This weekend crunch negotiations are taking place in Brussels ahead of next week’s EU summit.
The outcome is unpredictable. On both sides the stakes are high — and they largely concern the financial interests of banks and big business.
What they are definitely not about is the right of working people to exercise democratic control over their economy. On this the deal has already been done.
It is set out in Theresa May’s white paper. Prior to the negotiations the British government had already made it crystal clear that the right-wing neoliberal philosophy of the EU will continue to be enforced in Britain.
Clause 106 states: “The UK has been a leading advocate of the development of the EU state aid and competition regime, and has much to gain from maintaining disciplines on subsidies and anti-competitive practices…”
And Clause 108: “The UK’s proposals include: a. committing to a common rulebook on state aid, to be enforced and supervised in the UK by the Competition and Markets Authority.”
In line with this, the Tory government has agreed that manufactured goods and agricultural products will continue to come within EU single market rules.
This means that the EU Withdrawal Treaty will prevent any programme of industrial regeneration of the kind put forward by the Labour Party.
It will also rule out any form of comprehensive public ownership in areas such as energy supply and water.
It would directly meet the fears expressed confidentially by EU negotiators in April. Their real concern was not with a Tory Brexit but one which gave an incoming Labour government the freedom to establish democratic control over the economy — and in doing so challenge and expose the neoliberal character of the EU itself.
The issues still in dispute are largely about services and, above all, financial services.
The City of London and the Bank of England have made it clear that they want to be free to make their own rules for Britain as a global financial centre.
This is the real objective of the Tory government in the current negotiations. It is to consolidate Britain’s position as the “Singapore of the north” and prevent future EU legislation that will enable Paris and Frankfurt to roll back London’s current control of the great bulk of financial services across the EU.
The power the US, Swiss and Japanese banks located in London was demonstrated earlier this week.
The Bank of England raised with the EU the £41 trillion of derivative bonds on currencies and interest rates negotiated by EU companies through London.
Without agreement they will be invalidated at the end of March. Finding cover elsewhere would difficult and very expensive. Currently London has 90 per cent of the EU market in this sector.
A deal may be concluded over the next month. It may not. But, if it is, it will be a Tory deal on neoliberal EU terms — and one that again sacrifices industry to finance.
We can be sure that there will be a massive propaganda offensive, both by the British government and media and by the EU, to win support for it.
This is why it is so important to reinforce the campaign for a People’s Brexit and to unite all progressive forces to oppose a Tory Brexit and bring down this catastrophic and reactionary government.
A general election would enable the Labour Party to win the country for policies of democratic control, for comprehensive public ownership of key services, for an end to compulsory competitive tendering and for the defence of industrial jobs — and then, on the basis of popular support, to negotiate a withdrawal treaty that would make this radical programme possible.