Saturday 18 May 2019

What Next for Brexit?

A cynic might say talks between the government and Labour were doomed to fail. They certainly didn't look promising. On the one hand you had a Brexit deal most Labour MPs and, were they not whipped against it, a good chunk of Tory MPs could have lived with. That is the position offered by Labour: a customs union with the EU as a basis for negotiating a trade deal and retaining some sort of influence over customs rules. And on the other you had May's withdrawal agreement, which had already been rejected by the Commons on three occasions, the last time on what was to be Brexit day itself. Entering negotiations, knowing there was nothing salvageable from your position, the onus is on you - i.e. Theresa May - to make the move.

What happened during talks between government and opposition are already the subject of conflicting reports, and no doubt different perspectives will get added in the coming years as participants pen their memoirs. May blames Labour for a lack of a "common position", whereas Jeremy Corbyn - rightly - notes there is no stability on the government side, and once May has sailed off into the sunset the next Tory leader won't be under any obligation to stick to her compromise. Given the the politics of the coming contest, this observation is entirely right. But is there any substance to May's charge?

Well there is, but only if you treat politics as an exercise in empiricism of the most stupid and cynical kind. Anyone can look at the Labour benches and see there are differences. There are a tiny number of MPs who'll vote for any kind of Brexit, those who resolutely stick by the whip, those who blow hot and cold on Labour's position depending on what time of day it is, and those who'll press for a second referendum under all circumstances. The Prime Minister expects us to take note and accept this is why the talks came to nothing. It is, naturally, pure nonsense. In fact,we have a very good idea about what happened in the negotiations from the Tories themselves. They attack the intransigence of Keir Starmer for insisting of a confirmatory vote. Well yes, but why was he? Labour's Brexit position is to get a deal on its terms and prevent May's Brexit. Failing that, a general election. And failing that, a second referendum. Not a position designed for the polarity of the EU elections, but one perfectly adequate to the ins and outs of parliamentary horse trading. Because, obviously, May has rejected the customs option, Keir is following through the logic of conference policy and advocating a referendum in response. The digging in of heels is all on May's side, not Corbyn's.

And so, no more talks. Which ever way you look at it, whether as a good faith attempt to see what kind of Brexit could be done, or a bad faith attempt at getting Labour to jointly carry the can, we're now in a new, unstable but simultaneously entirely predictable phase. May has suggested we can now look forward to another series of indicative votes over the coming week or so to determine the will of the Commons. If she doesn't whip this time, the results might prove interesting. Then again, they might just replicate the last series of indicative votes. i.e. We find MPs are against no deal, but are for nothing. In one last, desperate throw May brings back the deal as is, it gets rejected, off she goes and the Tory leadership election is triggered. Then the entire summer sees the Tories talk among themselves, a new leader chosen on the basis of hard/no-deal Brexit and come the autumn more crisis as the new PM tries getting their unhinged position approved. Or, more gravely, they ignore parliament and allow Britain to pass out of the EU by default. Fun times.

If you think the first four months of this year were rough, politically speaking, then hold on to your hats. The worst is yet to come.


Boffy said...

"On the one hand you had a Brexit deal most Labour MPs and, were they not whipped against it, a good chunk of Tory MPs could have lived with. That is the position offered by Labour: a customs union with the EU as a basis for negotiating a trade deal and retaining some sort of influence over customs rules."

That's a fantasy. Firstly, Tory MP's even coming close to accepting that are under threat from their associations. It would have created a wholesale deselection of Tory MP's, and probably Labour MP's too. Secondly, a Customs Union does not resolve the Irish Border question. That requires membership of the Single Market to ensure continued regulatory alignment. The Tory right will not accept that, because it means BRINO, and continued free movement.

Thirdly, there is no chance the EU will allow the UK to be in the Customs Union, but outside the EU, and yet still have a seat at the table, which would quickly undermine the EU itself. EU members even object to that position as part of a temporary backstop let alone a permanent advantage to Britain in that regard compared to actual EU members.

Its unfortunately the continued parading of these unachievable aims that has meant that voters have been lied to over the last three years that has created the condition we have today. At least Farage is being honest in declaring that all those things the Brexiteers, including the Labour proponents of a "Jobs First Brexit", have been duplicitously promising voters, are not possible and that if you want Brexit it has to be a No Deal Brexit.

Labour should learn something from that, but so far it seems incapable of doing so, or at least that is the case with its leadership. The members and Labour voters seem to be way in advance of that leadership, but the leadership is riding roughshod over them for its own ends.

Boffy said...

The other question is "What next for Labour?"

The Lib Dems have overtaken Labour for the upcoming European Parliament elections, as I warned a few days ago they would. Liberals are now in the lead in Labour's former stronghold of London. What is more, not only have the Liberals overtaken Labour, but even the Greens are only a few points behind Labour in the polls as, Labour's crazy attachment to Brexit is destroying the morale of its members, and sending floods of its voters elsewhere.

On the basis of the latest polls, if the Remain supporting Liberals, Greens, and Chukas came together they would have a clear majority, thereby smashing Farage. If the remaining rump of Labour supporters also came over that defeat for Brexit would be even more decisive.

The policy adopted by Corbyn and his Stalinist advisors that has allowed the politically dead Liberals to rise from the grave has been perhaps the worst in living memory. But, its not over yet, and Corbyn and his politburo seem incapable of learning the lessons of history.

Ed said...

'Not only have the Liberals overtaken Labour, but even the Greens are only a few points behind Labour in the polls.'

