Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 48 Number 23, December 1, 2018 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

EU Withdrawal Agreement:

Opposition to May's Brexit Deal and Political Chaos

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

EU Withdrawal Agreement: Opposition to May's Brexit Deal and Political Chaos

Workers' Forum:
Vauxhall Workers Strike to Demand a Halt to the Multinational's Plans


EU Withdrawal Agreement:

Opposition to May's Brexit Deal and Political Chaos

On November 25, a special EU summit of the European Council approved the draft withdrawal agreement and future relationship plan struck between Britain and the European Commission, finally ironed out the previous day by Theresa May and the EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

The House of Commons vote on the Deal is set for December 11. All predictions are that Theresa May will be defeated, but May - not known for her tactical acumen - has been appealing to the people over the heads of MPs, as it is put, and is certainly seeking to make behind-the-scenes deals so that the Parliamentary arithmetic adds up. "It is a deal for a brighter future, which enables us to seize the opportunities which lie ahead," she wrote in a "letter to the nation", apparently without irony. "Ploughing on is not stoic," Jeremy Corbyn retorted in Parliament. "It is an act of national self-harm." If the Withdrawal Agreement is voted down, then the crisis and political chaos can only increase. EU leaders have insisted that the Deal can now not be re-negotiated. Those leaders who have invested in the "European project" do not want to encourage other nations to break up the European Union further.

The Brexit agreement has been brokered by Theresa May with the leaders of the European Union in the context of trade wars, the rampaging of global oligopolies, and the opposition of working people to the imposition of austerity and denial of their rights. The European Union is itself a supranational body serving the interests of global monopolies, but riven with crisis and contradictions. These contradictions are not only between Germany and France, for example, but the measures that the EU is imposing or seeking to impose on Greece, Italy and others, and the opposition to centralised EU decision-making from the northern EU states of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Furthermore, protests against austerity are once again erupting in France and elsewhere. There is also the issue of the push by France and Germany for a European Army, and whether this should have the same or different aims from NATO.

An apocalyptic vision of a "no-deal Brexit" is being given to justify siding with the Withdrawal Agreement, the text of which has been opposed by virtually all the political players in Britain, and has itself led to the resignation of seven government ministers at the last count.

The opposition to remaining within the EU in the 2016 referendum was said to come for various reasons, but it can be certain that opposition to the anti-social offensive was a major cause. The majority for Leave, of course, was not what was supposed to happen or why David Cameron called the Referendum, which was not to resolve any problem facing society or the economy, but for self-serving and self-deluding reasons. Far from resolving problems, it led to the resignation of Cameron, to further splitting of the polity between Remainers and Brexiteers, and was used as a pretext for increasing racism and chauvinism organised by the state, to further divert from the people getting organised to solve the deep-seated problems of society and the economy. The mantra of "taking back control" has been seen to be a cruel joke, as working people are being encouraged to be nothing more than spectators to the Westminster shenanigans.

It is certain that Brexit or no Brexit, the people are not going to benefit from the outcome. Theresa May has steered Britain into a cul-de-sac with talk of No Deal is better than a Bad Deal, and her conviction that she and Britain can have their cake and eat it too.

Whether in or out of the EU, trade deals are not being struck for the benefit of the people. Indeed, international trade dominated by the big powers and the oligarchs who have no respect for the needs of the people is itself a form of warmongering. Britain with its colonial past and its blatant intervention, including military aggression, in the affairs of other countries, cannot speak of a "sovereign economy" with a straight face in these circumstances. Private interests are in fact paramount. Whether it is the City as a global financial centre, or the war industries, they are being run for private interests with the merest veneer of benefiting the economy.

Furthermore, it is also a farce to speak of a "sovereign economy" and "taking back control" when the rights of the peoples of Scotland and Wales, not to speak of Ireland as a whole, are being ignored. As many have pointed out, in the 585-page document there is not a single mention of Wales and Scotland and what this means even in terms of devolution, let alone the right to self-determination. And of course the issue of the north of Ireland is one of the most fraught. The "backstop" on which the EU negotiators insisted is an attempt to square the circle of how the annexed six counties of Ireland can be in the "United Kingdom", while maintaining its progress towards the day when the people of the whole island of Ireland will determine its future.

When it is posed that the issue is one of "taking back control", it is indeed the working people who are marginalised and disempowered.

