Despite Boris Johnson’s “Bung a Bob” crowdfunding appeal, Big Ben will not “bong for Brexit” at 11pm on 31st January. The Parliamentary Standards Committee has put its foot down and blocked the idea. Instead, the Tory government will project a countdown clock onto the wall of 10 Downing Street. So much for taking back control.
This little episode, in a microcosm, sums up the Tory government. They are all bluff and bluster. The Tories are promising a “land flowing with milk and honey” after Brexit. But we are likely to end up with a giant raspberry instead.
Delusion and lunacy
It is one thing to shout “Get Brexit Done” as a slogan in an election; another to deliver a complex trade deal with the EU in 11 months.
The only possibility of achieving any deal is if Britain closely aligns its standards with the EU. But this was ruled out by Sajid Javid, the chancellor, who has taken a hard line.
“There will not be alignment, we will not be a ruletaker,” asserted Javid. “We will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union — and we will do this by the end of the year.”
“There will be an impact on business one way or the other; some will benefit, some won’t,” the Tory chancellor added.
This is not what big business wanted to hear. Fund managers from the City of London and Canary Wharf have long warned that Brexit would be destructive for the British economy. They were hoping that with an 80-strong majority, Johnson’s government would throw off the Brexiteer ultras and govern as ‘normal’. But they have been deluding themselves.
From the point of view of British capitalism, the prospect of a hard Brexit is utter lunacy. But they are stuck with Johnson and his government.
Deal or no deal?
Trade negotiations with Europe will be fraught. EU officials warn that Brussels and the UK may have as little as five months to strike a deal, given the time required legally to check it, translate it, and ratify it.
Sir Ivan Rogers, Britain’s former ambassador to the EU, said that Johnson, by creating a new cliff edge next Christmas, had made it more likely Britain would get a bad deal.
By the end of the year they may have run out of time and Britain would then revert to World Trade Organisation rules. This would result in the imposition of high tariff barriers and quotas for British goods. This would be disastrous for British industry and lead to an economic crisis.
Any deal, meanwhile, would require undertakings by the UK to establish a “level playing field” - covering state aid, labour law, the environment, and taxes. But Johnson has ruled this out.
Things are looking extremely precarious for British capitalism, with slow growth, little investment and stagnant productivity. The last few months of 2019 saw the worst growth since the 2008 slump. Retail sales have also collapsed. And the Brexit debacle will drag the economy down even further.
More alarming is the international situation. Another world slump is around the corner - one that threatens to be even worse than the last.
The new head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, has warned that the global economy risks a return of the Great Depression. “If I had to identify a theme at the outset of the new decade,” the IMF chief said, “it would be increasing uncertainty.”
This looming crisis is going to shatter the Tory government, turning it into a government of crisis. The idea that austerity is coming to an end is complete nonsense. Indeed, the cuts will become even deeper. Councils face bankruptcy, putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk.
Those talking about a decade or more of Tory government are blind to what is coming. There will be no stability. One crisis will be followed by another. In the process, the Tory party will be completely discredited and torn apart.
Shock and struggle
A layer of the left are despondent; rudderless, without a perspective. Some have even threatened to give up and go home. But the struggle in the Labour Party is far from over, whatever the outcome of the leadership election. In fact, it has only just begun.
We will support the left in the fight against the right. But we will also fight for bold socialist policies - to take over the economy and place it in the hands of the working class. This must go hand-in-hand with the complete democratisation of the party and the demand for the mandatory reselection of MPs.
Struggle on the industrial plane will also increase, as the bosses attempt to drive home any advantage. But this will provoke defensive battles and possible factory occupations.
Events are going to transform and retransform the situation. Anger and frustration will not dissipate but will only intensify in the coming period. There will be a heightening of the class struggle.
It will become clear to millions that there is no solution on a capitalist basis. It is not a question of whether we are inside or outside of the EU. Under capitalism, all roads lead to ruin.
Within these battles, the Marxist tendency will grow and put its stamp on the process. Only the socialist transformation of society can guarantee a future free from poverty, squalor, want and homelessness. This is a world worth fighting for.