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A left approach to Brexit

eu_minusukPaul Mason and Chuka Umunna would normally be expected to come up with radically different proposals with regard to Labour’s policies, yet they are putting forward more or less the same solutions to the most pressing problem underlying Brexit, that of Free Movement of Labour (FML), Mason in an article in the New Statesman, Umunna in a speech to a conference on ‘Progressive Capitalism’.

Essentially they are both concerned that the UK remains with access to the single market, and have both indicated that a position which regulates labour movement to some degree might be negotiable and therefore consistent with and acceptable to the Brexit vote. Leanne Wood, the Plaid Cymru leader, has indicated that a Norway type EEA position might fulfil the same objective.

Whether this would be negotiable is doubtful, although at best it would be tweaking which would be unlikely to satisfy the majority of brexiteers, unless there was a major change in outlook by the EU, of which there is no sign, or growing concern about the effects of Brexit, which there is some evidence of.

The debate is basically about whether there should be a ‘hard’ or a ‘soft’ Brexit. It is unfortunate that the media have been allowed to get away with these characterisations, which must be confusing to many, but the ‘soft’ version is that of remaining with access to the single market, and largely still subject to EU rules, either through the EEA, as with Norway or through a series of bilateral treaties as with Switzerland. (It is interesting to note that the 2014 Swiss referendum which voted against free movement has not been accepted, and the issue remains unresolved, although that cannot continue indefinitely. Worth keeping an eye on). The ‘hard’ version is of withdrawal from the single market, at least on the same terms as existing members, with exports facing tariffs and, crucially the huge export of financial services to the EU threatened, but with no further subjection to EU rules, including FML.

In the run up to the referendum, while the claims of the brexiteers were far more fictitious than those of the remain camp, given the context it was not unreasonable for many people to dismiss all the claims, on a ‘cry wolf’ basis. However, the recent question marks over continued investment at the Nissan plant at Sunderland (80% of production exported) and the plans of banks to relocate to the EU are bound to have had a sobering effect on public opinion which is likely to grow.

Politically the Tories are deeply divided on the issue. The ‘hard’ line is either a cunning device to discredit the brexiteers, including May’s only real rival, Boris, by proving that it would be an economic disaster, or of preventing a split and winning back the vote that decamped to UKIP. This last objective, however, is unlikely to be realised against the substantial opposition to a ‘hard’ policy by many Tory moderates, as indicated by the results of the recent Witney by-election, where a  section of the Tory vote went to the Lib-Dems, overwhelmingly it can be assumed on this issue.

Indeed this undoubtedly represents the biggest opportunity for the Lib-Dems since the 2015 election, and they will seek to put themselves at the head of, or integral to, a movement opposed to a ‘hard’ Brexit which is likely to attract large numbers of Tory and and Labour ‘moderates, ’ although short of a general election it is difficult to see their influence being decisive, which is why one will almost certainly not be held, but there is certainly scope for a strong campaign.

So where does Labour fit into all of this? Labour’s official policy is for a ‘soft’ Brexit, with continued access to the single maket, including the City, protection of residency rights here and in the EU, maintenance of rights at work, and ultimately a parliamentary vote before article 50 is triggered, although not a second referendum as called for by Owen Smith. There are differences over FML, with Keir Starmer, the new Brexit shadow, and other MPs backing curbs, with Corbyn continuing to fully support FML, wrongly in my view. There is nothing particularly socialist about FML (see K. Marx on the “reserve army of the unemployed”).

How this all plays out remains to be seen. If it becomes more apparent that a ‘hard’ Brexit will have extremely adverse economic consequences there is less likelihood of it happening, and some Norway type/ EEA arrangement is the likely outcome. This would not be wholly disadvantageous. It would mean greater control over agriculture, fisheries and regional policy, for instance. There would be no role in decision making, but much of this is related to the Euro anyway, which all members, apart from the UK and Denmark, are either members of or are obliged to join.

