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The EU's on the back foot now, let's press the advantage

DOUG NICHOLLS welcomes the passing of the EU Withdrawal Bill as a decisive moment in history

THE country’s negotiators are now free from the attempted shackles Remainers were trying to lock them in. With the passing of the EU Withdrawal Bill, It is clear we will be out of the EU on March 29 2019.

Any deal is secondary to that fact because the EU needs us very materially in terms of trade and many other things, far more than we need it. 

Parliament has rejected the wrecking amendments from the unelected House of Lords supporting their unelected friends in the European Commission.

It rejected also the sectarianism of Tory Remainers trying to dislodge their EU withdrawal negotiating team, Labour Remainers trying cynically to damage Corbyn and noisy groups of national chauvinists seeking to put Brussels in control of Scotland and Wales rather than our own elected national government.

Labour under Corbyn played an important part in ensuring that those calling for us to remain in the single market and the customs union and retaining the freedom of movement were decisively defeated with large majorities.

The “meaningful vote” amendment, the very last stand of the House of Lords and some Remainer MPs to scupper Brexit, was foiled by a respectable majority.

When employers know workforces are divided and disorganised, they take the advantage. So too the money-grabbing EU and its corporate masters who have sought the upper hand in negotiations so far. Their luck’s just run out.

Now our negotiators have a mandate to press ahead more forcefully. It’s the Remainers of the EU who are now on the back foot. We must press the advantage home. We are in a strong negotiating position.

Half of the huge £70 billion balance of trade deficit we have with the EU goes straight to Germany and it is Germany that supplies four times the number of cars to Britain than we sell to them.

We have a balance of trade surplus with the rest of the world and we could have a total surplus if we stopped importing so much from the EU and started producing things here again ourselves.

Paying billions to the EU as an exit fee to fritter away might need to be revisited. We urgently need every penny invested here.

We all know what it will do with this money. It will press ahead with the single EU army, dump more foodstuffs in Africa to thwart domestic agriculture and exacerbate famines, pay off the spectacular salaries and pensions its over-bloated EU bureaucracy pen pushers enjoy and transport tons of unnecessary paperwork for no good reason between Strasbourg and Brussels so it can debate much ado about nothing.

The EU is collapsing. It has plundered its southern countries and fenced as many of their national assets as possible to its friends in banking and private corporations.

It is the 30,000 transnational corporations permanently camped out in lobby offices in Brussels that run the EU and it always has been. They’re panicking now.

They have created mayhem across the continent. There’s been a universal break-up of collective bargaining, tearing up of labour protections, privatisation of anything that moves, deindustrialisation for all except Germany and the most terrible consequence of neoliberalism, mass unemployment and despair of the young.

As a result, the collective EU economy is weak. That is why Britain is in a strong bargaining position.

The EU has nothing to offer except the continual request for funds. We should deny them until the deal we want is reached.

The question of the single market or customs union is dead. We don’t even particularly need access to it. We will be free to trade with whoever we want to and Britain has links throughout the world superior to those of the EU.

But trade follows from production. If you can’t produce to a high standard, you have nothing to sell.

Unfettered by procurement rules that in effect enable the big, overseas transnationals to buy up and win public contracts, we will be able to invest seriously in research and development again, in skilled jobs and in an industrial strategy.

We will be able to bring back utilities and public services into public ownership without EU competition and trade commissioners and the ECJ telling us we can’t.

We will be able to create a labour market plan with sectoral collective bargaining and thereby more properly control the import the flow of labour and the conditions under which it will work.

A few weeks ago the EU negotiators were trying to get non-regression clauses into any deal so that these things, if pushed in the future by a Labour government, would not be possible. These imperial positions will be overturned.

Previously using the distinctive position of Ireland cynically to create division, the EU attempts have already floundered on the common sense of customs experts with simple solutions to the Ireland border issue.

It’s a great time to be alive and fighting for the many not the few.

Defending the faceless neoliberal interests of the EU should be yesterday’s forgotten mistake and workers and their representatives should be pressing home the advantage our national negotiators are in to get the best deal for our people for a change.

Doug Nicholls is chair of Trade Unionists Against the EU.

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