CHEQUERS: THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

Reading Time: 9 minutes

CHEQUERS: THE LAST DAYS OF MAY

Disunity, disloyalty and hundred-foot-high turnstiles on the Irish Border

Steve McAuliffe

The inside scoop on what really happened at that fateful meeting at Chequers

 

BREXIT DEBATE. CHEQUERS. FRIDAY 6th JULY 2018

 

(There is general hubbub and conversation around the table)

 

PM Yes thank you everyone, thank you for coming.

 

(The conversation and hubbub continues unabated)

 

PM:  If we could just….

 

(The conversation continues)

 

PM:  For the sake of the country I think it is imperative that we get this meeting underway

 

(The Ministers continue chatting)

 

BORIS:  Silence!

 

(Everyone abruptly stops talking and turns to Boris. Boris points to the PRIME MINISTER)

 

PM:  Thank you Boris. — (Clears her throat) Now if we can begin…. Firstly we thought it would be a good idea to put everyone into little factions.

 

    LIZ TRUSS interjects

 

AR  ‘Factions’ Prime Minister?

 

LT  Groups. I meant to say groups. Thank you Liz.

 

     GAVIN WILLIAMSON interjects

 

GW   (adopting a mock-creepy voice) Oooh yes, thank-you Liz.

 

LT:  Oh piss off Gavin.

 

    LIAM FOX turns to GW

 

LF: Maybe the right honourable minister for South Staffordshire should (adopting a high-pitched child-voice) ‘Just shut up and go away’.

 

    GW folds his arms, sulkily.

 

PM:  Please, I have called this meeting for purposes of unity. So if we can just-

 

BJ:  Prime Minister before we …. before we no doubt commence with um… with great enthusiasm armed with a fiery commitment toward this, toward this absolutely vital, vital  matter in hand … as it were … I do have one question I’d like to ask. If you would be … if you would be good enough – nay kind, kind enough to indulge me on this one interjection.  As it were.

 

PM: – Are you saying you’d like to ask a question Boris? …

 

BJ   I am indeed Prime Minister.

 

PM  Well, I was hoping to push on with the exercises, but providing it doesn’t delay us for too long –

 

BJ  I am indebted to you, as always

 

    THERESA MAY smiles thinly.

 

BJ  And in that spirit, the question I would like to ask, indeed I think we would all like to ask at this crucial time, is this.

 

    (He stands, and with his hands resting on the table, he looks around at his colleagues, with a Churchillian bearing)

 

— When so few among us have given so much….

 

The question – nay the burning question. Is this ….

 

-Where the hell is David Davis’s trifle?

 

PM   …‘trifle’ Boris?

 

BJ   Indeed, trifle. The agreement was that David Davis was going to bring a trifle. -Am I wrong on that? Was I somehow misinformed?

 

    Amidst much shaking of heads, all heads turn to DAVID DAVIS

 

PM (Sighing) – David would you mind -briefly, and succinctly explaining to Boris the ‘trifle situation’. -And then, hopefully we can push on with somewhat urgent affairs of state.

 

DD: No, that’s a fair question, the Foreign Secretary makes a very fair and valid point. And indeed, as my honourable colleague has made clear, at the Downing Street briefing it was agreed that I was – indeed – allocated the task of bringing along a trifle – just as Govey would fetch the finger sandwiches – which if I may say, are delicious as usual by the way, Michael.

 

    MICHAEL nods demurely.

 

DD  To that end, the ingredients were purchased and the original recipe was initially agreed upon (in principle) with my, as I like to call her, better half – but as the execution of the recipe proceeded, there arose – how best to put it — some disagreement over a few – shall we say ‘trifling’ issues

 

DD chuckles to himself and looks around at the stone-faces of the unsympathetic gathering.

 

He clears his throat and hurriedly removes, then chews upon the arm of his glasses

 

DD: To clarify: the sticking point, as far I see it was – at the negotiating stage – the age-old sherry problem. Essentially, Prime Minister, it boils down to two options, and the options are these: sherry or no sherry; there was a clear division of opinion on this. One that couldn’t be bridged. Unfortunately.

