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Corrrespondence: Brexit article

11 December 2018
To an otherwise excellent article I would like to make one correction and question another assertion:-

1. "The predicted advances by the Tories in Labour held seats in Brexit voting regions of England never materialised."

This was is not the case. The Tories took Copeland, Derbyshire North East, Mansfield, Middlesborough and East Cleveland, Stoke on Trent South, and Walsall North. These were Brexit voting working class constituencies that Labour has held for generations. Thatcher's deindustrialisation offensive has broken up working class collective organisation in these area, both in the trade unions and local communities, leaving an atomised and alienated working class, who look more to individual solutions and to saviours and scapegoats.

2. "An EU which is irredeemably pro-capitalist and is irreformable"

This assertion conflates two things. Certainly neither the EU bureaucratic semi-state, nor any of its Treaty member states, including the UK, could ever provide a vehicle for achieving socialism. However, the EU has undergone a number of major reforms. Originally the EEC was dominated by the Social/Christian Keynesian welfarist politics, also shared at the time by the UK, where these politics were known as Butskellism. However, this was followed by a new period of neo-liberalism, enshrined in the Maastricht Pact, although still with some social concessions, because of the greater remaining strength of the trade unions, particularly in Germany and France.

The political switch from the first phase to the second could only take place through political changes in a majority of the member states, registered in the EU;s most important institution, the Council of Ministers. A possible swing to the populist Right in the next Euro-elections could put pressure on the existing ministers to abandon their neo-liberal acceptance of the free movement of people within the EU. Ironically, if the Tory Right and UKIP get their way, and there is a hard Brexit, they will find themselves outside an EU, which would be much more congenial to their politics.

It is this prospect, which John McDonnell raised last week, when he said that the EU's free movement of labour stance may not be there for much longer, therefore a future Labour government by delaying the negotiations, could get a new deal over migration. Naturally, he did not say that he looked forward to the further rise of the Right, but essentially, he was arguing that such a scenario could benefit Labour, as it abandons any commitment to defend the free movement of people within the EU. This is perhaps the biggest indication of the sharp shift to the Right in politics that has followed the Brexit vote. On migration, Corbyn and McDonnell are now to the right of Cameron in the run-up to the referendum. And on 'managed migration' (read a gastarbeiter system) they are united with Tony Blair, George Brown, Keir Starmer or Chuka Umanna.

Yours in struggle,

Allan Armstrong

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