You talk about 'the polls'. In fact a handful of polls had the Liberals in front, while the majority and the average of polls had Labour comfortably ahead. The same polls you trumpet have support for hard-Brexit/no-deal Brexit (Brexit Party, Tories, UKIP) way ahead of the combined hard-Remain block (Lib Dem, Green, CUK, SNP). If you define Labour as a pro-Brexit party, that gives 60-70% for Brexit. How about engaging with some of these realities?

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember that Boffy and others claimed the Lib Dems were finished for good after joining the Tories in their coalition government.

I thought at the time this was utter nonsense. And I think this is what is wrong with the sham politics we have today. It is all hyperbole and muck raking. It assumes the masses are there to be manipulated and cajoled.

The Lib Dems have the advantage of starting from a smaller supporter base, so they can present the remain position without seriously undermining their core support or dividing themselves. For them the only way is up! Labour has to wrestle with its different wings. Not that Labour is a broad church you understand, I mean you have to support NATO and the ‘hero’ British troops, be on the pro Zionist spectrum somewhere or you are toast, and woe betide if you said anything half silly when you were 11 years old on twitter. And most of all you must hate the Palestinians or you will be hounded into your grave. It is certainly interesting that the party somehow found itself with a leader who defies all these things!

Brexit or remain it doesn’t matter, Britain is a petty bourgeois nation par excellence and has nothing to offer the world in terms of revolutionary politics. In fact the left should ditch the 99% v 1% slogan and concentrate their efforts on the bottom 25% of the population, and fuck the rest. And this position is based on class analysis and scientific spcialism, there is simply next to no chance that the majority of the British public can be won over to a socialist programme. They are too invested in white supremacy and imperialist interest for that to happen. The left in Britain need to understand its position in relation to the world and conclude that the best it can do is encourage the bottom 25% to make this nation ungovernable. After all the majority of British people are happy to see the bottom 25% sink and in many cases die as a result of austerity. It is high time we fought back.

From that point of view who the hell cares if the squeezed middle gets shafted due to Brexit, who gives a shit if there holidays are more expensive? The victims of austerity are dying now and within the EU!

Of course Brexit was all about base emotions, racism etc but if Britain stays in the EU socialism will not have been progressed one iota and that isn’t a surprise because leave or remain Britain is not the place where the next progressive leap will take place. It is about time we said it, Marx was wrong if he ever thought that was the case, but to be fair to him the nation looked different back then. What excuse to today’s scientific socialists have?

Boffy said...


A number of polls now show the Liberals ahead of Labour, including ahead for the London Mayoral elections. Labour isn't panicking for nothing. The dynamic is clearly and significantly away from Labour and towards Remain supporting parties.

Its simply not true that the Brexit supporting parties are way ahead of Remain supporting parties. The data here demonstrates it.

Farage's Brexit company plus UKIP are on 37%, whilst the total for the clear anti-Brexit parties comes to 36%, excluding "Others". But, this is misleading. That 36% includes the figures for Plaid and SNP, who clearly do not stand candidates in England. The likelihood is that the SNP will clean up in Scotland, and Plaid will make big gains in Wales.

The reality is that nearly all of the Tory Leave voters, including Tory Councillors and members have switched to Farage's Brexit company. The Tory vote left of 9% is comprised of die-hard Tory Remainers who cannot bring themselves to vote Liberal, and no wonder when Heseltine gets booted out for saying he will do so.

Your point about Labour proves the point I've been making. You claim that Labour's 15% is a vote for Brexit, but everyone knows that 90% of labour members, and 75% of labour voters want to stop Brexit! It was precisely the Labour leadership's stupid decision to say they would "respect" the brexit vote that allows Brexiters to make that claim about Labour.

That is why even Labour members are realising that to stop Brexiters saying that its necessary to vote Liberal/SNP/Plaid to register a clear anti-Brexit vote, and Labour has again shot itself in the foot.

Jim Denham said...

" but if Britain stays in the EU socialism will not have been progressed one iota" err, it will: nationalism, racism and isolationism will have been dealt a hammer-blow and internationalism (progressive even under capitalism, as Marx explained time and again)will have won.

Anonymous said...


There will no doubt be a flurry of polls tomorrow, but at the time of writing only ONE pollster is putting the LibDems ahead of Labour. The fact they have done quite a few surveys does not alter that.

Anonymous said...

“it will: nationalism, racism and isolationism will have been dealt a hammer-blow”

The decision on whether to stay in or leave the EU is a nationalist question as well as an economic one. In fact if you want an EU that transcends the individual nation states you better start campaigning hard for a British Brexit because while ever Britain is in the EU it will not tolerate any closer ties and will ensure ‘national sovereignty’ remains a top priority. If the UK can’t accept the EU on current terms imagine the reaction if the EU tried to integrate any further. The only way that could happen is with Britain outside the tent. It is the only way that the EU’s many contradictions have any chance of resolving themselves. Brexit is the EU’s last hope, because the EU can only resolve its contradictions by a closer political and economic union and even then the reaction may be too great. But with Britain inside the tent forget it, in fact with Britain in the EU the Daily mail and Express will be in business for another 100 years no worries!

Clearly the EU has done less of a job of undermining nationalism and racism than say the internet. In fact nationalism and racism are a reaction to the EU to some extent. Your kind of internationalism, i.e. war, theft and conquest makes me think isolationism is precisely what the world needs from the lunatic West, deciding who to bomb next.