 

MICHAEL GOVE interjects.

MG It’s just a bloody trifle David, we don’t need impact assessments.

 

LIAM FOX: (Mutters) – Neither did he, apparently.

 

BJ: This is precisely the point. -Why is it everything *sooo* bloody torturous with you Davis? – I mean, Gove made the sandwiches: I supplied the Eton Mess without any undue fuss or hullabaloo.

 

DOMINIC RAAB mutters under his breath

 

DR: Boris Supplied an Eton mess. – No change there then.

 

BJ: Fuck you Dom, I heard that

 

The PRIME MINISTER, THERESA MAY climbs to her feet.

 

PM: Now, now – please! This is exactly what I’m talking about. We need a unified, collective face.

 

BORIS:  That’s a grotesque image.

 

PM  – All this bickering and back-biting is getting us nowhere…

 

    MICHAEL GOVE stands up

 

MG  I would like to add another question Prime Minister

 

PM (Sitting back down, issuing forth and exasperated sigh) — Yes, alright. -Go on Michael.

 

MG  Will we be claiming back the ingredients and associated travel on expenses?

 

(There is unanimous and enthusiastic roar of encouragement upon this point)

 

PM:  As always Michael, all food and transport is claimable on expenses.

 

(A good natured cheer erupts from the assembled ministers)

 

PM:   (Under her breath) We await your Fortnum and Mason bill…

 

    (The Cheering eventually dies down)

 

PM:  — Now, moving on to matters at hand if we may. -David, I believe you have been exploring options for the Irish border..

 

    (Some groans and eye-rolling from various ministers)

 

DD  Well as you know Prime Minister – we have of course prioritised the ‘Irish question’ -for want of a better term – and have actioned this prioritisation by immediately putting – what I believe is a workable solution – out to consultation.

 

(There is a pause as The PM and Ministers await further elaboration.

DD takes off his glasses, folds them up and places them in his breast pocket. He sits back, hands behind head)

 

PM  –And this workable solution is — ?

 

DD looks around at his colleagues, before realising it is he who is expected to respond.

 

DD  Oh I beg your pardon I didn’t realise you expected a full-analysis….

 

PM:  I think that would be rather helpful at this stage, yes.

 

He replaces his glasses and lifts a briefcase onto the table. After some struggling with the combination he opens the case and takes out a sheath of papers. He immediately sets them to one side

 

DD   Ignore those, they’re bollocks…

 

DAVID DAVIS scrabbles around in the case. He pulls out a aluminium-foil wrapped sandwich….

 

DD:  …That needs throwing.

 

    There are impatient sighs and groans from around the table as he continues scrambling around in the case. He removes an FHM magazine, followed by a flask…

 

DD  I’m very sorry about this Prime Minister, I know for certain it’s in here. I distinctly recall putting it in here myself .….

 

BORIS JOHNSON lets forth with an exaggerated yawn.  There is some giggling.

 

Eventually DD pulls out a napkin and carefully unfolds it

 

DD  And, voila! (To BJ) – You see! – Have faith Boris, have faith.

 

PM  -A napkin, David?

 

DD  –Prime Minister, discussions went on deep into the night, culminating in a late supper, at an all-night Salsa bar in Ladbroke Grove ….. Let’s put it this way, as morning loomed, things got a little – shall we say, ‘interesting’

 

DAVID DAVIS winks at a visibly unamused ANDREA LEADSOM

 

BJ  Cut to the fucking chase David -.

 

MG:  -That would make a refreshing change.

 

DD  OK, sure. -Well, we were throwing a few ideas around – batting to and forth so to speak – seeing what stuck… the drink was flowing, and the music became frightfully loud … they started removing all the tables for the dancing, so I ended up scribbling the conclusions on a napkin. Well, conclusion, singular, to be exact.

 

PM  (Sighing audibly) – And the conclusion was?

 

DD  Yes, i’m just trying to decipher what was written… but there seems to be a slight sauce stain on here – maybe red wine – hard to determine ….

