The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 22nd September 2017

Tory divisions multiply

THE CONSERVATIVE Party is falling apart before our eyes. The team sent to Brussels to negotiate our exit from the European Union (EU) lost one of its key members, senior civil servant Oliver Robbins, who quit as head of the Department for Exiting the EU after just one year.

This follows deep disagreements with the leader of the team, David Davis, and deadlock over issues such as the ‘divorce bill’.

Robbins will stay in Brussels in the role of a ‘Sherpa’, but from now on will report only to Prime Minister Theresa May and will be her agent and voice within the group — which implies that David Davies, Michael Gove and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cannot be regarded as the Prime Minister’s representatives. Robbins will be replaced at the Brexit Department by his deputy Philip Rycroft.

It is no wonder that the EU negotiators are confused and uncertain about Davis, Gove and Johnson’s authority to agree to anything on behalf of the British government.

Boris Johnson saw in the confusion an opportunity to exploit Theresa May’s weakness and made another play for leadership of the party by pre-empting a major speech by May on the EU negotiations and publishing his own personal vision of Brexit in the Daily Telegraph, without first clearing it with the Tory party leadership.

Johnson also re-floated the erroneous claim that Britain’s NHS would gain £350 million per week from Brexit as a result of Britain no longer paying its dues for EU membership.

Surprisingly Johnson’s move was backed by Michael Gove, who just a year ago sabotaged Johnson’s chances in the party’s leadership contest by saying that the man was totally unsuited to the position and putting himself forward as a candidate instead.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd then accused Johnson of attempted “back-seat driving”. May simply said “Boris will be Boris” — begging the question as to why on earth would she have appointed him to be our Foreign Secretary. Then, during her official visit to Canada, May insisted: “This government is driven from the front.”

May is determined to hang on to her job though it has become a joyless chore since her catastrophic misjudgement in calling a snap election in May, underestimating the growing support for Jeremy Corbyn and losing her majority.

She shot herself in the foot and became a lame duck Prime Minister that no other governments can respect because she does not have the power to commit this country to anything.

Now she seems grimly determined to put right the mess she has caused, even if it kills her, her party and the country.

Veteran pro-EU Tory MP Kenneth Clarke sprang to her defence and attacked Boris Johnson’s opportunism. He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that if Johnson “wants to be Foreign Secretary” he should actually make some more serious contributions on wider foreign policy.

He then accused Johnson of “exploiting” May’s weak position and lack of a majority in parliament, saying that in “normal” circumstances he would have been sacked by now.

And he then made a damning assessment of Johnson, and swiped at May’s lack of control over the Cabinet and Brexit, saying: “[Our] friends... inside the European Union... cannot understand what we think we’re doing. Now, if there are genuine disagreements within the Cabinet... I get the impression there are... you don’t put self-publicising articles in the most Eurosceptic newspaper you can think of.”

Clarke’s remarks add fuel to suspicions that the pro-EU wing of the Tories want the Brexit negotiations to fail completely so that there will be a new referendum on EU membership, which they hope to win. This could be one of the reasons that May chose such a volatile and incompetent group to send to Brussels for the negotiations.

Under these circumstances they must support May at all costs and avoid another leadership change and the possibility of another election that they would probably lose to Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn, although he supported remaining in the EU, has pledged that he will honour the majority result of the 2016 referendum and work towards a Brexit. But even here, the Remainers are at work pressing for a “soft” Brexit and continued membership of the single market — which is the essence and core of the EU and would not be Brexit at all.