LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson is shifting his minority government towards a closer trade and foreign policy bloc with Washington and away from the European Union, as conflicts sharpen with opponents of all stripes who are determined that the U.K. never leave the EU. The real target of all the “Remainers” is the working people who voted to get out of the EU.
Johnson returned from the U.S. to denunciation from opposition parties after the Supreme Court overturned his temporary shutdown of Parliament. In response to their criticism, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox described Labour and other opposition parties as “cowardly” because they refuse to put motions that would lead to a new general election. They fear Johnson would win a majority.
There is an unfolding political crisis. No section of the capitalist rulers or their political servants favor carrying through an unequivocal break with the EU. They backed “Remain” in the 2016 referendum and have spent the years since their defeat trying to prevent its implementation and overturn it. Johnson says he wants a “deal” with the EU, but threatens the U.K. will quit by Oct. 31, “do or die,” if he can’t get one.
Johnson met President Donald Trump in New York Sept. 24. Trump said trade with the U.K. could quadruple under a deal with the U.S. after leaving the EU. According to the London Times, that figure “would make the UK among the US’s largest trading partners.”
A trading bloc between London, the Commonwealth and Washington would replace EU adherence, as the U.K. rulers need allies as their economic, military and political weight fades.
Johnson also aligned his government politically with Washington — breaking with Berlin and Paris — by calling for a new nuclear agreement with Iran. The White House last year withdrew the U.S. from the deal the Obama administration had made with Tehran in 2015. “I think there’s one guy who can do a better deal,” Johnson told NBC, “and that is the president of the United States.”
“Capitalist politicians of all stripes harangue each other about what’s best for ‘our country,’” Jonathan Silberman, Communist League prospective parliamentary candidate for Tottenham, in north London, told the Militant. “But there are two Britains with counterposed interests: on the one side the propertied exploiters and their hangers-on, on the other, us, the exploited majority. We need to chart a course independent of all capitalist parties.
“We say, ‘Get out of the EU now!’ It serves the bosses’ interests and strengthens them against workers and farmers. The U.K. should get out of Ireland and let the Irish people determine their own future. We need to build solidarity with each other’s struggles here and with fellow workers around the world to overcome the divisions the rulers foster among us.”
Crisis of European ‘Union’
For the German and French imperialist rulers — the ones for whom the EU “works,” unlike those in Italy, Spain, Greece and other weaker capitalist powers, who see their wealth being sucked away — keeping the union together is critical. EU officials in Brussels want to punish the U.K. government, seeking either to prevent it from leaving or to deter other EU member states from following its example.
Like others among the world’s capitalist rulers, they have no way out of a looming economic downturn, nor of halting the coming apart of their world order. For Berlin and Paris the EU protectionist bloc is an increasingly important weapon in their conflicts with Washington and Beijing.
Mario Draghi, European Central Bank president, announced a new round of “economic stimulus” Sept. 12, including cuts to already negative interest rates and a €2.6 trillion program ($3.2 trillion) to buy up government bonds. The move was denounced by President Trump, who said it would make U.S. exports to Europe more expensive.
EU officials are aided and abetted in the U.K. by a “Remain” alliance of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National parties, along with Conservatives expelled by Johnson who were obstructing the course of his government.
The Liberal Democrats openly declare they will overturn the 2016 referendum result if they form a government. The Labour Party wants a second referendum with a “choice” of a Labour-“Brexit” that keeps the U.K.’s trading relations with the EU in place or simply remaining in the EU. These parties are now fighting each other over who will head a caretaker government of “national unity,” once they have deposed Johnson.
Johnson’s ‘do or die’ rhetoric
Despite his “do or die” rhetoric, Johnson is pressing for a revised version of the withdrawal agreement promoted by his predecessor, Theresa May, that was rejected by Parliament.
Millions of workers are fed up with the endless delays, angry that the country’s capitalist parties have no intention of implementing their 2016 vote.
The bloc of opposition parties pushed a law through Parliament requiring the government get another extension of the deadline for the U.K. to leave if it can’t cut a deal with Brussels by Oct. 31. Johnson labels the law a “surrender bill” because it allows the EU to select the date for the U.K.’s departure. He refuses to say whether he will comply with it.
So-called ‘Irish backstop’
Johnson is negotiating with EU officials over trading arrangements between the Republic of Ireland, which is in the EU, and British-ruled Northern Ireland. The border partitioning Ireland was imposed by British imperialism nearly a century ago after an independence war that liberated a majority of the country from British rule.
In recent years the island of Ireland has become a single market in many products. But Johnson says London will need to re-establish customs checks after the U.K. leaves the EU, a measure opposed by the government of the Republic of Ireland. The British rulers are determined to prevent Northern Ireland, the last piece of their oldest former colony, from becoming part of a united Ireland and stop a further breaking apart of the U.K.