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Theresa May's 'Chequers deal' mauled by Johnson and EU: fight for a socialist Brexit!
Iain Dalton, Socialist Party national committee
Not even Theresa May's 'dancing' on her African travels could distract from the crisis her government faces on two fronts: from the right-populist Tory Brexiteers, and the European Union itself.
Boris Johnson's manoeuvrings for leadership are ever more blatant. In a Telegraph column, he denounces May's 'Chequers deal' for demanding "diddly squat" from Brussels.
He writes that the Tories have "gone into battle with the white flag fluttering over our leading tank."
Tory MPs grouped around the 'hard Brexit' European Research Group, chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg, number around 60.
Tory election guru Lynton Crosby - who was blamed by May for 2017's general election fiasco, but previously helped Johnson into London City Hall - is reported to be working with the group.
With that backing, Boris Johnson could be a frontrunner to replace May as Tory leader. A Conservative Home poll put Johnson top, with 29% support out of 14 options.
However, it is still very questionable whether Brexiteers could win a majority of Tory MPs to unseat May if she contests a no-confidence vote.
At the same time, neoliberal Remainers have been bolstered by EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier. In a German newspaper, he too denounces the 'Chequers deal' - for demanding too much from Brussels.
The deal proposal agreed by May's cabinet at her official Chequers residence in July contained a number of fudges.
It retained capitalist 'free movement' for physical goods, in part as an attempt to overcome the stubborn problem of an Irish border, as well as to guarantee market access.
But it did not retain this for services - which dominate the British economy. This would have meant reduced access to the Single Market, but also the possibility of even less financial regulation.
Sure enough, Barnier responds on behalf of EU big business that it would mean "unfair competition if the United Kingdom has weaker legal requirements than we do."
He also claims that "for example, 20 to 40% of the total value" of a mobile phone comes from services, not physical goods.
These illustrate the intractable problems for British capitalism of untangling from the EU in a world based on globalised production and markets.
Meanwhile, Tory Remainers like Chancellor Phillip Hammond spread fear about a 'no-deal' Brexit in an effort to retain as many of the EU's pro-big business arrangements as possible. Hammond says it would mean an £80 billion increase in borrowing by 2033.
Some Conservative donors have stopped funding the party or switched to the Lib Dems over Brexit. A growing section of the Tory establishment is calling for a second referendum - including donor and former Rolls-Royce chair Sir Simon Robertson, former prime minister John Major, and hard Remainer MPs such as Justine Greening and Anna Soubry.
Trying to keep the show on the road, May's new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has even talked of pushing the date for agreeing a deal with the EU back a month, to November.
The Tory splits reflect the uncertainty among Britain's capitalist class, and the contradiction between the overwhelmingly pro-EU majority of big business and the Tories' narrow membership base.
But absent from the official debate is the interests of workers and young people. For the Tories, and likewise Labour's Blairites, the debate is a question of how British capitalism can best escape the additional crisis it entered because of the Leave vote.
Part of their hesitation is based on their infighting providing the opportunity for a fresh general election, and their fear of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government coming to power and enthusing the working class to fight for more.
Thankfully for the bosses, the Blairites have dutifully manufactured their own crisis in Labour to try to prevent that.
Meanwhile, neither Corbyn nor the union leaders have yet moved to seize this historic opportunity.
But Corbyn's pro-worker, anti-austerity programme points to the outlines of a solution, which would need to be based on bringing the key sections of the economy into public ownership under democratic workers' control and management.
Only socialist policies and working class internationalism can deliver a pro-worker Brexit and offer a real alternative to British and EU capitalism.
In The Socialist 5 September 2018:
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