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Goldman Sachs is reported to be calculating on the basis of a 90% probability of Brexit being delayed or not happening at all. As we go to press on Thursday 7 March, the Tory-supporting Daily Telegraph says that Cabinet ministers now expect another defeat on 12 March.
In the Tories’ drive to • end free movement between Britain and Europe • risk a new “hard border” in Ireland • raise new barriers between Britain and Europe • reverse decades of economic and social integration across frontiers.
In that drive, almost their only asset now is “Brexit weariness”. Almost their only asset is the sentiment: “it’s rubbish, but I can no longer be bothered: let’s just get Brexit over and done with, one way or another”. In fact, even a vote for May’s deal on 12 March will not “get it over and done with”.
The Tories’ vicious new Immigration Bill will remain to be fought over. The shape of things after the “transition period” — during which, though officially Brexited, the UK will remain within EU rules — will remain to be fought over. The possibility of moving from that period of remaining within EU rules back into full EU members will remain to be fought over.
Saturday 23 March will be the next big demonstration for a new public vote and against Brexit. The Labour Party’s move to supporting a new referendum should make the demonstration bigger than the 700,000 on 20 October. Yet if the Tories and rebel Labour MPs oppose it, the new public vote will not pass. Only pressure on the streets will tip the balance.
Labour for a Socialist Europe, with others, is organising a left bloc on the demonstration: 11am at Grosvenor Square, to join the main march assembling in Park Lane from 12. Another Europe Is Possible, Open Labour, the rail union TSSA, the Green Party, and Left Unity are also part of the bloc. Labour for a Socialist Europe will be there with its own placards.
Rallying Labour against Brexit
The 9 March conference of “Labour for a Socialist Europe” can pull together and organise a campaign inside the Labour Party against Brexit for the coming weeks and months. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said that in the case of a new public vote, Labour would have to use its democratic procedures to decide which option to back (and he himself would back Remain). The best democratic procedure is a special conference.
In any case, Labour needs a special conference to sort itself out. “Labour for a Socialist Europe” should also have a campaign ready for an early general election (still possible if Theresa May cannot find a Brexit formula which will pass Parliament) and for May Euro¬elections if they happen in Britain (which, legally, they should if there is a long Brexit delay).
In recent months of “Brexit endgame”, there has been a strong mood within Labour of wanting to defer to the leadership on the issue. The leadership’s shift on the new public vote, its visible disarray over whether to back Remain in that new public vote, and the approach of 29 March, make openings to shift that mood in the coming weeks.
The 9 March conference should gear the campaign to reach beyond pushing motions in Labour Parties and such. It should promote on¬the-streets campaigning and the creation or growth of local groups on the model of Nottingham’s Left Against Brexit/ AEIP. It should mobilise for a visible and militant L4SE contingent on 23 March and on other street demonstrations. Another wing of the campaign’s activity should be face¬to-face “singlejack” activity in workplaces, talking with workmates one¬by-one with the “Labour for a Socialist Europe” petition (which will be revised to take into account Labour’s shift on a new public vote).
The campaign should also organise to take the issues into the unions. There are difficulties there, because union procedures move slowly and time is short. Longer-term, even if the government gets some sort of withdrawal agreement through Parliament, there will be much to do. Already “Labour for a Socialist Europe” has been working with the Labour Campaign for Free Movement to oppose the Immigration Bill and support defence and extension of free movement. It should seek also to make cross-Europe links with left and internationalist groups in other labour movements, and to push Labour on cross-Europe links.