By Michael Chessum
Today’s stuff about borders is big news. Here’s why…
The government wanted to concede that the “real” post-Brexit border will be in the Irish Sea, and now the Scottish government is asking for the same treatment.
The problems ought to be insurmountable. The DUP will never accept a border between the UK and Northern Ireland – and they’ve reiterated that today. Without them, the government falls. Most parts of the political establishment won’t care about the Irish question; what they will care about is the de facto disintegration of the UK.
Put the border in the Irish Sea, lose your majority in the Commons. Put it in Ireland, lose the negotiations with the EU.
Acquiesce to Sturgeon’s demands, and you’ve effectively let the UK fall apart (it would most likely be a hard customs border between Scotland and England; I can’t see how else it would work). But refuse them, and you massively strengthen the SNP’s hand.
The most obvious answer to all of this is to scrap Hard Brexit altogether, and remain in the Single Market with a Norway-style deal. This would appease the Scottish, the Irish and the DUP. But it would destroy May – she would lose her Eurosceptic base and half her Cabinet would probably resign. And they’d have a point: it would be a lot like being in the EU, minus having MEPs.
And then there’s the other option. Ditch appeasing the Brexiteers, say “to hell with it” and hold a referendum on the terms of the deal. May can’t do that – but Labour could.
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This argument gets thing completely the wrong way round.
As a socialist, you should start with the socialist programme you wish to pursue, and only after that graduate to determining whether adhesion to the European Single Market (Soft Brexit) is compatible with it.
So, what should socialists be pursuing? Surely a planned economy founded on the extension of public ownership! Nationalisation under the first Corbyn government should certainly extend to the following sectors: banks, pharmaceutical companies, gas, electricity, water, postal services, telecommunications and railways. This is a bare minimum. (See, for instance, the stimulating recent article on this site about our assumptions towards the private ownership of small and medium sized businesses.)
So, is such a programme compatible with staying in the Single Market? Answer: No!
Having a State monopoly in the gas, electricity, postal services, telecommunications and railways sectors is directly contrary to the liberalisation directives which dictate that there must be open markets. In any sector, where a firm is based in another Member State it must have the right to participate in the market under the Treaty right of Freedom of Establishment (the right to establish branches and subsidiaries in any other Member State). There are also rules which give the European Commission oversight over the State Aids given to the public sector. There would also be the unlimited labour supply under the Free Movement of Persons, contrary once again to economic planning.
However disagreeable a “hard” land border between NI and the RoI, this issue cannot be allowed to scupper our socialist programme for the ENTIRE United Kingdom. Get a grip, comrades! Get a sense of priorities!
It is because so many on Labour’s Left has gone down the liberal path that it has ceased to care that the European Union was created by capitalist countries precisely in order to consolidate the capitalist system.