Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Deal or No Deal? (2017)

Editorial from the August 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Theresa May called the election to try to get a parliament more compliant to the sort of Brexit her government wanted – No to the single market, No to the customs union, No to the Court of Justice, a stand-alone Britain on the capitalist world stage. In the event she failed miserably and got an even less compliant parliament.

Sensing her weakened position, those elements within the capitalist class opposed to her idea of Brexit – which is most of them – together with their political and media representatives have taken the offensive and are pushing for a much less radical Brexit – leaving the political aspects of the EU but retaining as many of the economic ones as can be.

This makes economic sense from their point of view; which is why they supported joining and remaining in the EU. Being a member of the customs union means no tariffs on goods exported to other EU countries and, also, given the EU's size, more collective clout in trade negotiations with third-party countries and other trading blocs. The single market takes things further and has already made considerable progress in removing non-tariff barriers to inter-EU trade, such as different standards.

Even some die-hard opponents of the EU, who did so much to stir up xenophobia during the referendum campaign, are now hinting that, after Britain officially withdraws from the EU in 2019, they might accept transitional arrangements allowing Britain to stay in the customs union and single market for a period while full withdrawal from them is prepared. They even seem ready to countenance, during this period, some payments to the EU and some role for the European Court of Justice.

Capitalist reality seems to have struck them. No more bluster and bluff about Britain regaining its 'independence' in March 2019.  No more talk of 'no deal being better than a bad deal'. Now, apparently, as they contemplate the economic (and, in the case of Northern Ireland, political) consequences of tariff barriers and customs posts going up on 'independence day' if there's no deal, even a bad deal (from their point of view) is considered better.

There will be a deal of some sort, even one which could leave things much as they are. It will certainly leave capitalism much as it is, as a system of production for profit based on the exclusion of the majority from ownership and control of the means of production with all the problems this causes for the excluded majority and for humanity in general.

Only capitalist interests are at stake in negotiations over trading arrangements between British capitalism, the EU and the rest of the world. Leave those whose interests are at stake to get on with it. It's their business not ours. Meanwhile as socialists we will continue to campaign for capitalism as a world system to be replaced by a world of common ownership and democratic control with production for use not profit.

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