So, with only a few months till Brexit Day, the government (or most of it) has agreed with the EU on the terms of a withdrawal agreement. As previously negotiated, there is to be a transition period of 21 months between 30 March next year and 31 December 2020 during which the UK will remain in the EU’s customs union and single market but with no say in any decisions about them; which Boris Johnson has described as being a ‘vassal state’, even though he was Foreign Secretary when this was agreed.
The intention is that during this period the two sides will agree a final settlement on the future trading arrangements. If they are unable to, then, again as previously agreed, there will be a ‘backstop’ to prevent a hard border, i.e. with customs checks, being re-erected between the two parts of Ireland.
The only new element is the terms of this backstop, with the EU insisting on safeguards to, in the event of no future trading agreement, prevent goods from the UK which don’t meet the rules of the single market sneaking into it by this backdoor. It is this last that the extreme Brexiteers object to as a means of sabotaging the agreement. As do the DUP on the grounds that this would mean a different, however slight, trading arrangement with the EU for Northern Ireland.
The negotiations are all about trading arrangements and, as such, don’t concern the majority class of wage and salary workers. So we can let the capitalists and their political representatives settle the matter and observe who wins between the dominant section who want as similar a trading link with the EU as now (and who never wanted to leave anyway) and those that George Osborne, now editor of the London Evening Standard, has called ‘those naive business leaders and hedge fund managers who thought that the dispossessed of our industrial towns were voting with them for Britain to become a Singapore in the North Sea’ (14 November). We can also watch with amusement the Tory party tear itself apart over the issue.
We would only be affected in the event of the capitalist class’s political representatives not being able to settle the matter, resulting in the UK crashing out of the EU without any agreement. This is unlikely but, if it happened, our lives would be temporarily, and from our point of view unnecessarily, disrupted. In Northern Ireland the Border with a capital B would be restored with all its negative effects on working class thinking, not to mention Irish Republican action, there.
One thing we don’t want, thank you, would be the matter to be referred back to us in a second, irrelevant referendum. Why should we be asked to settle an argument between our masters which doesn’t concern us?