       (He leans in close to scrutinise) ….. bear with me a moment….. I’m having a little trouble making that particular word out –

 

DAVIS shows the napkin to SAJID JAVID.

 

DD   Have a look at that Saj, does that say ‘turntables’?

 

SJ  (Leaning in close to read it) It says ‘turnstiles’.

 

DD  Oh yes, of course, yes, well that makes sense in the context of – er – of determining the – er – the Irish border question, as it were.

 

PM  O for God’s sake David what does it bloody say?

 

DD …Well …..

 

    SAJID JAVID impatiently interjects.

 

SJ  It says, and I quote: “100 foot-high turnstiles shall be manned by dwarves”  

 

DAVIS takes off his glasses and chews upon the arm.

 

DD  That’s pretty much the gist.

       -At this early stage.

 

(There is a protracted and stunned silence).

 

PM  ….. ‘Dwarves’ – David?

 

DD nods. The PRIME MINISTER sinks back down into her chair and sighs loudly.

 

DD ……. Yes. (He chews nervously on an imaginary toffee) — dwarves. Not necessarily dwarves obviously – I rather think the MJB guys were using -er – artistic licence there… We like to call it ‘blue-sky-thinking’… the consultation process will refine it further, obviously.

 

    DD looks around at the shocked, open-mouthed expressions of his colleagues. Some shake their heads pitifully.

 

DD   I’m sorry …, is ‘dwarves’ not the correct term these days? –

 

    There is a few moments of hostile silence – until BORIS JOHNSON leans across the table.

 

BJ  Have you completely lost the plot David? — Or, maybe you tumbled into a sodding Lewis Carroll novel?

 

    MICHAEL GOVE interjects

 

MG  Actually I’m beginning to think a hookah-smoking caterpillar would be preferable as Brexit Secretary

 

    SAJID JAVID interjects

 

SJ  – How would that even work David? – A hundred foot-high-turnstiles on the Irish border? —Just on a practical level, you’d need giants to guard those surely, not dwarves.

 

    GAVIN WILLIAMSON interjects

 

GW  Davis is *such* a  twanger!

 

    DOMINIC RAAB interjects

 

DR   I think prick is the word you’re looking for Gav. -. You’re an absolute prick Davis.

 

DD Leaps to his feet, he bunches up the napkin and throws it at Raab

 

DD  Tell you what ‘Mr Workhouses-for-the-poor’ – why don’t you spend up to 2 hours a day, 3 days a week trying to unravel the shit we’re in?

 

DR  Is that an offer?

 

DD  I’d like to see you trying to please both factions of this bloody party

 

DR  Just say the word Mr. Impact Assessment.

 

PM  Now come on David, why don’t you sit down …

 

DD  No, sod it. In fact, bugger it.  I’ve had enough of all this snickering and name-calling and – this, this – endless whining about trifles … and hard-borders and impact assessments and all the endless, relentless SHIT.  

 

BJ:  Getting very red-faced isn’t he?

 

MG:  Positively puce I’d say.

 

DD:  Give the job to that smug fucker (POINTS TO DOMINIC RAAB) – see how well he does. Tell you what, I tell you what Prime Minister, you can deny him his own private jet as well.  -See how he likes travelling to Brussels by train.

 

PM  Your objections have been noted David, now if you will just take a seat.

 

DD  No. No Prime Minister I will not. On point of principle, I resign.

 

    Much eye-rolling and groaning around the table

 

BJ:  God spare us, he’s threatening to resign again

 

MG:  Quelle surprise.

 

DD: I mean it. You will have my resignation letter in the morning.

 

    He leans across and picks up the screwed-up napkin, puts it in his case.

 

MG:  Golly, I think he actually means it this time.

 

BJ:  Bugger it: he’s pushed the button

 

MG:  The nuclear option

 

PM  Are you saying you are actually resigning David?

 

DD I am Prime Minister. I’m afraid I am left with no other option but to resign.

