Hundreds of thousands of Remainers marched through London last weekend to demand a “people’s vote” on the European Union (EU). The call for a second referendum, which began the day after the Remainers lost the first one in 2016, is now going into top gear with the support of the Blairites and the rest of the Europhile lobby, and ample funds from Europhile grandees and the Soros foundation.
Their objective is, of course, to force the May government to agree to a new vote or call for an early general election. This, they believe, will result in a Labour minority government dependent on the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, whose support can only be bought with a second referendum. We have to prove them wrong by making sure that Labour gets a massive majority at the next election.
We don’t need another vote. The real ‘people’s vote’ was in 2016 when we voted to leave the EU. But now the Remainers think that they can win a second referendum.
From the start, the mainstream Brexit campaign has been based on anti-immigration, chauvinist and racist lines. UKIP, and indeed some who pose as left wing, embraced these ideas. But the issue of immigration is an entirely bogus argument. The Tory Eurosceptics see the EU as a brake on further neoliberal policies. They also represent the section of the British ruling class that fears Franco-German imperialism and believes that British imperialism’s interests are best served in alignment with US imperialism.
The bourgeois Eurosceptics talk about ‘independence’ and the burden of funding the EU, but they never talk about the burden of financing the US Trident nuclear missile system or the American bases in Britain because they approve of them. So the ‘independence’ that they talk about is not genuine independence but simply about leaving the EU. They don’t talk about independence from US imperialism. They never openly admit that British imperialism cannot stand on its own feet.
All this has done is reinforce the fears of the Remainers within the labour movement that Brexit will lead to further attacks on the unions and what’s left of the ‘welfare state’. Most of the unions have swallowed the Brussels line that the EU safeguards workers’ rights and guarantees jobs, and this is reflected in Remainer support within the Labour Party that goes far beyond the Blairite ranks in parliament. This view must be challenged. But although British communists, of all hues, have long opposed the EU and the Treaty of Rome, the left case against the EU has still to be won within the labour movement.
The EU is essentially a rich man’s club, a club for big business. It exists solely to operate in the interests of the big European corporations and it is dominated by Franco-German imperialism. Whatever minor benefits have come to workers because of these institutions could easily have been obtained by other means. For example, freedom of travel. Before 1914 there were no passports, no barriers. The limitations on travel are a 20th century phenomenon and freedom of travel could have been introduced anyway, as has often been said.
The EU is neither genuinely federal nor democratic, and every stage of European integration has been financed by working people through higher indirect taxes, lost jobs and lost benefits. The EU cannot be reformed. It must be dissolved and the Treaty of Rome, which established the Common Market in the first place, repealed.