this government down quickly but Corbyn should be wary of doing a deal with Kenneth Clarke, the leader of the pro-EU Tories. If Corbyn reneged on his commitment to respect the Brexit referendum it would be a betrayal of all working-class people in Britain, regardless of where they were born.