 

PM  This could trigger a general election David, please consider your position

 

BJ:  (whispers to MG) -Or a leadership election (MG nods sagely)

 

DD  I understand that, but my position is untenable. I could handle the trifle gags and all that public school silliness, but the level of abuse I have had to suffer

 

PM  Please David, wait. We’ll …. We’ll have a reshuffle — (Hurriedly) you can have Boris’s job.

 

BJ   WHAT??!

 

PM  No, not Boris’s job, sorry – I’m a bit ….

 

BJ  If someone takes my job it’ll be on my say-so

 

PM  I meant to say, Andrea’s job, you can have Andrea Leadsom’s job.

 

AL  (Looks up from her phone) Wait…what? —

 

DD  I don’t want her shitty job.  (POINTS AT JOHNSON) I don’t want his shitty job, (POINTS AT JAVID) or his shitty job, I don’t even want your shitty job Prime Minister, respectfully – which I can tell you makes me a rare beast amongst this … nest of vipers. No – that’s it, I’m done.  -I’m out of here (DD GATHERS UP HIS CASE AND PAPERS)  — Thank you for everything

 

    DOMINIC RAAB sitting back, smiling, calls after him –

 

DR  Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out David!

 

    DAVID DAVIS pauses at the door and walks back in.

 

DD  Before I go –  I’d just like to wish you the very best of luck in your new position Dom

 

DD angrily gives DOMINIC RAAB the finger, right up to his face, before turning on his heel and heading to the door

….

 

The door slams behind him as DAVID DAVIS exits the room.

 

A stunned silence fills the room.

 

In disbelief Ministers look around at each other.

 

THE PRIME MINISTER lets out a low protracted moan; rests her elbows on the table; cradles her head in her hands.

 

ANDREA LEADSOM appears to be weeping.

 

BORIS JOHNSON stands and casually walks to the corner of the room. Seemingly unconcerned, he piles finger sandwiches onto his plate.

 

Eventually MICHAEL GOVE speaks:

 

MG    Dwarves??!  

 

As laughter fills the room, amidst the collective jollity, unnoticed, Gove’s smile slowly fades, his gerbil-eyes gradually narrow as he sets his steely gaze upon the Prime Minister’s bowed head.

 

Standing beside the food- table BORIS JOHNSON chews on a finger-sandwich, and narrows his eyes as he fixes his steely gaze upon MICHAEL GOVE.

 

-Outside a big black cloud passes over the sun and the room momentarily darkens.

 

You can read more from Steve on his Ungagged Writing page or listen to him on our podcast

Brexit, Referendums and Independence

Reading Time: 7 minutes
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Martin MacDonald

When I started writing this on 05/02/2018 the idea of a hard Brexit, an exit with no withdrawal agreement seemed possible but remote. In the light of the UK’s insistence this week that the UK will leave both the Single Market and the Customs Union and Michael Barnier’s insistence today (09/02/2018) that an open UK/Irish border must be written into the withdrawal agreement then the odds of it happening have dropped. The UK/Irish border can’t be open if the UK is not in the Customs Union and the Single Market and the DUP, whom the Tories depend on to survive in the Commons, will never allow an internal trade border in the Irish Sea. However there is a solution. The UK can solve the problem of a Brexit withdrawal agreement which is impossible under their Brexit plan by the simple trick of not having a withdrawal agreement. In which case there will be a hard Brexit where the UK leaves abruptly with no transition and no trade deal on the 29th of March 2019.

 

If the UK leaves with no withdrawal agreement then there will be no transition period or framework for future trade deals and in fact it may lead to no vote in the House of Commons on a withdrawal deal because there will be no deal to vote on.

 

The withdrawal vote scenario I’ve written about below may not come to pass. But assuming there will be an agreement here goes.

 

When politicians talk about voting in Parliament on the final Brexit deal what is that they will vote on? From the press the impression given is that the parliamentary vote will be on the details of the UK’s new trade deal with the EU after Brexit but in fact they will be voting on something very different when it comes to a vote in Parliament.

 

In the Brexit Bill it says this:

“A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day, subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.”

