Thursday 17 October 2019

Politics after the New Brexit Deal

The summer seems like a million years ago now, but of Boris Johnson's no deal bombast I remember writing that if he does manage to get a deal with Brussels, it would be a respray of Theresa May's efforts. Well, Johnson has indeed struck a deal. And he managed to plagiarise chunks of the previous deal, but making it much worse. We've seen the outline of of what he was aiming for, but what did he get?

In the new text, the entirety of the UK leaves the EU's customs union. This, readers will recall, was one of the big draws of Brexit: the idea we could be free to swashbuckle our way around the world piling up lucrative trade deals and leaving our former EU partners in the dust. In reality, it's the effective subordination of the country's economic health to electorally expedient photo opps. However, one part of the UK - Northern Ireland, naturally - only appears to be outside of the customs union. In practice, it remains within it. Effectively, the new customs border between the north and the republic is a fiction because the border moves into the Irish Sea. Goods coming into the north will be checked, and duty paid on anything at risk of ending up in the Irish republic. The BBC has a helpful explainer. Effectively, the UK has turned itself into the border guard for the EU, under EU supervision and subject to the European Court of Justice. Taking back control, you say? These arrangements, including the north's alignment with the EU single market on some VAT rules are still subject to periodic vote by the Northern Ireland Assembly, but between Johnson's proposals and these negotiations the veto wielded by any community has been done away with. Continuation with or reversion back to UK rules is now by a simple majority vote of Assembly members. Everything else from May's deal is kept.

Therefore, it's still awful. Remember, this is an insurance policy if these arrangements are not superseded by the coming trade deal with the EU, but whatever we end up with it's not going to be what the UK has now, and it is the Tories who are negotiating it. Therefore the hard Brexiteer's dream of a tax haven off the north western coast of Europe walks the earth again. Their enthusiastic welcome of regulatory divergence only means one thing: the considerable costs of Brexit are due to get offloaded onto us. Behind the legalese and boring technocracy, there is a plan, a class war plan to make us pay - and the EU, that nice Mr Barnier and the nicer Mr Juncker, are complicit. Keir Starmer gets it, and Jeremy Corbyn has announced Labour's opposition to this tawdry document. Despite this, what are the chances Johnson can rely on opposition votes to get it through the Commons on Saturday? If scabbing on the interests of our class and opening Britain up to a deregulation bonanza doesn't move would-be rebels, perhaps remembrance of Jo Cox will. It is less than a month since Boris Johnson mocked MP's concerns about their safety and tried annexing her to the hard Brexit cause. As voting for the deal means empowering the most disgusting and morally bankrupt creature to have occupied Downing Street for decades, we'll soon see how well her memory is kept. And if after all that, if even a residue of solidarity and compassion doesn't do the job, the threat of the removal of the whip might. Now is not the time for prevarication. The moment requires steel.

And everywhere else? Andrew Bridgen, the hard Brexit bell wether (readers might be tempted to substitute 'wether' for another word) tendered his capitulation live on Channel Four. "It looks like Brexit and smells like Brexit - that's Brexit for me" chuntered this pathetic hobbit. With leading ERG supporters in the cabinet, and their "principled" opposition of the last year, the speechifying about the sanctity of the union, and attacks on May's deal for detaching Northern Ireland now forgotten, all of this was for absolutely nothing. Well, not entirely nothing. Their unhinged opposition has successfully transformed the Tory party into an English nationalist outfit and it's the cracked priorities of the hard right now hegemonising matters. The split in the core Tory constituency is resolving in favour of the complete rout of EU-oriented business and finance and the consolidation of the most backward and socially regressive sections of capital.

Yet, mark my words, most of the ex-Tory "rebels" are going to submit to this. There are significant differences between the factions of the boss class, but few if any of our independent Tories are troubled by the bonfire of the regulations this shoddy document promises. Dismantling the pathetic workers' protections we have, opening the NHS to more profit-taking, the tearing up of food standards, Johnson's Trump-first Brexit doesn't alter things for them. As long as the old class relations keep chugging, they'll reconcile themselves to the new set up eventually. Johnson might even give them the whip back as a thank you for publicly demonstrating how thin their opposition was.

The only schadenfreude to be had here is about the sorry position the DUP are in. Understandably, Johnson's deal is unacceptable to them. They are unionists after all, and the disappearance of their veto means the disappearance of their reason to exist. There's stitching up, but the DUP's erstwhile allies on the Tory right have filleted them like a kipper. The DUP were too willing to confer the Bakers, the Bridgens, and the Moggs a patriotic fig leaf only to find their concerns now fall on deaf ears. Johnson has reasoned, and it might well turn out to be the case, that he doesn't need their votes any more and we can get back to Westminster business-as-usual in forgetting about Northern Ireland and its politics. However the vote falls, may the DUP's slide into marginalisation be lingering and painful for all concerned.

And there we have the state of play. Brexit on a knife edge, the making and breaking of Boris Johnson in the balance, the possibility of heading off a new tranche of attacks on our people. What happens on Saturday could set the tone and the character of our politics for a generation. Time for some serious thinking and for would-be Labour rebels to examine their consciences, and make their mind up about what side they're on.

Image Credit


Jim Denham said...

Any Labour MP's (yes: that includes you, Gareth Snell and you, Ruth Smeeth), who vote in favour of this must have the whop removed at the very least: they would be betrayers on a scale not seen since Ramsay McDonald.

Jenny said...