I believe that Labour should fight for such an outcome, and to seek to lead a campaign for it rather than follow a Lib-Dem led campaign. We must avoid a situation which boosts them at our expense, but at the same time we should not seek to overturn a democratic decision which could alienate us from many of our traditional supporters who we must aim to win back.

Some may ask what is particularly leftwing about what I am advocating. I would say that this is probably the best way to oppose the rabid nationalism of the right and the dire consequences of a ‘hard’ Brexit in terms of employment, rights at work and living standards for many people. Beyond that we should continue to stand for a reformed and ultimately socialist EU and continue to oppose the populist nationalism of the Tory right and UKIP which will never advance the interests of the majority.


  1. Rob Green says:

    A coalition of petty and domestic capital no longer able to compete in the ESM and workers abandoned by the left who have been marginalised into sink estates, sink schools and sink communities with education and training not worthy of the name and no prospect of competing with the job tourists from the EU is what delivered Brexit. Unfortunately Corby ditched forty years of Labour Left opposition to the EU and its predecessors in order to vote Remain with corporate capitalism and the New Labour right otherwise the Brexit coalition would be headed by Labour and the working class instead of the petit bourgeois with workers following. Of course UK corporate capitalism will be trying to thwart the Brexit vote and keep Britain in the wretched neo-liberal imperialist EU alliance and the degenerate UK left will no doubt be trying to help them in the pursuit of that aim by trying to pretend that ESM + so-called Freedom of Movement is not what the EU is. Meanwhile the labour movement will collapse. Corbyn’s Labour will be lucky if it retains as many seats in England and Wales as it has now in Scotland and the Tories will win a landslide victory. Corbyn’s early capitulation to the EU, corporate capitalism and neo-liberal ideology showed that his insurgency was never going anywhere.

  2. Why is the single market so important?
    First, leaving the EU automatically means escaping the common external tariff. This means that UK tangible exports to the EU will face an average 5 per cent duty On the other hand duty on food/agricultural imports (now around 18 per cent) could be reduced or dropped. About 7 per cent of UK GDP is due to exports to the EU. How much will the EU cut its imports of UK goods if the duty is 5 per cent? It would be surprising if it were more than 10 per cent. There is also scope for the UK to reach an automobile agreement with lower/zero tariffs because EU countries sell more cars to the UK than the UK does to the EU. So why would the UK outside the EU want to readopt the common external tariff?
    CAP will also go for the UK and this will bring food prices down for British consumers. This doesn’t look a bad thing. Does anyone disagree?
    So it seems the single market is mainly about capital, labour and service exports from the UK to the EU.
    First capital. Is there a socialist case for the free moment of capital? The goal of a single market in capital is also what is driving the Euro, which the UK has already withdrawn from. So Britain is already rejecting the single market in capital. Is this a bad thing?
    Labour. Free labour movement in Europe has economic benefits and costs, as the IMF reported in the summer. Around 20m people have migrated from east and southeastern Europe countries in the past 20 years mainly to other EU states and this is damaging growth, living standards and social cohesion in the countries they have left. A socialist alternative, it could be argued, would involve promoting capital flows into low-income EU countries to promote growth and employment where people live and work. Exiting the single market could promote new thinking about proper management of capital and job creation in the UK and the EU as a whole.
    Finally, services. About 80 per cent of Britain’s 31m workers produce services, most of these aren’t traded (how many people have a doctor in Germany or a teacher in Spain?) and consequently will be unaffected by being outside the single market. The removal of barriers to trade in EU services has barely affected sectors other than finance. Passporting seems only to apply to those providing corporate banking/investment banking/asset management/insurance brokerage services. How many jobs in the UK are wholly/mainly dependent upon exporting financial services to the EU? The highest estimate is 100,000 (ie 0.3 per cent of the total UK labour force). The lowest is 10,000. This is of course bad, but not a disaster.
    The attachment to the single market seems misplaced.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Some interesting points all of which merit discussion. I wonder though if you are not a bit cavalier about the export role of financial services. You say

      About 80 per cent of Britain’s 31m workers produce services, most of these aren’t traded (how many people have a doctor in Germany or a teacher in Spain?) and consequently will be unaffected by being outside the single market. The removal of barriers to trade in EU services has barely affected sectors other than finance.

