By now, according to Tory Brexiteers, Britain was supposed to be riding the waves of sovereignty and independence, having freed itself from the leviathan of the European Union. Instead, Theresa May and her ragtag government find themselves lost at sea - and with no hope on the horizon.
But whilst May’s government bounce from one calamity to the next, the working class is forced to suffer the torture of this Groundhog Day charade.
With the Brexit circus consuming Westminster, the crises wracking British society continue to mount. Working class communities, already devastated by decades of deindustrialisation and years of Tory austerity, cannot afford for this chaos to continue any longer. We need a general election and the coming to power of a socialist Labour government.
Brexit has been a revelation for Britain’s arrogant ruling elite - and not in a good way. It has shattered any illusions that the UK might still be an important actor on the world stage. Instead, it has exposed the cold, harsh reality: that Britain is at best a third-rate power, now widely considered a laughing stock by its rivals.
This is the new normal of British politics. From being one of the most stable countries in the world, the UK is now one of the greatest sources of instability for an already fragile capitalist system. And as the FT author explains, offering a word of warning to the establishment:
“Whatever happens...the probability is that the UK will become more unstable and unpredictable over the next couple of years. That instability will have alarming implications for the rest of Europe, for the western alliance and for the liberal international order.”
The negotiations with the EU have been a humiliation for the Prime Minister and her jingoistic party from beginning to end (if there ever is an end). After drawing a series of so-called ‘red lines’ in advance of talks with her European counterparts, the Tory leader has been forced to backtrack from day one.
The latest concession marks another ignominious defeat for the PM. In advance of yesterday’s EU-27 summit, Theresa May had assured fellow Conservatives that any Brexit delay would be until 30th June, at the latest. But the British premier was in no position to offer such promises - the decision was entirely in the hands of her European counterparts, who have reached the end of their tether when it comes to negotiating with Downing Street.
Last night, therefore, the Prime Minister was forced by EU leaders to swallow the bitter pill of a long Article 50 extension. The new deadline is 31st October, with the possibility of Britain leaving earlier if a deal can be agreed.
But this is a big if. After all, Parliament has had almost three years to come up with a solution, to no avail. And Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, made it clear in his latest “message to British friends” that there could be no renegotiation of the withdrawal of the agreement. “Please do not waste this time,” Tusk firmly stated in May’s direction.
A spectre is haunting the Tories
That the new Brexit date has been set for Halloween is appropriate. A spectre is certainly haunting the Brexiteers - the spectre of Remain. All the worst nightmares of the Tory Eurosceptics seem to be coming true.
With each reversal, May has provoked a hysterical hiss from her Brexiteer backbenchers, who accuse her of leading them down a cul-de-sac of betrayal and ‘vassalage’. The latest surrender by their clueless commander is potentially the worst yet.
If a deal is not passed in Parliament by 1st June, then the UK will have to participate in the upcoming European elections. This, Conservative Leavers fret, will be the back door through which a Brexit reversal is smuggled.
Their beloved Brexit dream is slipping through their fingers. They fear ending up, at best, with a ‘Brexit in Name Only’; at worst, the unthinkable: no Brexit at all.
To rub salt in the wound, Tory Brexiteers have been horrified to find that their party leader seems intent on getting into bed with her opposite number - the known terrorist-sympathiser, Moscow stooge, anti-Semite and Marxist revolutionary, Jeremy Corbyn - in an effort to negotiate a potentially passable deal. Double betrayal!
As a result, talks with Labour seem to have reached an impasse, with the Tory leader unwilling to concede to a softer Brexit involving a permanent customs union, for fear that this will be the final straw for her Conservative critics. But a softer Brexit is the only plausibly passable deal within the confines of the current Parliamentary arithmetic. Once again - stalemate.
Theresa May therefore finds herself trapped on all sides. Her precious deal has been voted down by MPs - in historic defeats - three times. She is reviled within her own party, with contenders for the throne openly conspiring to replace her. And even her cabinet are split, leaving the Prime Minister ‘in office but not in power’.
Every vote in Parliament only confirms the paralysis, with MPs unable to find a majority in favour of any proposal - soft or hard. An extension of the deadline solves nothing, but simply kicks the can further down the road. European leaders know this, but are keen to avoid a no-deal exit, given the dangers that a hard border would impose upon Ireland.
Britain therefore finds itself stuck in the limbo of a Schrödinger’s Brexit - not inside the EU but not out of it either. This constitutes purgatory for Tory ultras and ardent Remainers alike.
“Please put us out of our misery,” exclaimed one Conservative Brexiteer, pleading on politicians in Brussels and Berlin in advance of last night’s summit to reject an extension and force a no-deal departure. On the other side, Dominic Grieve, a prominent Tory Remainer, warned that the UK could not “go on lurching from one cliff-edge crisis to another”.
General election now!
Thanks to the new postponement of judgment day, rebellious Tory MPs now sense an opportunity to oust their hapless leader. Talk of a leadership challenge is rife. But having a committed Brexiteer at the helm of the Conservatives (e.g. Boris Johnson) would not resolve anything. Instead, it would open up a new turbulent chapter in this already chaotic drama.
Many within the establishment are therefore reluctantly coming to realise that only a general election can break the Brexit deadlock. But this is very much seen as the last resort.
After all, with the Tories engaging in a self-destructive civil war, and with Labour ahead in the polls, there is every chance that a snap election would a deliver a result even worse than a no-deal Brexit (from the perspective of the capitalist class) - that is, putting Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 and a left Labour government in power.
“Britain is a long way down the path to radicalisation and polarisation,” Rachman concludes in his aforementioned article. “It will be hard to turn back.”
Indeed, Brexit has opened up a Pandora’s Box as far as the ruling class are concerned. It has lifted the lid on all the accumulated anger and discontent that has been building up beneath the surface of British society, not just for years, but decades.
But the Sophie’s Choice of a Tory Leave or big business Remain offers no real alternative to the working class. Inside or outside of the European Union, on a capitalist basis, workers and youth will continue to face cuts and crisis.
Only the election of a socialist Labour government, with a bold commitment to nationalise the banks and major monopolies, as enshrined within the words of the original Clause IV, can provide a way forward.