EU Exit, Negotiations Must Be Fair

THE draft guidelines published on Friday 31st March, for how the EU will approach negotiations for Britain’s exit, confirm how necessary it is to leave that anti-working class, anti-democratic organisation.

As might be expected from a body founded on the principles of so-called “free market” fundamentalism, the document unveiled by the unelected President of the European Council gives special priority to the interests of “business.”

These are referred to explicitly on five separate occasions in Donald Tusk’s rather brief paper, alongside the interests of the EU and its citizens generally.

There are no references to the interests of workers, employees or their trades unions.

The guidelines propose a phased approach to the negotiations, with sufficient agreement required on a divorce settlement before any formal discussions begin on a new relationship and the transitional arrangements towards it.

This could prove advantageous, given the kind of conditions that the EU would attach to any future trade agreement, namely, that it “must ensure a level playing field in terms of competition and state aid, and must encompass safeguards against unfair competitive advantages through, inter alia, fiscal, social and environmental dumping.”

A right-wing Tory government might well be prepared to sign up to such a deal, but a left-led Labour government could not do so without selling its soul to the devils of deindustrialisation, deregulation and privatisation.

Any British government that is serious about protecting and modernising an industrial base for the 21st century would have to be prepared to consider measures such as public ownership, a state investment bank and central bank bond issues, preferential procurement policies, state subsidies, lower rates of VAT, selective import controls, limits on the export of capital and the direction of private-sector investment.

Instead of signing away the right to enact such measures, we need a government that will seek access to the European single market on no-tariff or low-tariff terms if possible, but not at the expense of the sovereign powers vested in it by the people of Britain.

Such a government is more likely after the next general election than before it. Should no trade deal prove possible due to EU intransigence, British exporters facing EU tariffs could be compensated from the even greater tariff revenues that a British government would be collecting arising from our trade deficit with the EU.

The EU draft guidelines also insist that “there will be no separate negotiations between individual member states and the United Kingdom.”

While the guidelines recognise the special situation in Ireland and the need to avoid installing a “hard border” between north and south, this stipulation would ban a Dublin government from reaching a post-Brexit agreement with Britain (preferably in consultation with the regime at Stormont).

The southern Irish, like everyone else in the EU, will not be represented by any of their elected representatives in the talks with Britain.

Instead, their chief negotiator will be the unelected Michel Barnier, supported by the unelected President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the unelected President of the European Council.

At least in Britain, we will have the opportunity to unelect our chief negotiators — too late, perhaps, but better late than never.

As for Ireland, the only practical border for regulating the movement of goods would be the same as that currently used for regulating the movement of people, namely, the one between Ireland as a whole and Britain.

This article originally appeared in The Morning Star, Sat April 1st 2017.

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