      First, there has not yet been a removal of barriers to trade. Second, finance cannot be dismissed as just another sector. According to this report finance in 2012 accounted for nearly a third of UK exports – which is surely more important than the head counts that you give. That’s a hell of a lot and city firms are already talking about relocation to the EU.

      I am with you on free-movement of labour and capital, as I think is Peter Rowlands, but there is also the question of the likely political directions after Brexit. You say that an EU import duty is unlikely to be more than 10% but that amount could probably break a lot of companies. I don’t know enough to see the picture clearly. Don’t we need detailed calculations on such things to form a judgement?

      And above all you will agree, I guess with Peter R’s questioning of the general line of Corbyn and the Left that we must cling on to the “four freedoms” i.e. the free market doctrine of the EU as some kind of sacrosanct dogma.

      1. Clarification. I’m guessing EU purchases of UK merchandise exports might fall by 10 per cent if the average 5 per cent EU duty (not farm products) was applied to Britain. That’s about 0.7 per cent of GDP. But then you net out the positive impact of getting out of the customs union, CAP and fisheries policy plus net budget contributions. It’s difficult to see how the net impact on UK GDP would be other than within the normal margin of error in medium-term forecasts.
        So the single market is the key thing. We’ve deal with both capital and labour. So it’s down to services. The passporting arrangement is not an absolute barrier: UK finance and insurance firms would be able to get around it; work through an EU partner or set up a subsidiary. The highest figure seen for possible loss of jobs in finance is 100,000 (from pro-Remain Lord Myners); the usual one is 70,000. I’d be surprised if it would be much more than 20,000. People working in these sectors are driven by quality of life considerations (they earn enough not to worry about much else) and many will go to great extremes to stay in London (bit more commuting etc). But even if all 100,000 jobs Myners refers to go (unlikely to the point of impossible), and assuming each one is paid on average £200,000 a year, the loss of the lot would only cut UK GDP by around 1 per cent a year. Of course, the impact on tax income would be disproportionately higher.
        The impact of leaving the single market is being overstated. This is comprehensible from investment bankers and insurance brokers, but puzzling when it’s left-wing Labour people shouting about it.
        Can someone explain?

        1. David Pavett says:

          I wonder about the realism of your guestimates and assumptions.

          UK exports about to around 27% of GDP and services (mainly financial) are about a third of that. That is a big chunk of GDP. A loss of a third of the work of financial services would be a direct reduction of 3% of GDP and worse scenarios are imaginable.

          I am not well informed about passporting arrangements but I noted this from Bloomberg (26th October):

          Global banks will probably lose their current legal rights to provide services in the European Union after Brexit, the U.K.’s trade minister said in the most detailed outline yet of the government’s thinking.

          1. David,
            I’ve looked at the ONS and merchandise exports to the EU account for 7 per cent of GDP. The question is: how much of this would go after Brexit?

    2. Rob Downer says:

      Your views on Finance are out of step with reality, the financial services sector contributes over 100Billion a year to GDP, without EU passporting you can expect that to halve. Industries will leave… 10% tariff barriers are not competitive, combined with higher import costs… (falling £ and tariffs could make imports 30 – 40% more expensive….)
      I and many I know are planning to leave the UK and take our business’ with us.

  3. John Penney says:

    All very good points, Edmund. It strikes me that , having quite rightly slagged off the EU for decades as having decisively morphed into a entirely pro Big Business neoliberal enforcement machine, as far from the myth of Jacque Delors’ “Social Europe” as could be imagined , Most of the Left are now “running scared” at the big bad world looming outside of the EU and its Single Market !

