Pressure is growing inside Labour for it to take a firm stance against Brexit.
Some of this pressure comes from the right of the Party. On Sunday 3 June Sadiq Kahn called for Corbyn to oppose Britain’s departure from the single market. He advocated Labour supports an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which aims to keep Britain in the European Economic Area, effectively signing the UK up to the so-called “Norway option”, which would retain access to the Single Market.
The Withdrawal Bill is scheduled to return to the House of Commons on 12 June. When it does, MPs will vote on a total of 15 amendments made by the House of Lords. The government faces defeats, including over an amendment which commits them to make remaining in a customs union part of Brexit negotiations. With Labour joining Tory rebels defeat is likely. However, as Labour is unlikely to vote for the amendment on the “Norway option”, that will fall.
Khan’s call for Labour rebellion on this 15th amendment is tied to London voters’ strong support for Remain in the referendum. Across all 33 boroughs in the capital, 59.9% (2.26 million) voted in favour of remaining in the EU.
Solidarity believes Khan is right to be concerned about support for Remain in London and right to call for Labour MPs to vote for the “Norway option”. However, our underlying concerns are fundamentally different.
Khan wants to represent the capitalists who have made London their base. He wants their interests — smooth flows of capital, trade and cheap and useful labour — to be unhindered by Brexit.
Workers’ Liberty believes that stopping Brexit has to be tied to working-class principles:
• For free movement.
• For raising wages and conditions across the global working-class.
• For migrants’ rights.
• For reducing, not increasing, barriers between countries
• For democracy in the European Union
• For social levelling-up across Europe
• For workers’ solidarity across borders,
• For a socialist federal Europe.
That is why we welcome the launch of the Left Against Brexit initiative by Another Europe Is Possible (AEIP).
Left Against Brexit is a welcome attempt by the AEIP to raise political awareness, to oppose and raise the alarm about the implications of Brexit before the passing of the Withdrawal Bill. They will be organising a speaker tour over the summer.
Left Against Brexit is a very broad initiative. It does not share all of our goals. For instances, one of its figureheads, Ann Pettifor, is in favour of capital, trade and labour controls across borders.
But Left Against Brexit is raising many of the important concerns. For instance, they say, “The Tories are planning a bonfire of workers’ rights, environmental protections and human rights. Ending free movement is about blaming migrants for falling wages, lack of housing and cash-strapped public services — when we know the people who are to blame are the political and economic establishment themselves.”
Left Against Brexit seems to be organised around two goals: to get a debate in the labour movement, including at the Labour Party (23-26 September) and to win support for a referendum on the terms of the final deal. They point out that 80% of Labour members now want such a referendum.
We urge socialists in the Labour Party to support these goals. We do not accept that avoiding debate in Labour, as many on the left prefer, is either desirable or workable. As things stand, the Tory Party is committed to a disastrous Brexit policy.
At the very least Labour needs to debate how to oppose the Tories, and to work out what Labour should say about free movement and many other issues.. If we avoid debate on the issue for fear of embarrassing Corbyn and McDonnell, or a press backlash, we will be capitulating to the Tories and the anti-migrant right, at one remove.
A minority of Labour voters opposed Brexit. But most of those are not hardened anti-migrant bigots. They can be convinced by an argument. Fighting for a second referendum makes sense.
It is time to crank up the volume on our opposition to Brexit. Advertise, support and build the Left Against Brexit initiative.