Brexit Bill

 

That key phrase is “final terms of withdrawal” in the last sentence. It’s not a trade deal which will be voted on in Parliament, it’s how the UK exits the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Under Article 50 the EU and the UK sign up to a negotiated exit from the EU, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, taking into account items such as the settlement of budget accounts, withdrawal from EU institutions, rights of EU citizens in the UK (and vice versa) and the transition arrangements to smooth out the UK leaving the EU. It also provides in Article 50 that all the negotiated items of withdrawal will take into account the framework for the UK’s future relationship with the EU. However a framework is not a trade deal or anything like it and it can be likened to an agreed agenda. It’s the agenda of trade areas where the UK and EU are willing to negotiate once the UK has left the EU and where the UK is treated as a third party outside the EU and almost certainly outside the Single Market and the Customs Union.

 

So the UK Parliament will be voting on one package which contains three things, the withdrawal agreement, the transitional arrangements and the agenda for future negotiations once Brexit has been completed, aka the framework.

 

This ensures that it will be a Hobson’s Choice vote. To vote Yes legitimises the Government’s Brexit vision of a UK outside the Single Market and Customs Union but to vote No throws out not only the agenda for a future trade deal but also the withdrawal agreement and the transitional arrangements which means a very hard exit indeed unless the EU can be persuaded to extend Article 50 and the UK Government can be persuaded to change their Brexit stance in new negotiations. Just because the UK doesn’t accept the withdrawal deal doesn’t stop the Article 50 clock.

 

That’s the way the Government has set up the vote as David Jones, Minister of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union said in the House of Commons on 7th of February 2017.

“I think that I have already answered that extremely clearly. There will be a meaningful vote. The vote will be either to accept the deal that the Government will have achieved—I repeat that the process of negotiation will not be without frequent reports to the House—or for there to be no deal. Frankly, that is the choice that the House will have to make. That will be the most meaningful vote that one could imagine.”

Hansard

 

So can’t the UK go back and re-negotiate if it rejects the withdrawal arrangements or even stop Brexit if by some chance the agreement gets rejected? Things get tricky here. First of all there’s no time left to renegotiate under the Article 50 time limit. The final withdrawal arrangements are planned to be completed by October 2018 giving time for the European Parliament and the European council to consider and approve them before March 2019 when the two years allowed under Article 50 run out. The whole point of the time-limit on Article 50 was to stop endless negotiations with their accompanying disruptions and uncertainty. Article 50 can be extended but it would need the unanimous agreement of all 27 EU member states to do it.

 

Rejecting the final withdrawal agreement would need the EU to be willing to extend the Article 50 time-limit and renegotiate but that would be pointless unless the anti-Single Market and anti-Customs Union UK Government could be persuaded to change their negotiating stance or simply to give up on Brexit. However there is no guarantee the Conservative Government will do either or if stopping Brexit can be done unilaterally.

 

The proposed solution coming from groups like the one lead by Labour MP Chuka Umunna is to bypass the vote in the UK Parliament and hold another EU referendum where the UK electorate vote on whether the UK Brexits on the negotiated withdrawal, transition and trade framework, (again, remember the framework is just an agenda for negotiation), or just forgets it all and stays in the EU.

 

A very simple, clean idea and potentially very bad for Scotland.

 

Now coming from someone who voted remain and believes that Scotland is better off in the EU that sounds very odd, however there are some very good reasons to say it is a bad idea.

 

The chance of a second EU referendum happening is very low as it would need enough Labour and Tory rebels to win a vote in Westminster and both Tory and Labour are Brexit parties. However, even if just the idea got traction and especially if it got SNP backing, then the idea that you hold a first referendum on the principle of a proposal and then a second referendum on the detail would become mainstream whether it happens or not.

 

This isn’t the first time the idea of a first referendum on the principle and then a second referendum on the detail has been proposed. When the Scottish independence referendum was held in Scotland the idea of two referendums was floated in 2011 by Professor Vernon Bogdanor,

“Therefore, in my opinion, a referendum giving the Scottish government authority to start negotiations needs to be complemented by a referendum at the end of the negotiations to confirm that Scots want independence on the terms achieved.”