Bell wether, It’s the leading sheep.

Phil said...

The perils of late night blogging!

Boffy said...

It seems the claims that Johnson and Cummings not being clever strategists may have been wrong after all. Or, more correctly it shows that the strategy pursued by Labour and all those who advocated "respecting the referendum" was so abysmally bad, not to say thoroughly unprincipled.

The reality is, as I said from the beginning, Johnson's goal never was a No Deal Brexit, and all of Labour's concentration on such a possibility meant that Johnson could get on with his real aim of trying to ensure a majority Tory government.

By focussing on No Deal, Labour and the Liberals, Greens SNP and Plaid, always made "A Deal" the lesser evil that some MP's could use as justification for voting for it. The reality always was that Johnson could never have pursued No Deal, precisely because it would have been so catastrophic as to kill his government, and Brexit for ever.

As I wrote several weeks ago, by presuming that Johnson's main aim was some clever manoeuvre to get through No Deal, Labour gave away the chance to have brought down Johnson's government, and call a General Election. In reality, Labour did not want an election, because its disastrous pro-Brexit stance over the last three years has seen it haemorrhage most of the votes it won over in 2017, to anti-Brexit parties.

Now, Labour's disastrous strategy means that it is likely not to stop Johnson pushing through an even more reactionary deal than May proposed, that Johnson will claw back the spineless rebels, and claim credit for pushing through his deal, and be able to win a sizeable majority in the upcoming election, whilst it is Labour that is likely to suffer further defections and splits.

Even if Johnson does lose the vote on Saturday, his other strategy is in place. He will blame parliament, and Labour in particular for sabotaging his deal. He will refuse to comply with the Benn Act, thereby forcing the rabble alliance to try to appoint a caretaker PM to ask for an extension, enhancing the divisions amongst them. It will mean an inevitable election, which Johnson will be well placed to win, against such a divided, incompetent, and unprincipled opposition.

Boffy said...

Watching Ronnie Campbell on Newsnight defending the right-wing Johnson was sickening. It shows just what a syphilis within the labour movement Stalinism and its reactionary nationalist ideology has been, that otherwise solid working-class fighters like him, can be poisoned by it, and led into adopting thoroughly reactionary positions in alliance with thoroughly reactionary political forces.

Speedy said...

So Boris looks like winning, then - Brexit and the election. I'm not sure Labour precisely has itself to blame (other than Corbyn's lukewarm support for Remain) because there was little it could do once May refused to go for a "one nation Brexit", however, one has to wonder what Lexiters thought Brexit should look like - presumably little different to this, as it amounts to the same thing. Labour under Corbyn is null, just as Corbyn's politics is null. Had there been Cooper (your original choice) instead of Corbyn, apart from the fact that there might not be a Brexit, Labour could have called a vote of No Confidence, won, and gone on to win an election. That is the extent of the disaster of Corbynism.

Dipper said...

Johnson/Cummings done a great job here. This is Brexit as promised - out of the CU, but maintaining close relations with the EU.

Voting against this deal isn't voting against this deal because there is a better version round the corner, or because this isn't the deal people voted for, it is voting against it because you don't like the notion of the UK leaving the EU and want to overturn the 2016 referendum. As such voting against it is an attack on democracy.

The idea we can have some kind of referendum and get closure is nonsense. My view is if Parliament don't vote for this deal they are digging themselves ito a very big hole.

Jim Denham said...

So: should any Labour MP voting for Johnson's deal have the whip withdrawn? A simple question: what do you think, Phil?

Phil said...

Yes Jim. I don't think anyone reading the piece above could possibly conclude otherwise.

David Parry said...


'My view is if Parliament don't vote for this deal they are digging themselves ito a very big hole.'

Then let it dig itself into a hole, and with any luck, implode! That way, it should be that little bit easier to set about building real democracy (i.e. communities managing their affairs through participatory, consensus-based decision-making) in its place!

Speedy said...

David Parry, I agree local is the only future for genuine democracy, but it is a theory in denial - national/ supranational government must always exist within a globalised economy.

theOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

Once again folks, the Soviet Union, as Boffy claims, was never ever socialism in one country and Stalin was the leader of a collective economic block. Boffy only shows his own idiocy in believing the Soviet Union was socialism in one country. The Soviet leadership only put this theory forward precisely because they were trying to foster unity across many nations, they were trying to foster the idea of the Soviet Union being a collective single block, in fact their Socialism in One Country was in actuality the EU with steroids, in other words the Stalinoids in the EU would be saying, Europe is now a single nation, and we aim for capitalism in one country!

To say Stalin was a Brexiter or trying to link Brexiters with Stalin is idiocy of the highest order. Brexiters might be racists, they might want tax havens and a bonfire of all worker, consumer and environmental regulations, they might even want socialism in one country but Stalinoids they are not.

It is Boffy who is the Stalinoid.

There would be a certain poetic justice if the John Mann's of this world were the ones to get Johnson's, given Corbyn has let his friends be witch-hunted out the party and let that red faced, hysteric witch-hunter in chief Mann remain in the party. In fact when Mann accosted Ken Livingstone like some red faced bloated madman the only thing Corbyn could do was say to Mann, don't do it again. Pathetic! Chickens coming home to roost.

As for the deal, the UK is still heavily tied to the EU but doesn't get to determine any of its rules. Seriously, isn't remaining just the better option! Who in their right mind would think this deal was better than remaining? Total idiocy!