    It is still the reality (as the only too recent brutal treatment of Greece shows ), that the viciously undemocratic , entirely pro multinational TTIP deal and its Canadian variant, are the true face of the contemporary iteration of the EU. Any radical Left government would face an utter straightjacket hindering any radical economic measures, were we to even stay in the Single Market. We are better out entirely – despite the unfortunate reality that at present this is under a viciously neoliberal Tory government. Whatever the Tories agree in a Brexit deal, can be reversed by a sovereign UK Parliament. Out of the EU and Single Market, the UK has achieved a degree of potential future political sovereignty vital for the future implementation of radical Left agenda.

    Too many on the (overwhelmingly middle class) supposed “radical Left” suddenly seem to be unwilling to face up to the significant medium term economic and xenophobic politics downsides to this massive political shift. But that was ALWAYS going to be the case if we left this undoubted capitalist club. Too many on the Left seem to have been very bold on the past anti “neoliberal EU rhetoric”, but are now utterly terrified of the reality.

  4. David Jameson says:

    The government called the referendum.Number 10 said that to vote out would mean leaving the single market.So did number 11. The fact everybody is still discussing it and project fear mk2 is in full swing proves we have no democracy. Why bother voting.

  5. Bazza says:

    Access to a tariff free single market would be a good thing it we could get the Best Brexit for working people.
    But we should argue for some control on the movement of labour (and capital).
    To illustate how generally global capital is I remember reading that something like 60% of Chinese companies exporting goods are foreign owned (although only 20% of the less developed world is industrialised).
    I have argued for an EC Triple Lock on Migration – say something like 10% of the adult working population per country which would bring in some badly needed management into the system.
    As the New Left Review argued recently for example Bulgaria is expected to have lost half of its population by 2020 to free movement.
    The second part of the lock has already been suggested by Labour – migration adjustment funds for councils (scrapped by the Tories and I think Lib Dems) and the third is to trade unionise migrant workers so they can’t be used by unscupulous employers to undercut wages and this would also help to build community solidarity.
    The free movement of labour primarily serves the free movement of capital and I think people are crying out for some management of the system.
    We also need political and economic solutions in countries where refugees and economic migrants come from and often those leaving are the most entrepreneurial but in reality what are refugees and economic migrants but unorganised labour who like us all will have to sell their labour to live.
    Perhaps our job is to introduce some management into the system and to organise the unorganised.
    We are not liaissez-faire Neo Liberals.
    Just some food for thought.

    1. Staying within the EU customs union would be bad for the UK economy and is probably impossible without remaining in the EU.
      It would be better to say: no customs union but low tariff/free trade in selected industries. The automobile industry is probably one because the EU sells more cars to the UK than the UK does to the EU. The EU might be open to a deal here.
      But even if that doesn’t work, the 5 per cent average EU duty on non-farm goods can be offset by a depreciation of sterling against the Euro (as has already happened).
      The UK doesn’t have free movement of labour. At present, there’s a policy that discriminates against non-EU migration. Surely the right answer is to have a non-discriminatory policy that makes sense? This might include special arrangements for workers from low-income EU countries. It might be opposed by high-income EU countries but it would at least be an expression of principle.

  6. Dave Levy says:

    Labour Party policy (Conference 2016, Composite 1) is to ensure that the rights of foreign born residents are maintained, together with those of EU based British ex-pats and to seek a second mandate once the terms of exit are known.

    Some correspondents above are arguing about the economics and the stabilisation treaties; leaving the single market would be a bad thing on economic grounds and the poorest will suffer the most. Fact! The response is to work with EU sister parties to change the majority on the Commission, Council and Parliament.

    But more importantly, Parliamentary Sovereignty is no longer fit for purpose; we need the EU’s human rights based, republican legal framework to protect us against Parliament and should argue that our Law will be better if we have Judges who were made by the recovered war torn states and recovering dictatorships. Our current Law interpreted by the UK Supreme Court can be overridden by Parliament, the Aquis Communitaire cannot.

