The Communist Party of Britain has condemned the Brexit Phase One agreement between the British government and the EU Commission announced on the 8th of December this year.

'This pro-big business, minority Tory regime is loyally carrying out the instructions of its EU Business Advisory Council to tie Britain to the EU single market for the foreseeable future, while paying through the nose for that dubious privilege', CPB general secretary Robert Griffiths declared.

'The Irish border question is being used as the pretext for Britain's continuing subjection to EU rules and institutions in the guise of so-called "regulatory alignment"', he argued. Mr Griffiths called instead for Britain's commercial border with the EU to be marked by the Irish Sea rather than submit to an 'Ulster loyalist veto'.

The CPB general secretary recalled Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's warning in a BBC interview on September 24 that EU single market rules would prohibit a future Labour government from implementing its policies on public spending, state aid to industry and public ownership of the railways.

'The list is even longer than that', Mr Griffiths claimed, insisting that Labour's manifesto pledges to raise investment funds through central bank bonds, end the super-exploitation of 'posted' workers, radically restructure VAT and reform public procurement contracts would all fall foul of EU treaties and directives.

Maintaining alignment with EU single market rules would also hugely restrict the basis on which a future British government could negotiate trade deals with China, Australia, Canada and other countries.

'The labour movement in Britain must wake up to the threat posed by EU "regulatory alignment" and any similar transitional arrangements to Labour's plans to invest in public services, industry and infrastructure and to promote social justice', the CPB leader urged.

He also attacked the 'extortionate' financial divorce settlement outlined in the Phase One agreement.

'The EU Commission had originally demanded around £100bn, Prime Minister May then flew to Florence and offered £18bn - and now that has doubled to somewhere between £35bn and at least £39bn', Mr Griffiths pointed out.

'This will come on top of Britain's net contribution of £21bn over the next two years and will mean extra public spending cuts unless we elect a left-led Labour government that will end austerity and tax the rich and big business', he added.

This sentence from Jeremy Corbyn’s landmark Geneva speech yesterday sums up a growing mood of defiance among ordinary people.

The sense that the planet is dominated and exploited by an unaccountable elite lies behind repeated demands from developing countries for a greater say.

China’s call for a “more just and equitable international order” where global institutions are not controlled by the West at this year’s Brics summit is one example; the revolt by members of the United Nations general assembly, which saw Britain lose its seat on the International Court of Justice for the first time ever last month, is another.

But that feeling runs deep within societies too, and courses through the “anti-Establishment” movements which confront the status quo right across the developed world.

In many countries, resentment of a gilded corporate elite is expressed in the politics of intolerance and reaction — the bigot in Washington’s White House shares a great deal with the fascist movements that have taken such strides in France (second place at the last presidential election), Germany (where the far-right AfD went from no seats to 94 in the Bundestag in September) or Poland (where 60,000 white supremacists marching on the country’s independence day with banners demanding a “holocaust” of Muslims were described as “a beautiful sight” by sitting ministers).

Britain is different. The far right has not made any significant gains, although a rise in racist attacks and hate crimes since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 demonstrates the need for constant vigilance.

Part of the reason is that our country has seen the growth of a serious alternative from the left in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Corbyn’s speech in Geneva highlighted four “interconnected threats facing our common humanity” — the accelerating concentration of wealth; climate chaos; an unprecedented global refugee crisis and “the use of unilateral military action and intervention … to resolve disputes and change governments.”

These problems cannot be solved by capitalism.

Capitalism causes the concentration of wealth, and that in turn means governments beholden to corporate interests which profit so obscenely from the status quo that they are prepared to block action on climate change, even at the risk of a global ecological meltdown.

Those same corporate interests drive the unilateral military aggressions by Western countries which make such a mockery of the “rules-based international system” our politicians love to lecture foreigners about, and which in turn create millions of refugees.

These are not mere pieties. Corbyn did not mince his words — he was specific about the criminal wars he was referring to (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen) and open about the direct culpability of the British state (“corruption isn’t something that happens ‘over there.’ Our government has played a central role.”)

He was emphatic about the next Labour government’s commitment to work with developing countries to smash the tax avoidance racket — a task Britain is uniquely well placed to undertake because most tax havens are in its crown dependencies.

And he grasped the opportunity for a new consensus created by the “crisis of confidence in a bankrupt economic system.”

What a contrast to the Tory crowing about a “breakthrough” in talks with Brussels — talks where both parties are wedded to the grotesque and unequal international order falling apart around them.

Too often the left in this country talks as if it hasn’t realised a crisis of confidence in the system is an opportunity.

Labour must take its cue from Corbyn, and recognise that an outcome of Brexit talks that maintains the pre-referendum status quo would signify a catastrophic abdication of leadership by the left and waste the chance of a lifetime for positive, transformative change.


This article appeared in The Morning Star, Saturday 9th December 2017.