Vernon Bogdanor

 

and by Michael Moore the Scottish Secretary,

“If we have an advisory referendum set up by the Scottish government, I think it is a strong likelihood, and it is certainly my personal view, that you would need a second referendum on the formalities of agreeing what has been sorted out between the governments.”

Michael Moore

 

The idea that any Scottish independence referendum should be followed by a referendum on the settlement between Scotland and the rUK would be very dangerous to the independence cause and if the SNP support a second EU referendum very difficult for them to reject. A two referendum scenario would require the unionists to win only once but the nationalists would have to win twice to achieve victory. If Yes won the first referendum then the pressure on the rUK side of the negotiating team to create the worst possible separation agreement would be immense in order to ensure that No would win the second referendum on the deal.

 

Independence with full membership of the EU is Scotland’s best option and promoting a second EU referendum makes that much more difficult to achieve. Even if there were calls for one there’s no guarantee that a second EU referendum would happen or that given the current polling of the Tory party that the remainers would win it and even the proposal would certainly fuel the demands for a two referendum decision on Scottish independence. If Parliament feels that staying in the EU is the best option then they should call a snap General Election and the parties should fight it out on platforms of Leave or Remain.

 

Brexit has given impetus to a second independence referendum much sooner than many people thought possible but how will it affect the way people vote? To be brutally honest it won’t, not until the effects of Brexit really start to hit after March 2019. For most of the No vote in 2014 nothing has really changed, it’s Brexit on the telly, pound up and down, the UK and the rest of the EU facing off as usual in the press, squabbles in the Government, almost the usual mundane, background noise of politics in the UK.

 

At the moment it’s a phony war where the UK is still in the EU with all the trade and free movement perks that brings and although the political geeks like me talk and speculate about the future effects of Brexit they haven’t happened yet. There are forerunners, lack of migrant agricultural workers, corporations planning moves to inside the EU, corporations holding back on investment, universities finding that nobody in the rest of the EU wants them as research partners as the deadline to Brexit approaches but it’s just smoke in the wind for most of the population. The problems of travel, having to get and pay for visas to travel to Europe, customs duties on goods, perishable export goods piling up at jam-packed ports, companies leaving, price increases, job losses, no CAP payments for agriculture and import quotas on seafood into the EU haven’t hit yet because despite all the Brexit talk we’re still inside the EU.

 

Brexit will have a big effect on the next Scottish independence referendum but not until Brexit happens and its effects become real. (Effects which will happen very quickly if there is no withdrawal agreement and no transition.) Once it becomes apparent what’s been lost with Brexit then for the No voters of 2014 who believe in EU membership independence for Scotland becomes the only route back into the EU. There is a big danger that the second independence referendum becomes in effect a second EU referendum in Scotland when it must be much larger in scope than that, looking at all the possibilities in social, industrial and cultural change that independence will bring. However the Better Together fearmongering about loss of EU membership and being isolated will not be possible this time and the choice for Scotland will be to stay as a region in single isolated state or to become an independent state in the world’s biggest trading bloc. In 2014 the EU feared the breakup of a member state and kept out of it, in a second independence referendum they will be looking approvingly at regaining a chunk of what they’ve lost. Brexit has been a blow to the confidence of the EU but regaining an independent Scotland would be for them a recovery of both territory and pride. They will be very encouraging about membership.

Brussels as the epitome of evil, or a scientific socialist approach?

Reading Time: 7 minutes
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Written by Joanne Telfer
 I read Jonathon Shafi’s piece in the Independent on the Marxist argument against the EU with interest, but feel it raises more questions that it answers.
Shafi starts off from a very promising declaration:
“In the abstract, the transnationality of the single market fits with left-wing ideals”.
   This is good and very true, but the question is: what does Shafi understand as the distinction between abstract and concrete? Not a great deal it seems, judging by his next sentence:
“Every mass social movement that has laid a national democratic challenge has found itself confronted by the infrastructure of the EU”.

