In the first months after the Brexit referendum of June 2016, the Tory government revealed, triumphantly, that it had reassured the car-making multinational Nissan. Nissan, whose 7,000-worker site in Sunderland is the biggest car factory in the UK, wouldn’t move production from the UK after Brexit after all. The government refused to say what had done the trick. It insisted “there was no special deal for Nissan”.
Business minister Greg Clark said: “There’s no chequebook. I don’t have a chequebook”. Now we know Clark offered Nissan bosses £80 million. It turns out Nissan is moving its new production lines anyway, so won’t get most of the money.
The Tories offered no similar pay-out to workers facing Brexit clouds. They were happy seeing EU-citizen workers pushed out, and knew British-born workers would have little choice but to endure whatever came. This is a curtain lifted on a whole world of capitalist lobbying, deals behind the scenes, and pay-outs.
A book published in 2014 estimated the lobbying industry in Britain at £2 billion a year, which means an average of £3 million a year per individual MP, and a lot more for the more powerful MPs. The lobbyists expect a return for what they pay. The other side of that coin is the lavishly-paid “adviser” and “non-executive director” given to ministers and MPs after they finish with politics. Former chancellor George Osborne now has eight jobs on top of his post as editor of the Evening Standard, including a one-day-a-week gig with Blackrock which pays £650,000 a year.
The Tories have attempted a feeble “workers’ version” of the same ploy by suggesting Labour MPs who vote for whatever Brexit deal the government comes up with may get central government investments in their constituencies. Labour right-winger John Mann, who voted for May’s deal on 15 January anyway, shamelessly responded “show us the money”. Mostly even pro-Brexit labour movement people responded with scorn.
Only an economically equal society, with open financial accounts, can bring substantive democracy.