Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 7, February 29, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Whose Economy? Our Economy! Who Decides? We Decide!

Working People Need their Say in Trade Deals

The British government and the European Union have each set forward their negotiating positions for the talks on a UK-EU trade deal to come into force after the transitional period of the Withdrawal Agreement ends at the end of the year.

The Financial Times reported: "Diplomats [of the EU] have been working on the text over the past few weeks, seeking to make sure that the union's offer of a tariff-free, quota-free trade deal comes with enough caveats to protect Europe's businesses.

"The meeting on Monday focused on how exactly to frame EU demands that Britain agree to maintain a 'level playing field' in areas such as environmental and social policy. France secured some final tweaks to the wording to emphasise that Britain should still stick closely to EU rules even as they evolve over time."

The briefing from the Westminster government is that it is upholding the "independence" of Britain, and will not be bound by the "level playing field" of alignment with any European regulations, the European Court of Justice on the interpretation of European law, or even the European Convention of Human Rights, a non-EU convention, on the grounds that, as has been reported, "We will uphold human rights in our way."

It demonstrates that the negotiations which led to the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement by Boris Johnson were not carried out in good faith. It is absurd for the Prime Minister to now claim that all that counts is his election manifesto, since that means he now represents the people of Britain who have given him a mandate to act as he likes. That is just it: the government is acting, as it believes, with impunity under the hoax that it represents the people as against parliament, as against the states of the European Union.

But where is the input of working people into these negotiations and trade deals? Where is their voice? Boris Johnson is fond of saying how "fantastic" everything will be when it finds its own way in the world. But this is not an "independence" where the people decide the direction of the economy, and are empowered, for example, to conduct trade on an equal basis and for mutual benefit.

Indeed, Britain's colonial and imperialist history gives the lie to claims that the issue is for the country to regain its sovereignty which has been eroded by the EU. Britain's role in the world has been criminal and shameful, and it continues to act shamefully, as with its racist treatment of people who have Caribbean heritage, as with its interference abroad, its militarisation of the economy, and its active seeking of regime change in many states that have challenged its hegemony.

Its dealings with the EU itself has no coherence. The government speaks of a "rules-based international order", while abiding by no international norms and legality. Everything points to the hollowness of a claim of even following "British" interests. The Conservative Party may have a parliamentary majority, and have expelled pro-EU figures from its ranks, but that, if anything, has only contributed further to its division into factions, its dysfunctionality, its coming into contradiction with the machinery of state and the civil service.

No doubt the rich oligarchs continue to prosper, but that is not due to Boris Johnson's delusion that his class has the god-given right to govern. The situation in fact points to the necessity for the working people to claim centre-stage, say No! to the direction in which the government is taking the economy, and articulate their demands that the direction of the economy must favour them and the political system enshrine the rights of the people.

Whatever trade deals that Boris Johnson signs will not benefit the working people, because they have no input, no say, no voice or participation in them, and the instincts of the rich and privileged will win out. This goes for the other so-called "free trade agreements" also, which are designed to by-pass the interests of the working people and make them shoulder the burdens of the economic crises, as well as tying Britain to the war chariot of the United States. A "no-deal" Brexit is no better. The government is not concerned, despite its claims, over the health of industry, of agriculture or fisheries. It is all pragmatism to ensure that the people do not acquire an outlook which empowers them to direct the economy and resolve the imposition of a social system under which their voice has no weight.

The situation demands a new approach and solutions that working people want. They must put forward their demands in their own name, not leave the field open for Johnson to claim he represents them. Working people need their say in trade agreements, as part of being empowered to determine the direction of the economy and unblock the path to progress.


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