Whilst this is an indisputable fact, it’s not a progression from abstract to concrete in theory (the method of Marx). It’s a juxtaposition of abstract thought with material object. That’s the vulgar distinction of abstract and concrete, which is a legacy of medieval thinking. Under that sort of rationale, the abstract is the musings of mind and concrete is the hard surface of stuff. Two worlds nicely separated from each other, worlds that never meet.

This is not the method of Marx. For Marx, ideas in heads were just as real as physical objects outside those heads, he had no truck with either vulgar materialists or idealists. For Marx, material conditions preceded thought and ultimately dominated it, but the concrete and abstract are not distinct, two world states of existence. For Marx, as was the case in classical Greece, the abstract is abstraction (a sample) and the concrete was the totality of what is real whether this is inert matter or living biological matter, or the products of human labour, either by hand or by brain.

 

So let’s proceed. You can’t easily raise a polemic against Shafi on the basis of what he says because it isn’t much, but let me try. He cites Yanis Varoufakis which is interesting. Now Varoufakis let me say, is just as much muddled as Shafi is, but in a different way. Y V has direct experience of being on the front line in relation to the EU, in the trenches as it were. Shafi hasn’t as far as I know. I give greater weight therefore to the analysis provided by Y V. Shafi falls down by his abstract concepts, Varoufakis on the other hand, falls down by his abstract solutions.

But

The key to understanding the EU, lies in its political economy and not in its potential to invoke moral outrage. Beneath the surface appearance of neo-liberal ideology, lurks the essence of finance capital, in its leading historical role in modernity. This is something that Y V gets and that Shafi either doesn’t get or ignores. Where I despair with the former Greek Finance minister, is his popular front remedy. Does he know nothing of Spain in the 1930’s? A transnational problem requires a transnational solution. But it has to be built on a class basis, it has to be based on working people across the continent. The ideological fellow travellers from the liberal bourgeoisie and celebrities of conscience will stab such a movement in the back and in the front when the going gets rough.

 

So what are the perspectives?

 

Perspectives should be about short term forecasts of future events, based on probability, there are no genuine clairvoyants. The EU referendum was of course, propagated by the remain side to include dire predictions. In reality what happened was that the pound fell in relation to other currencies, significantly but not disastrously, though it has to be said the significance was felt more acutely by the poor rather than the rich. The value of the pound of course, is a speculative matter. The casino nature of capitalism is abstract, by which I mean it’s part of the totality, even though this has concrete repercussions in some people’s lives.

 

A paper produced by a group calling itself Open Britain, makes interesting reading (2). Of course to be generous, this is a left reformist take on these matters, a business as usual take with a Neo-Keynsian economic bent. But to me it’s a serious consideration of the facts. It’s by no means Blairite bullshit, unless you think all this sort of stuff is conscious conspiracy and everyone we disagree with is a deliberate liar. To me, that’s not a Marxist approach at all. People do lie and people do conspire but the very best lies and the very best conspiracies tend to be closer to the truth or closer to accepted truth, than conspiracy theorists abstractly imagine. The acid test is always to see how concrete (in a Marxist sense) the propositions are.

 

Frederich Engels gave weight to the importance of the transformation of quantity into quantity and vice versa. In the concrete concept of Brexit, this transition has many answers but the qualitative change is in most instances, significantly negative in a quantitative result. In other words, Brexit will have a negative economic impact under any scenario, at least in the short term. I don’t think that is really a controversial point, what is controversial concerns what happens next.

 

In the Brexit version of events, British exceptionalism, the abandoned project of empire and commonwealth will be restored to its former glory. The Lexit version of events is of course distinct but abstractly distinct. It’s in heads not connected to bodies and by this I mean there is no plan of action. Its only concrete expression would be in the framework of accelerationism and I’ve heard this articulated. Brexit will bring about the collapse of the EU and shit will get so bad in the UK that workers in their millions will flock to the red flag. This in a sense is a more concrete position than the moral outrage saga of Brussels bad, London good. It is however bad concrete because by analogy it’s the equivalent of throwing shit and sand into the cement mixer rather than sand and cement.