    There are too many powerful Leftists that ignore the fact that Labour’s majority was to remain, and probably support a ‘free movement of people’ and not labour. We now seem to have a majority in the PLP that think we should craft our programme and offer to people that don’t support us, in opposition to the views of those that do. (Well, we’ve been doing it since ’95). We do it seems have cross factional unity in arguing that Free Movement is over, since both Tom Watson and John McDonnell have proposed this.

    If after, empowering trade unions, setting a minimum wage, creating new industries and jobs, introducing tax equity, building more houses, controlling rents, building and running more great schools, abolishing student tuition fees, re-establishing the EMA, reinvesting in skills training, abolishing zero hours contracts, mandating local vacancy advertising, creating a migration stabilisation fund, we find that people still want to ‘Control Immigration”, what do we do next? This is a genuine question; I can’t see how to triangulate/accommodate any further.

    1. You say: “”…leaving the single market would be a bad thing on economic grounds and the poorest will suffer the most. Fact!”
      No it’s not
      Leaving the EU means getting out of the common external tarif (raises prices, punishes low income developing countries); the CAP (raises prices, punishes low income people, punishes low-income developing countries; subsidises landowners, promotes over production, encourages environmentally damaging methods); the fisheries policy (bad for UK fishing), and getting out of the budget (net cost to UK).
      All are bad for UK economy.
      The single market debtate is about the other stuff: labour, capital and services. UK is already partly out of the single market for capital by not being in the Euro.Allowing owners of capital to move it around completely without restraint is surely incompatible with any concept of socialist economic management.
      The single labour market is promoting the permanent loss to low-income EU countries of their most energetic, talented and skilled people, as the IMF has reported. Corbyn has argued for some kind of wage equalisation policy for the EU. This might be impractical, but at least it’s an idea.
      Services: About 25m of the 31m people employed in the UK produce services and most of them are not internationally-traded (education, health etc). The largest internationally traded EU service sector is tourism/travel. The EU has a very large surplus with the UK in this area: are Spain,Portugal,Spain and Greece going to discourage UK visitors by imposing a punitive tourism tax?
      The debate about the single market is almost exclusively about banking and finance generally and the City of London in particular. The City employs about 350,000 people, but most don’t work in areas exclusively or mainly dependent upon providing services to the EU. At a guess, less than 0.5 per cent of UK GDP comes from UK based people and institutions providing advice to EU individuals, governments and corporations.
      In short, the medium-term impact of the UK leaving the EU and the single market is probably within the terms of error of any forecast and therefore is not a decisive issue.
      What is the issue is Labour policy: it would be an error, probably of historic proportions, for Labour to be panicked into arguing for continuing UK membership of the single market; it would look like it’s opposing the views of 17.5m who voted to leave and 10m who, when asked, failed to support the EU. It would also mean Labour being vectored into the increasingly overheated rhetoric about Leave coming from the LibDems, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. The right approach, which seems to be being pursued by the Labour leadership, is focussing on the details of Brexit and highlighting the key issues which should be protecting low-income people from the impact of inflation caused by the fall in sterling and defending workers from any erosion in rights at work.
      The political problem will be that the Conservatives could well emerge in due course with a Brexit package which will be sold as positive for the UK and way better than present arrangements.
      EU bureaucrats are seriously underpowered compared with those acting for the UK. It is widely recognised that the most competent trade negotiators in the EU are secondees from the UK civil service.
      The PM might not look that clever right now, but things can change.

    2. Karl Stewart says:

      Dave, the problem I have with your first paragraph is that it appears to set out essentially the same policy of the Government – that the status of EU citizens settled here is linked to the status of UK citizens in EU nations.

      I think we should unilaterally guarantee EU citizens rights for all those who came here before the vote, and the issue of British ex-pats in EU countries should be treated as a separate matter.

      My reasoning is that we could, quite easily give that guarantee immediately, but the vice-versa guarantee will take some considerable time as it would require separate endorsements from 27 other countries.

