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Editorial: Brexit is still an opportunity for Labour — just not under Starmer

WITH the resignations of his chancellor and health secretary, plus a host of junior members of the government, the Prime Minister is facing a most perilous period in his premiership.

If he survives it will be because, it seems, no credible alternative is able to reap the benefit of this particular crisis.

Both senior resignations are dressed up in the language of political principle, seriousness in government and honesty — as if these are new questions, that erratic management, contradictory policies, routine mendacity and rank incompetence have not marked Boris Johnson’s tenure at Number Ten since day one and these people are not complicit in the whole enterprise.

There are always policy clashes in government and Johnson is notoriously unconstrained by any obligation to remain consistent in any aspect of his chaotic life, personal or political.

It may be that the political necessity any Tory government faces to follow austerity policies in times of capitalist crisis is coming into conflict with Johnson’s willingness to depart from Tory orthodoxy, and these two notorious austerians want to spend more time with their money.

This crisis, passing or permanent, does rather throw up the question of what kind of government might provide an alternative to the present disorder.

Up steps Keir Starmer as the voice of capitalist continuity with a five-point plan to make Brexit work.

It is nothing of the kind. Brexit, Tory-style, is already working. Starmer’s lightweight proposals provide no serious alternative.

Renegotiating deals on agriculture and food is likely to prove unproblematic given that — in the longer term — almost everyone wants more frictionless trade.

Starmer says he doesn’t want a return to an open internal labour market which is pretty uncontroversial given that non-EU immigration into Britain is rising.

The so-called Brexit “fatberg” of regulations impeding trade between the world and the EU is as much a product of the politics of the Brexit breach as necessity and given time, most interests have no wish to block trade where mutual profits can be made.

Similarly, the Irish business class — as distinct from Loyalist blockheads and DUP opportunists — are happy with their “best of both worlds” status.

Starmer’s pitch is thin stuff and gives no sense of the real advances that a Labour government could make if it took freedom from the neoliberal EU as an opportunity.

First, a root and branch recovery of transport, utilities and energy from the private sector.

Secondly, constraints on the export of capital and a mixture of incentives and threats to boost regional and infrastructure investment and a Green New Deal on industrial investment.

Thirdly, a large-scale programme of constructing public housing that gave local authorities real powers to shape the urban landscape in the interests of human beings and environmental protection.

Leaving the EU is an opportunity to introduce a planned economy rather than the unconstrained capitalism of the EU’s “five freedoms” for capital. It allows for a greatly expanded system of public ownership.

Free from the European Court of Justice restrictions on trade union action, it allows for collective bargaining to be strengthened on a sectoral basis with restored trade union and employment rights.

Importantly, given Britain’s growing crisis of political legitimacy and the desperate regional and national imbalances, a real Labour Brexit would allow for a genuine delegation of economic development powers across Wales, Scotland and the English regions.

Where, at the moment of Brexit, the Johnson government imported into British law precisely the EU measures that regulated its neoliberal, banker and big business regime, Labour could recast Brexit as an assault on the class power of our bourgeoisie.

It really could.


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