The May government and its Brexit process are bracing themselves to take the coming weeks at a run, trying to hurtle us all over a rickety bridge. Yet it looks like they could be saved by some Labour MPs voting for the Tories’ Brexit formula.
Constituency Labour Parties and trade unions should insist that all Labour MPs vote against the Tories’ deal. There is a real chance of bringing down the Tory government. No-one who will vote to save the Tory government deserves to be a Labour MP.
According to a recent leak, the government plans to get a deal at an EU summit on 17-18 November. Then, nine days of political campaigning between 19 and 27 November — with 22 November as a “take back control of our borders” day against free movement — to build up to a Parliamentary vote on 27 November. Big business bosses are being lined up to raise a chorus of support.
Whether the Tories can actually do that, we don’t know. But for sure they will be trying to get some deal through Parliament soon. It will probably be only a semi-deal, with big issues fudged or pushed away into future negotiations, but it will be their formula to get Brexit “over the line” in March 2019.
For their own reasons, the DUP and a section of the Tory right will dislike the semi-deal, and may vote against. The Tory government can be brought down, and the way opened to stop Brexit, by Labour MPs voting solidly against the Tories. The Labour Party leadership is on course to vote against a Tory deal, but there is a real risk that enough Labour MPs will break ranks to save the Tories. And as yet the Labour leadership’s studiedly non-committal line — condemning the Tories for being “chaotic” and “divided”, rather than in more substantive terms — weakens it in pushing against such breaking of ranks.
On 31 October, the New Statesman magazine reported that: “At a recent strategy meeting, Andrew Murray – who works part-time as [Unite union leader] Len McCluskey’s chief of staff and part-time in Corbyn’s office – argued that the Labour Party should vote for Theresa May’s deal to avoid a no-deal exit”. Murray, reports the New Statesman, was successfully slapped down by Diane Abbott. but his stance will surely encourage the “centrist” Labour MPs thinking of voting with the Tories.
If the Tories are brought down, then further progress will depend on changing the Labour leaders’ stance. At present they say they want to replace the Tories’ negotiations by a “workable plan” — a message which really just claims “we can negotiate better than the Tories — and they explicitly oppose continuing free movement for EU and British citizens across European borders. But there is no case for saving the Tories.
The Tories may try to blackmail us by saying that the only alternatives are “no deal” or a “hard Brexit” of the type proposed by the Tories’ right-wing fringe. In fact the great bulk of big business is firmly against those “ultra-Brexiters”: there is little chance of the Tories replacing May as leader by an “ultra-Brexiter”, and almost no chance that this “ultra-Brexiter” could win a parliamentary majority for their favoured schemes. No one should let scaremongering corner them into supporting a supposedly “lesser evil” Brexit. When the Tories are in trouble, that is an opportunity to stop Brexit altogether.
Left Against Brexit groups have been formed in Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Haringey, and South London. They have gone out on the streets to win people against Brexit. Over the next weeks and months they need to double their efforts.
Those should include campaigning in areas which are heavily pro-Remain, and in places like university campuses with strong pro-Remain opinion, in order to connect with and draw in more activists. The message needs to be “Remain and Rebel”, a battle for a different Europe reshaped in the interests of the working class by active working-class solidarity in the broad class-struggle arena created by the capitalist semi-unification of Europe.