      Don’t you think it would be better if we just gave that pledge now? It would be the morally right thing to do, and it would undercut the tiny minority of racist boneheads who have been telling these people to ‘go home’.

      With the pledge for their future status, they can then confidently tell the racists that they are already home and know they have the law on their side, making them equal in terms of their legal status.

      This would go a long way to reassuring this group of people.

      1. This sounds right.
        A broader challenge is moving from the free movement of labour, which encourages exploitation, to an economic development process that supports workers from low-income EU nations and promotes solidarity in the UK labour force. It might involve a special arrangement for countries with GDP per capita less than $15,000 (UK is about $40,000). That would encompass Bulgaria, Rumania and Croatia. It would focus on agreed industrial sectors and involve UK unions (ie everyone employed through the programme will be represented by a union). It would encourage workers from these countries to remit earnings efficiently to their home countries and, in due course, help them to return with higher skills to their communities. Salaries for those covered by this programme should be fixed at a decent level (above minimum wage) and employers should ensure decent housing is provided. The objections to this arrangement are pretty obvious, but there might be a half-way house between the present EU single market and the totally closed door.

    3. C MacMackin says:

      I’m trying not to be blase about the risks of leaving the common market. However, with a proper plan for redeveloping the economy, I think it could be doable (not that such a plan is forthcoming at the moment). However, how do you propse that the British left works with other parties in the EU (which, incidentally, will be difficult for Labour as a member of the neoliberal European Socialist Party) to get reforms? If Britain is to leave the EU, then there isn’t much we can concretely do to support them in this.

      I completely disagree with your third paragraph. While I think Britain should have a written constitution with a charter of rights that can only be changed by referendum (not by parliament), democracy is vitally important. Your preference for being ruled by unelected officials (who, while not as reactionary as the Tories, are hardly progressive) is deeply undemocratic. If you aren’t willing to accept it when those you disagree with win (which isn’t to say you can’t agitate against and resist) then what legitimacy would those you do agree with have when they win an election?

      As for your defense of free movement, I would be happy to support it, but questions raised by the likes of David Pavett around how to plan to provide full employment, sufficient housing, and public services when there is unlimited immigration have not been convincingly answered. For that matter, they haven’t even been unconvinceingly answered. Those supporting free movement have completely ignored them. I’d genuinely like to hear a solution as I would like to support free movement, but I don’t think there is one.

  7. Karl Stewart says:

    On the issue of the EU single market, and whether we think the UK should seek to remain a member of it, how is the single market different, in principle, from the TTIP?

    Wasn’t the TTIP proposal just a geographic extension of EU single market principles?

    If TTIP was fundamentally different from the EU single market, can someone explain how?

    1. C MacMackin says:

      The single market treaties contain exceptions for public services to the clauses preventing discrimination against companies from other EU companies (for the moment–there have been past attempts to weeken this). This allows governments to keep services in-house if they want to. TTIP does not contain those provisions, if I’m not mistaken. Furthermore, TTIP has a mechanism for companies to sue governments if they do something resulting in loss of profits. Furthermore, these cases would be handled in secret courts. (Such provisions exist in NAFTA and have been used to discipline the Canadian and Mexican governments.) I don’t think the EU has such a rule, or it isn’t as drastic at any rate.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Hi Cmac, I fully appreciate there would be differences in details, but the essential principles, as far as I can gather, are broadly along the same lines.

        The general thrust, which both have in common, is removing ‘barriers’ to international trade and promoting competition and the liberalisation of markets.

        For example, while the ability for private companies to sue governments is not (yet) present within the EU single market, there is the facility for private companies to take cases to the EU commission where they feel that governments have ‘intervened unfairly’.

        For example, if a member state enacted a policy of public procurement which favoured its own domestic manufacturers over those from other member states, then those companies could bring a case to the EU competition commission.

        It’s not the same as being able to directly sue a government, but its not essentially different in its fundamental orientation.