It cannot be said that it is the European Parliament or the European Commission or European Court of Justice that is depriving the people of power. The issue can be posed as to who is now controlling the British state and who is going to control it. The sights of the working people cannot just be set on removing Britain from the alleged control of Brussels, or of Germany, or of the European Central Bank.

Rather, it must be recognised that it is not only the European Parliament that has not functioned in the interests of the people, not just in Britain but throughout the EU. Neither, most crucially, has the House of Commons, the system of representative democracy in this country. This is both a question of what is going on behind the scenes, as it were - the activities of the international financial oligarchy, the Bilderberg Group, the Davos Forum, the control of the economy by international cartels or conglomerates. It is also a question of who or what is represented in this system of representative democracy in Britain.

"Representative democracy" suggests on the face of it that it is the people. But it cannot be said that this is the case, otherwise the people would be not be raising the call, "not in our name". The reality suggests that what is represented is in fact the Crown, the police powers and their exercise, in short the person of state.

To turn things around, the people cannot be spectators to the unfolding crisis. Indeed, the constant posing of the Brexit/Remain division is meant to deprive the people of their own outlook, which is that no problem is going to be sorted out without their own political empowerment. In other words, the people must set their own line of march, and not be content to line up behind "solutions" which in fact do not present solutions to the crisis. The ruling elite have shown that despite the repeated calls of the people, they are not going to change course, and that it is the people's own work that is going to present a way out of the crisis which favours their own interests.

The conclusion to be drawn may well be that what is required is not simply a break with the European Union, but a break with the kind of state that Britain has, along with the big powers of Europe, the "old Europe" of France and Germany, who are colluding and contending for the interests of their own persons of state and rule by exception. To maintain otherwise is to get bogged down in the crisis of Brexit, deal or no-deal. The working people must play their role, organising themselves for their own political empowerment.

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Workers' Forum

Vauxhall Workers Strike to Demand a Halt to the Multinational's Plans


Vauxhall workers react as they arrive to work at Vauxhall's plant in Luton after the takeover by the PSA Group

Workers have staged a mass walkout at Vauxhall. There has also been criticism over the decision to announce job cuts at Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant in the run-up to Christmas. A unanimous decision of all workers at the car plant was to walk out in protest at planned job cuts.

John Cooper, Unite the union convener at the Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire, said all 1,100 union members had gone on strike. The announcement by the company, he said, followed three previous rounds of job cuts in recent years.

"There's been a growing frustration at the lack of clarity about the future. The frustration turned to anger and people took a decision. They're walking out," he said.

"This restructuring requires a planned phased reduction in headcount by 241 heads during 2019."

Vauxhall is planning a "phased reduction" of 241 jobs as part of a restructuring at its main car plant. The measure is an enforced productivity drive measuring head count to production costs given the false notion that labour is a cost, ignoring the reality that labour adds new value and therefore cannot be perceived as a cost in any equation. The company acknowledged the real problem of the crisis by stating that it has had to respond to forecasts for 2019 during a "difficult time within the industry". It is notable that workers in other sectors are affected by a new phase of the economic downturn, such as those at nearby shipyard Cammell Laird, who also walked out recently during industrial action over planned job losses.

Vauxhall, which was taken over by the French company PSA Group in 2017, in a statement said: "The 2019 plan encompasses site compression, implementation of new technologies and other transformation activities which will impact on headcount requirements".

Vauxhall employs about 3,000 people in Britain. It employs workers from across north Wales and Lancashire; around 350 people from Wales are employed at Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port. The Company previously said it faced falling sales at the Ellesmere Port plant, which builds the Astra. It will now consult on its plans with union representatives for at least 45 days.

The general crisis in the car industry has affected all major car manufacturers across Britain including Vauxhall, BMW, Tata and Nissan. Each company, in turn, has tried to blame the adverse trading circumstances and political decisions, such as Brexit. Some have cut out shifts, reduced temporary labour, put workers on short time, forced early holidays and pressurised workers into productivity deals in recent times. The workers at some plants have said, "Enough is enough!" The actions of the workers shows that they are determined to defend their rights and are demanding that they be treated as human beings and not as costs on a balance sheet. The proposed job cuts must be reversed, and the workers must have a decisive say in the future of the industry.

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Report of Meetings Commemorating the Centenary
of the End of World War I and its Significance


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