The left must unite to take control of Brexit debate

John Rees on why post-Brexit politics can't be left to the Tories 

David Cameron's decision to hold the EU referendum ranks as one of the most politically irresponsible decisions of any British government since the Second World War.


For the infantile purpose of getting the upper hand over his Eurosceptic critics in the Tory party Cameroninitiated a debate that was dominated on both sides by the voices of the right. 

But the referendum also divided opinion on the left with trade unionists, anti-racists, civil libertarians and socialists on both sides.  

There is now a clear danger that if these divisions persist the unelected prime minister and her deeply divided government will undemocratically force through a deal which perpetuates the Tory ideal of a privatised, free-market, non-union, economic model. Migrants will face a renewed onslaught and cherished institutions like the NHS and the state pension will be attacked. Meanwhile the crisis of housing and on the railways will get worse. 

So now is the time to set aside the differences provoked by the referendum campaign and unite to prevent Theresa May from turning the post-Brexit negotiations into an undemocratic ramp for furthering the interests of the corporations, the rich and the Tory party. 

There is not a single trade unionist, anti-austerity activist, civil liberties campaigner or anti-racist that wants to allow the Tories a free hand over Brexit. Everyone knows that if that happens the chances of electing a leftgovernment at the next election will be so much more difficult. 

We want to end the dominance of the right wing in the national debate about what society we want. That means refusing to accept any deal which attempts to resolve the crisis on the basis of a neo-liberal economicregime which perpetuates inequality and which fails to regenerate NHS, schools, the welfare state, and the industrial infrastructure of the society. 

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have made it clear that they will not accept either an undemocratic process, a deal that penalises working people, or racism directed at migrants. 

The Peoples' Assembly are raising eight issues that might frame public discussion: an end to austerity; a programme of public ownership; overhauling the tax system to stop a bankers' Brexit; a new charter of workers' rights; a charter of migrants' rights; no to TTIP and other neo-liberal trade deals; a new benefits deal for all; an investment programme in renewable energy. 

These issues will be at the heart of the Peoples' Question Time - Brexit: What Are Our Demands? coming up on the Thursday 19 January in London with Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry, Steve Turner of Unite the Union, Lindsey German of the Peoples' Assembly, Amelia Womack the deputy leader of the Greens, Malia Bouattia of the NUS, Kevin Courtney of the NUT, and the RMT's Alex Gordon.    

The whole of the trade union and progressive movement now needs to throw its considerable weight into the scales. We can all unite around a clear set of principles that insist that, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, it must be judged on whether or not it closes the gap between the rich and the poor, strengthens public services, extends democratic and civil liberties, including trade union rights, and combat racism. 

A significant factor in the referendum result was a raw anger at the political establishment for its neglect of the hardship visited on working people for a generation. If the result of Brexit is simply one more turn of the screw that will simply create another explosion further down the line. 

And if you think the current crisis is ugly, the next crisis will be more so. The responsibility of the left and the trade union movement is to make sure that this doesn't happen.  

The political right created this mess. The political left must unite to get us out of it.

Make sure you come along.

The People's Question Time - Brexit: What Are Our Demands?
7pm, Thursday 19 January, St Pancras Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA.

Do you have a question for our panel? Submit one when registering for a chance to put it to the event.

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Showing 4 reactions

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  • Nigel Johnson
    commented 2017-01-13 19:12:59 +0000
    Absolutely not poppycock. I’m afraid the Lexiters are playing exactly into the hands of Murdoch and the most vicious faction in our ruling class who want to turn the UK into a offhsore tax haven and sweatshop. Just like Trump in the US Brexit was a con: an effort by the nastiest in the elite to take justifiable anger against the establishment and turn it in “nationalist” directions rather than in bringing about real progressive change. To use turn our own long overdue rebellion against our ourselves by creating a “fake” rebellion they could control for their own ends..
    Even the tricks used, blood soaked nationalism for cyring out loud, turning people against each other, xenophobia and divide and rule, these are amongst the oldest in our rulers’ book. When in doubt unite the masses against any old “outsider”.
    We need to be better than that.
    In any case the brexit debate is over, for good or ill (I suspect ill). Now it’s about how we Brexit. And don’t doubt for a second that there are loads of worker, environmental and consumer rights that the nastiest Tories will do their best to now dispose of. Our best option is to bargain from a position of strength and block the process (i.e. the triggering of article 50) until the Tories keep their word and vote our protections into UK law. Once our domestic position is clear then we can start to negotiate with the EU.
    As for the worker protections at stake see this from the TUC:
  • Georgina Kerr
    commented 2017-01-13 17:15:54 +0000
    What poppy cock! The left Leave campaign LEXIT has already exposed theses vacuous arguments. I voted to leave with millions of others on a !eft ticket. We don,t need to trigger article 50..we can just leave. WALK OUT THE BLOODY DOOR!! Good news is totalitarian EU is on its last legs …and why all these stupid ideas are still doing the rounds , they will wake up one morning and find it is dead. Dead and buried. Amen.
  • Nigel Johnson
    commented 2017-01-08 14:17:50 +0000
    Labour and the Left should bargain from a position of strength, by not allowing the triggering of Article 50 unless our domestic position is sorted out first. That also make sense as an approach: it isn’t sensible to accept a strict 2 year deadline to sort everything out before deciding what we want to happen with domestic laws first. See:
  • Willow Bell
    commented 2017-01-07 14:05:13 +0000
    David Cameron didn’t make the decision to hold the referendum alone. The time was ripe for the break up of a union Britain always resented. People here have never really felt part of Europe, which they are not technically. The left has failed abysmally to educate people about the European parliament and the fact it is more democratic than the British parliament. After all we have a 400 year government, which does not break ranks hardly at all or it wouldn’t survive.
    The Conservatives are historically about a free market coupled with a structuralist approach, whereby state institutions remain in place while the liberals (whigs) are in to a free market, a free for all in effect, a notion you support when you speak of open borders, that only really assists the flow of capital. Remember the liberals were dessimated again by the Tories recently.
    The left went along with the leave vote (brexit is not a word just born out of buzz and inertia) wholesale and now blames it on the ’’people’’ but the Labour and Conservative parties made little attempt to promote European membership because they wanted to leave. The last of the large economic blocs has to go, I envisage the break up of the American states and have done since 2003.
    The promotion of and support for a Caliphate in Raqqa, Syria was justified on the grounds that it addressed Picot Sykes, which it no doubt would have but this is for the benefit of Britain rather than the Arab nations or indeed the Islamists. We may well return to a phase in Europe that existed a century ago and for centuries before that with small states, a more effective war machine (though I doubt that is the whole agenda) and a more effective flow of capital.
    The debate on the so-called left (I’m not sure as you all support a man who has commited genocide simply because he has a black skin) has to change and become more political. You all wax lyrical about the black estates in America when Bristol people for instance, barely came to St Pauls when it was run by gangsters. More importantly all the left has done for a decade is shout free this and that even if it meant freedom from relatives, welfare states and entire countries. No analysis, no research only witter or twitter.
    Lastly why do you have to be on facebook or witter to comment?

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