        What concerns me is that there seems to be a developing “common-sense consensus” that continuing EU single market membership is a good thing for all of us, when it may be the case that this might be good for the UK finance sector, while not necessarily being a good thing for the people as a whole.

        1. C MacMackin says:

          Well, first off, as my previous posts will show I am extremely suspicious of continued membership of the common market. I would accept it only as a temporary measure to avoid the worst short-term economic consequences while a proper, interventionist, economic plan is developed.

          While it is definitely true that both TTIP and the common market are built on the premise of “removing ‘barriers’ to international trade and promoting competition and the liberalisation of markets,” that does not make them identical.

          The investor-state disputes procedures of TTIP would actually be much more far-reaching than current EU policy. For example, if a government wanted to offer something previously provided by the private sector as a universal free service then a company could challenge that. (This was used as an excuse for the first ever social democratic government in Ontario failing to live up to its campaign pledge of public auto-insurance. Mind you, I have heard one socialist thinker suggest that this was just an excuse and that really the backtracking was in order to avoid upsetting the domestic insurance industry.) It can also be used to overturn environmental regulations which would ban the use of certain chemicals (this was done in Canada).

          Another difference (this one less important) is that the EU has a system of common product regulations, making cross-border trade in consumer goods much simpler. It means that a product need be tested and approved only once to be sold in all of the EU countries. To my knowledge, TTIP lacks such a provision, although there is an attempt to harmonise regulations to some degree (often for the worse in Europe).

          None of this is meant as a defense of the common market. I view it as inherently neoliberal and would prefer Britain were not in it. That said, TTIP is still much worse.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Yes, I think I’d broadly agree with your first par CMac, in that I do get the idea that any economy needs to defend against a sudden shock, the consequences of which are highly unpredictable.

            But it is urgent for us to construct a serious alternative economic programme for the future.

            This needs to include policies such as nationalisation, of essential public services and also of key strategic industries, selective import controls – in the main, to defend and protect those key domestic industries – and also some robust public procurement regulations.

            All of this would be significantly hampered by continued EU single market membership.

            So yes, let’s not disregard the potential for economic shock that sudden departure from the single market could, potentially, bring, and let’s ensure that we mitigate against that.

            But let’s also prepare for economic life outside of it – or socialism in other words.

          2. C MacMackin says:

            Yes, I agree with all of this.

          3. Jim Denham says:

            Oh dear: how many more times does the urban myth (perpetuated by numskulls on the little-England “left” and liars on the right) that EU membership debars nationalisation and the protection of national/local industries, have to be debunked?

            EU law explicitly protects the right of member states to nationalise industries. Art. 345 TFEU states “The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States (MS) governing the system of property ownership.” In his book Professor Danny Nicol argues that this provision has recently been ignored by the ECJ. This is largely correct but it does not justify the conclusion that it will always be ignored.

            Art. 345 remains in the treaty. It is possible to generally promote liberal markets and operate some industries as national monopolies. Arts. 176 and 345 are not mutually exclusive. The ECJ has often been tolerant of member states accused of violating the treaties if their actions are “proportionate“, i.e. for a legitimate aim (which would include one endorsed by the electorate) and effective, but not excessive, in achieving that aim. Assuming that nationalisation was prominent in Labour’s manifesto, conducted on a transparent timetable and proper compensation was paid, a Corbyn government within the EU would have a strong case based on Art. 345.

            But even without Art. 345 EU law would not prohibit nationalisation and other protective measures. Professor Nicol relies heavily on Art. 106 TFEU. But this provision doesn’t ban nationalised industries. It simply regulates how they can behave in relation to other enterprises. In essence, enterprises with a dominant position in the market due to state action cannot use that position to behave unreasonably. The ECJ will only intervene if Art. 106 is breached.

            And, of course, the principled, anti-racist internationalist left, must (like Corbyn) continue to champion free movement of labour.

          4. Karl Stewart says:

            Response to Jim Denham at 3.31pm:

            Oh dear, how many more times does the urban myth of the remoaners that the EU invented every progressive law that has ever existed have to be debunked?

