With a characteristic smirk the charlatan Johnson portrayed his Christmas Eve deal with the EU as a personal triumph and proof that Britain can, indeed, eat its cake and have it.
The “no- dealers” of the Tory-right ERG cabal were — initially, at least — not so sure, and immediately set up a “star chamber” to check that the deal was sufficiently free from continuing EU influence over the UK’s fishing quotas and other unspecified matters of tremendous importance. They concluded that the deal, while not perfect, was good enough to allow them to support it in Parliament.
Over at the Morning Star, something similar was going on. The paper’s initial response (Monday 28 December) was to warn of possible “erosion” of workers’ rights and environmental protection — which was a bit odd, given that the paper has been claiming for years that EU rights and protections are worthless.
But the paper had its own “star chamber” in the form of the Communist Party of Britain, who issued a solemn statement.
After noting that the agreement was a “compromise between the interests of British state-monopoly capitalism, on the one side, and those of German and French monopoly capital — represented by their states and the EU — on the other” the CPB “star chamber” continued: “This new deal frees Britain from the sovereignty of the EU”.
(Though, sadly, “not from the sovereignty of big business, whether British, European or US.” The words “statement” and “bleedin’ obvious” rather spring to mind).
On the plus side, “the new agreement certainly improves on the terms set out by Theresa May’s Tory government, which would have tied Britain — locked in by Northern Ireland arrangements — to the Customs Union, to Single Market rules under the jurisdiction of the anti-trade-union European Court of Justice, and to large general contributions to EU funds”.
“The new agreement does not, for example, lawfully permit a future left government in Britain, Scotland or Wales to plan economic development and direct the policies of the big capitalist corporations”, but “leaving the EU and its Customs Union fully on January 1, 2021, may make it easier in the long-run to achieve these objectives.”
But how should left MPs vote?
On Wednesday 30 December, the Morning Star editorial concluded 500 words of waffle with an attack on the left-wing Another Europe Is Possible campaign (who were organising for Labour MPs to oppose Johnson’s deal):
“They call on Labour, the labour movement and other opposition parties not to support the Tories’ Brexit deal ... an exercise in gesture politics ...
“The working-class movement has big tasks ahead which are not helped by this kind of strategic confusion... We are where we are and this means a here-and-now battle for job security, new jobs, income protection and properly funded public services.”
The only possible conclusion was that the Morning Star advocated Labour MPs voting for Johnson’s deal, but didn’t have the guts to come out and say so.
Then came the news that Jeremy Corbyn intended to abstain, while anotherMorning Star favourite, arch-Brexiteer Ian Lavery (and his “No Holding Back” group) advocated voting for the deal.
This presented a problem: how to keep in with both of those? The Morning Star’s answer? To say it didn’t really matter...
“Given the common ground in Corbyn’s and the No Holding Back team’s criticisms, and the inevitability of its passage in a parliament with a big government majority, it hardly seems worth debating whether Corbyn’s vote against or their recommendation of a vote for was correct. What is important is the issues they raise” (editorial, 31 December).
Now, apply that same logic to a vote on 18 March 2003, when the Labour leadership and the Tories were both in agreement on how to vote, and the result was a foregone conclusion... to support “the decision of Her Majesty’s Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction”.