TO THE ALARM and anger of all those Labour supporters who voted to break from the EU, Labour is swiftly and openly becoming the Party of ‘remain’. The Labour Party conference was a watershed moment for Labour. First of all, on the eve of the Labour Party conference, Corbyn appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme to insist that he would support a second referendum on Brexit, the so-called ‘people’s referendum’.
Secondly, at the Party conference, Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer made a ‘surprise’ announcement. Starmer declared that remaining in the EU was an option that would be included in the ‘people’s referendum’. Rather than furiously refute this, Corbyn claimed there was no division between him and Starmer.
Thirdly, Corbyn used his own main conference speech to make Tory PM May an offer: he said that Labour would give the May government its full support if she delivers a satisfactory Brexit deal. He said, directing his comments to May: ‘If you deliver a deal which includes a Customs Union, and no hard border in Ireland; if you protect jobs, people’s rights at work and environmental and consumers’ standards, then we will support that sensible deal, a deal that would be backed by most of the businesses in the world, and trade unions.’ This is a lurch to the right and a dangerous move towards a national government, where in such a government Corbyn would be used as a left cover for extreme right wing policies.
After the conference, in Brussels, Corbyn and Keir Starmer together went to have talks with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. He did not, however, take with him Shadow Foreign Secretary Diane Abbott. Barnier was tight-lipped about the discussion. Corbyn’s verdict on the meeting with Barnier was: ‘We’ve had an interesting, useful discussion with Mr Barnier. We have set out the views of the Labour Party surrounding Brexit following the conference speeches made by Keir Starmer and myself. We are obviously not negotiating. We are not in government; we are the opposition. But he was interested to know what our views are and the six tests we have laid down by which we will hold our government (to account) in future.’
The first two of the six tests that May’s EU deal would have to pass are as follows:
1. Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU? 2. Does it deliver the ‘exact same benefits’ as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?
What the first two questions amount to is: does the Brexit deal preserve the exact same relationship that the UK has with the EU at the moment? If an agreement passed Labour’s six tests, the relationship between the UK and the EU would be identical to remaining in the EU – Brexit in name only or BRINO as it is now called.
The so-called ‘people’s vote’ is just a Trojan horse for a second referendum. And the fact that Labour has now declared their intention gives the EU leaders an added incentive to drive May back as far as possible and to have no compromise of any sort, and to create the conditions where the final deal can be rejected in Parliament.
Labour insist that at this point they will demand a general election. But this is just a smokescreen. The Tory Party would have to trigger a general election with a no-confidence vote in May while Labour have now alienated all those Labour supporters who voted Brexit, making an election victory much more difficult.
If they are unable to achieve a general election they will ‘fall back’ to campaigning for a second referendum, one of whose questions, as Starmer made clear, will be: ‘Do you want to remain in the EU?’ The result of this capitulation by Corbyn at the conference has led to conference agreeing to a motion that includes the option to remain in the EU on the basis of claiming to ‘keep all options on the table’ in a desperate attempt to keep the right-wing of the Labour Party from splitting.
This policy of appeasing the right-wing rump of Blairite MPs runs the real risk of making the Labour Party unelectable as millions of workers who voted to leave will refuse to vote out of disgust at Labour becoming an openly ‘remain’ party. Workers must take action to prevent this betrayal of the Brexit referendum result.
It is becoming clear that, to break with the capitalist EU, the working class must settle the issue by taking the power and advancing to a workers government that will nationalise the banks and major industry under the control and for the benefit of the working class as part of a socialist economy. This will be an example that will win the support of workers throughout Europe and inspire the overthrow of the EU and its replacement with the Socialist United States of Europe.