            JimD, we voted to leave the EU four months ago. Get over it. We’re not discussing what EU legislation does or does not cover. We’re discussing the extent to which single market membership might restrict the economic policy and planning of a future Labour government of the UK.

          5. C MacMackin says:

            @Jim Denham

            While it is true that the EU does not expressly prohibit nationalisation, it does make it more difficult and would make public monopolies impossible in various industries. There may be ways around some of these issues, but they would likely be vulnerable to court challenges. That’s even leaving aside the fact that a socialist government would probably not be in a position to conduct every nationalisation in the careful preplanned way you describe; in order to prevent capital flight or economic sabotage, nationalisation of some firms might have to be performed very quickly.

            What’s more, nationalisation with full compensation would be very expensive. Where assets were privatised below their actual value, received public subsidies, or benefited from tax breaks, I frankly don’t think we should give full compensation (with the exception of pension funds which need to be kept afloat). Granted, this is a radical demand and might not be acheivable outside of a more revolutionary period, but I’d like the option to be open.

            Perhaps EU policies and court judgements will change (I doubt it, without a refoundation of the entire system, but I could be wrong). However, as Britain will be leaving the EU it will not be in a position to agitate for such changes. I don’t think it should be bound by laws which it no longer has any role in forming. You could argue this was a reason not to leave the EU in the first place and that is a perfectly valid argument, but the vote happened and we need to figure out where to go from here.

            As for your assertion that the Left must support free movement: could you please respond to the points of David Pavett (and others) that this is not a practical proposal. I would be happy to support calls for free movement, but I’ve yet to see anyone convincingly answer those criticisms.

          6. Jim Denham says:

            Karl: “Oh dear, how often does the urban myth that the EU invented every progressive law that has ever existed have to be debunked?”

            Never, Karl, because no-one ever claimed that. What us internatiionalists and anti-racists *do* claim is that Brexit has caused a massive and sustained increase in racist attacks and abuse, threatens manufacturing jobs, and has boosted the right generally within UK politrical discourse, just as Trumpism (Brexit’s US equivalent) has done: the supposed “leftists” stupid or opportunist to back it should hang their heads in shame.

  8. Peter Rowlands says:

    Some cogent points, and a worthy attempt by Edmund at at a leave case, although I remain unconvinced.He waves away what are potentially huge export and job losses to finance and manufacturing that we could face, made more likely by the high proportion of firms involved being foreign owned and being therefore less likely to respond to pressures to stay and not relocate in the EU.
    One of the grossest misrepresentations from the leave camp was say that the EU needs our market as much as we need their’s.This only works if the two are of roughly equal size.In practice the damage to the UK of a downturn in trade would be far greater than for any EU country, which could anyway look to making up the shortfall by the potentially greater market caused by tariffs on British imports.
    And I do not think that a hard Brexit is likely to lead to a situation where unencumbered by neo liberal EU regulations we can forge ahead to the socialist future. Trade unions will be further weakened by unemployment, rights at work will be cut and living standards eroded as the right, wallow in the regaining of sovereignty, the reality of which will be further subjection to international capital, including TTIP type arrangements. Better to remain in the single market and support the left in the EU in their struggles for reform.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      While what you say may be true under the Tories, the whole point is that it will be much easier to change this neoliberal legislation once Britain has left the EU. TTIP-style deals can be withdrawn from (in any case, most countries don’t seem enthusiastic to negotiate with the UK). The UK would be vulnerable to international capital, but surely no more so than if it were a member of the common market without the ability to shape its rules. At least outside of the common market it would be possible to defend against international capital with measures such as a capital controls.

      As for the argument that the British left should support the left in the EU in their struggles for reforms, how do you propose we do that? I don’t see what routes there would be for this now other than expressing solidarity, which is fairly toothless as a measure. Efforts to develop networks of leftists across Europe and the world to take coordinated action should be pursued (although there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for that even on the continent), but this can be done in or out of the common market.

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