THE Brexit negotiations have just begun and already it is being spelt out to the UK ruling class that the ‘divorce settlement’ that the EU requires is 100bn euros, and that this must be agreed before there can be any further negotiations.
This EU negotiating tactic was developed out of its treatment of Greece. Greece was crushed, and its Syriza leadership was beaten and battered down, just after their greatest success, the final referendum on July 5 2015, in which Greek workers rejected all of the austerity measures of the EU Commission, the Central Bank and the IMF by a massive majority, 60% to 40%. Many thought that this was the end of the EU.
However, just a week later, the Greek government, much intimidated by the Troika and in a state of fear, rushed to agree to 100% of the EU terms, betraying the Greek workers who had told them to defy the Troika.
On Sunday July 5 after the Greek masses voted 60% to 40% to reject the EU’s terms, Prime Minister Tsipras said that Greece ‘has proved that democracy cannot be blackmailed; Greece has made a brave choice and one which will change the debate in Europe.’
Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, said the no vote was a rejection of the ‘iron cage’ of the eurozone. ‘Today’s no is a big yes to democratic Europe; a no to a vision of the eurozone as a boundless iron cage for its people. From tomorrow, Europe, whose heart tonight beats in Greece, starts healing its wounds, our wounds.’
A few days later, Tsipras and Syriza capitulated to the threats of the EU that they would be destroyed, and surrendered to the Troika. The lessons from this betrayal are even more powerful for today.
Varoufakis’ fatal weakness was that, despite all that had gone on in the six months of his negotiations with the Troika, he still believed that the Troika could be forced to see reason and negotiate a deal. The EU is now poised to treat the UK as it did Greece. The object of the exercise is to show that even a powerful capitalist state that seeks to leave the EU will be severely punished and crushed. There has now been a real warning confirming that this is the case.
Hans-Olaf Henkel, the deputy head of the European Parliament”s industry, research and energy committee, has just accused Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, of planning to impose a bad exit agreement on Britain as a warning to other countries tempted to leave the EU.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, was also guilty of wanting ‘to make a mess out of this whole unhappy situation’. ‘I have the impression, by their public statements, that indeed they would like to set an example,’ said Henkel. ‘They want to punish Britain and make sure that no one else is leaving the European Union.
‘By the very fact that they say that a country which leaves the European Union should not have the same deal as a country which is in the European Union, you can demonstrate what they mean.’ Henkel urged other MEPs – who enjoy a potential veto of any Brexit deal – ‘not to listen’ to their own negotiators.
The criticism came as the second round of the talks appeared to have run into trouble within 24 hours of resuming in Brussels, over the vexed issue of the so-called ‘divorce bill’. However, one of the big differences between the situation today and that of Greece in 2015 is that today the major political parties and the major trade union leaders have already shown their hand.
They all urged workers to vote ‘Remain’ in 2016 and were shocked to their foundations when the masses did the opposite. Many of these, both MPs and union leaders are plotting to defy and reverse the Brexit result and are prepared to become a ‘fifth column’ for the EU. This is why the UK working class must now push forward.
It must take action to bring down the Tories and at the same time purge Labour of the big group of right-wing MPs who oppose Brexit and are waiting for their opportunity to knife it. The working class must insist that the Brexit result is carried out and be prepared to rise up and take the power when the politicians wilt and run away as they did in Greece before the power of the EU and international capital.
In fact, now is the time to join up and build the revolutionary leadership of the WRP to lead the working class to the taking of power in the UK and then lead the workers of Europe to bring down the EU and replace it with the Socialist United States of Europe.