 

Marx’s idea of accelerationism was to advocate free trade, remove the feudal barriers to the development of capitalism so that the grave diggers of capitalism, the proletariat would grow in strength and numbers. Anything else is just a fantasy of pure idealism. This is well illustrated by Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. (3) and his 11th Thesis on Feuerbach (4). Socialism, scientific socialism is not a matter of lighting the blue touch paper and stepping back in the expectation of fireworks, it’s about plotting the course of history and making calculated informed interventions with a coherent strategy, employing the living brain against the dead weight of past generations. This is what Marx means when he says reality must strive towards thought. There is nothing in the Lexit narrative which points to any practical measures that can be taken for the proletariat to benefit from Brexit.

 

Corbyn to the rescue?

 

The situation has developed of course since 2016, when I wrote my article on Bosses clubs,  left wing communism and the fantasy of left exit from the EU (5). Cameron resigned and the Tory party shifted to the right under new leadership. The toffs are out and a new layer of not so posh but the rather more radical, petit bourgeois front line arrived with talk of bringing back grammar schools and of May being the new Maggie Thatcher. The UKIP vote collapsed but ostensibly I think kippers feel that their people are now in charge. Rees-Mogg of course (tipped as a possible future leader and bookies favourite at 9:2) is posh but an arch reactionary who once suggested a pact with the Kippers.

 

The Blairites and various Brownites immediately moved against Corbyn with the backing of most of the PLP but failed to oust him. ‘Maggie’ May, strong and stable, called a surprise election, throwing the SNP strategy into chaos and labour published the most radical manifesto since the seventies. But does this mean we can declare the Brexit referendum a victory for the left? There’s nothing in labour’s 2017 election manifesto that would be impossible under EU rules or under rules which would apply by membership of EFTA.

 

Labour came a respectable second with the new Tory government, propped up by the reactionary DUP.  Had there been no EU referendum, my guess is that labour would have won. Class issues have been subsumed to a significant extent because of the great debate over the relationship with Europe. The Tories themselves have been so engrossed in the EU question that  they themselves have little energy to devote to domestic issues, so we haven’t really yet seen just how bad for working people this Tory government can become.

 

Labour also has a long hard journey to significantly shift the public consciousness, after decades of Thatcherism and Blairism. Of course class consciousness has its own momentum  but the Labour party is now trying to restore itself as the mass party of the working class. Brexit gets in the way of this, especially as the NHS and social care, rely on significant numbers of EU migrants. The ones that the Tory right and the Kippers feel so passionately about excluding.

 

If the outcome of negotiations is WTO rules, which is the way that it’s looking, the there will be economic decline and this will be self-inflicted. This is never a problem for the rich because they simply pass the burden on to the poor. If you own capital, then you can move it to any part of the world that gives you a better return. The much maligned freedom of movement is always available to those with wealth.

 

If a Labour government comes to power on or before 2022, they will have a huge task on their hands and the worse the ultimate settlement with the EU is, the harder that task will become. No Labour government in the UK has ever put forward a full blooded socialist programme and any future Labour government would need to be pushed by events to even contemplate that. Whilst they may be pushed by events they will also be restrained by their own inertia. Not just their faith in Keynesian economics but the careerists and renegades in their own midst.

 

An election of a Labour government in the UK would be a positive development, not so much because it would be bound to deliver socialism which it almost certainly would not, but because it shifts the social narrative and puts socialism back on the agenda of possible futures.

Perhaps the accelerationists are right and I am wrong. Perhaps the whip of reaction, falling living standards and brutal nineteenth century capitalism is what we need to wake us all up but my answer to that is that turning class consciousness into political consciousness and revolutionary praxis, is what is possible when a class is moving forward with renewed confidence, not what happens when a class is in retreat, blaming the immigrant or the bureaucrats of Brussels, for what is really a global international class question, concerning the mode of production and its given property relations.