UNDERSTANDABLY, much media attention has been devoted to divisions within the Tory Cabinet over Brexit.
As the Communist Party in Britain points out, these reflect differences of perspective within City and big business circles.
This lack of a united, coherent Tory government strategy has been evident from the day after last year’s referendum when prime minister David Cameron, chancellor George Osborne, the heads of the CBI and Institute of Directors and the governor of the Bank of England woke up to find that a majority of Britain’s voters had rejected their scare stories and opted to leave the EU.
It took a new Tory government nine months to cook up enough of a half-baked strategy that would enable them to formally trigger Article 50 and begin the exit negotiations.
Since then, Prime Minister Theresa May has established an EU business advisory council to help work out a way of keeping Britain as close as possible to the EU and its monopoly capitalist single market.
Meanwhile, a number of Tory Cabinet ministers and prominent MPs have been resisting any divorce, “transitional” or future arrangements that would threaten City “freedoms” to engage in exploitation, speculation and fraud around the world.
Not surprisingly, the resulting tensions and contradictions have produced the Theresa and Boris show that has entertained and appalled people from Bettyhill to Brussels.
They have also made it easier for the EU and its — for want of a more accurate description — negotiating team to appear united in its arrogance and obscurantism.
Yet the reality is that there are divisions within the EU, too.
Some member state governments place more emphasis on the size of the divorce bill than others, either because they may have to fill the huge funding gap left after Britain’s net budget contributions cease, or because they are substantial beneficiaries who don’t want to rely even more on German, French, Dutch and Italian generosity.
In terms of citizenship rights, several eastern European states are keen to ensure that their elderly citizens will be able to join relatives in Britain after Brexit, enjoying privileges here that are wrongly denied to (mostly non-white) family members in the Asian sub-continent and Caribbean.
In Ireland, the realisation is beginning to dawn that it is the EU “Fortress Europe” whose rules demand a customs and immigration border along the north-south divide.
Left to their own devices, the British and Irish governments would almost certainly settle upon a virtual border down the middle of the Irish Sea, operating only at ports and airports and permitting the continued free movement of Irish and British citizens that has occurred since the early 1920s.
Unfortunately, the Irish Republic is no longer empowered to negotiate these matters for itself.
Most tellingly in the longer run, EU member states are divided about the future of the whole EU project itself. French President Emmanuel Macron wants to accelerate financial and military integration within the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is more cautious, while other governments adopt one or other of the four possible permutations.
Whether on Brexit or the future direction of the EU, such divisions were on display again in Brussels yesterday.
The people of Britain desperately need a strong and united team to negotiate a Brexit that serves their interests. The Tories cannot provide it. Labour can — but it will have to distinguish between access to the EU single market and submission to that market’s pro-big business rules and institutions.
This article appeared in The Morning Star Saturday 21st October 2017.