In a moment of candid lucidity, Margaret Thatcher’s favourite economist Patrick Minford predicted to a House of Commons committee in 2015 that Brexit would “mostly eliminate” what is left of our manufacturing base. Not quite the jam tomorrow greatness that Brexiteers promised would be on the other side of our departure from the European Union. I hate to say it, but Minford was dead right. The snake oil salesmen of Brexit – Liam Fox, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson – are nonetheless still peddling a delusional British imperialist fantasy. There is not much time left now to wake up and smell the coffee.
Project fear is now a grim reality. BMW has issued a warning that the future production of the Mini in our country is now on life support. Imagine that: an iconic standard bearer of ‘Made in Britain’ could soon be shipped offshore by Brexit headwinds. Unite the Union are now seeking assurances from Nissan that a further 400 jobs won’t be lost in Sunderland. Well-paid, trade-unionised jobs are leaving our country in droves. And the Tories are, as Minford foretold, using Brexit as cover to eliminate what’s left of our manufacturing base. This is neither an accident of Brexit nor collateral damage, but what they always intended. A low-waged, service based economy – what they argued for in the 1980s – is the master plan.
Minford lauds it. Theresa May is sticking with it. And if we don’t now fight tooth and nail to stop it, Thatcher’s mission is about to be completed by her heirs. I deeply despair. And I hand it to Minford – no snake oil from him. But Brexit’s high priests would rather spin the promise of a capitalist nirvana than tell the ugly truth.
Prior to the referendum I was labelled – and self-confessed – as a Eurosceptic. So I’ve found the last three years in which I’ve campaigned vigorously for Britain to remain in the EU a somewhat strange experience. I’m no xenophobe; I’ve had no Damascene conversion to EU-philia. But in a binary contest between a regressive, delusional, British imperialist leave to rule the waves again fantasy and Remain, the choice was easy. In 2016 and now in 2019.
It being an easy choice doesn’t mean the current EU status quo is acceptable. Our union’s platform has constantly been for Remain and Reform. Some argue that this will be difficult, perhaps even impossible. I accept it won’t be a walk in the park. But it’s far more attainable than any Lexit, which has no basis whatsoever in reality. Worse still, Lexiteers voting with the Tories will deliver the death nail to what remains of our industrial base.
Stopping Brexit is the duty around which all socialists must now unite. It’s why this Saturday I will be joining Labour for a Socialist Europe’s national conference. Brexit is a project of the right, by the right, for the right. I am delighted that our Labour Party will now return any Brexit deal to the people for sign off, which chimes with TSSA’s own policy. British people must have the final say. As our jobs are now obviously and increasingly under attack, we must extinguish the Brexit bonfire on which our jobs are burning. There will be no socialist phoenix to rise from the ashes. The fight to retain our rights and our jobs is in the final stage: let’s rise up to the challenge together.