Editorial, Red Flag, July 2017
THE JUNE election result proved to be a disaster for the “winner” and a triumph for the “loser”. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn is now safe from attack by the Parliamentary Labour Party, while Theresa May is on borrowed time, is one of those unexpected reversals that are being thrown up more and more often in these turbulent times.
Since the election, May’s stock has plummeted even further, not only in the eyes of the electorate but also of the media and business. All of which is going to make the prime minister’s attempts to negotiate Brexit, whilst keeping her party together, her deal with the DUP workable, and voters onside, rather difficult. May’s only advantage is that the rest of the Tories hate each other so much they can’t agree on a suitable challenger.
So the Tories have had to tone down austerity to please the Democratic Unionist Party, and to seek a two year legislative term in the Queen’s speech, which proved to be light on new legislation and heavy on the ‘responsibility’ of conducting serious Brexit negotiations. But everyone now knows that May’s ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is just an empty soundbite. With the Tories and the country in the state they are in, Brexit means whatever the European Commission’s negotiators want it to – and if we don’t like it, well, we can leave it.
Brexit will be a mess for the Tories, but that does not mean it will be easy for Labour. The Tories may seek to embroil Labour and the SNP in some form of collective responsibility, which it would be fatal for them to accept. Labour needs to reject any class collaboration on Brexit and adopt a strategy of its own which must, above all, safeguard the interests of all working people, whatever their nationality, and their right to live, work and retire in the UK.
Because both the main parties are divided over the question, they both played down the importance of Brexit during the election. It will not be possible for them to do so for much longer. It’s time to recognise that there is an irreconcilable contradiction between seeking to sever links with Europe, while privileging British over European workers, and being the party of the multi-national and multi-ethnic working class.
In our view, the interests of Labour, the trade union movement and the working class, both in the UK and abroad, are best served by choosing to come down on the side of closer integration into Europe and strengthening ties with the European labour movement.
In practice, Labour should campaign for a deal which guarantees free movement and access to the single market. In parliament it should vote against any proposals that fall short of this and demand that any final agreement be subject to a second referendum in which all residents over 16 should have the right to vote.