This is a Johnson Brexit deal – and he must be made to own it
By Claudia Webbe MP
The EU agreement oven-bakes free market capitalism into the fabric of our economy and is harmful to Britain, says CLAUDIA WEBBE MP
TOMORROW MPs will vote on the EU-UK agreement. Boris Johnson has MPs over a barrel.
He has apportioned just 150 minutes debating time to the near 2,000-page document that will determine the future trading relationship with our biggest trading partner.
He will not allow us to place amendments, and the alternative to it passing is the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.
A no-deal Brexit is the worst possible outcome. This is not democratic accountability. This prevents MPs from scrutinising the legislation. Below, I lay out why the deal he has signed is a terrible deal for Britain.
The EU and UK trade deal which was published on Boxing Day hardwires neoliberalism permanently into the future trading relationship between the UK and Europe.
Make no mistake, this is a capitalist Brexit in the ugliest terms. Time and time again the document places the economic interests of hedge-fund capitalists ahead of British manufacturing.
It places shareholders ahead of taxpayers. It commits our railways, NHS and energy market to perpetual privatisation.
This is a blueprint to convert the UK’s public assets into economic assets for the elite.
The deal Johnson has signed commits us to allowing full and unfettered access to our energy markets and public procurement which, sadly, under this Tory government includes our NHS.
This deal oven-bakes free market capitalism into the fabric of our economy giving private businesses across Europe the right to take our government to court if they fail to win tendering decisions for chunks of our public services.
This means that those who voted to leave the EU in order to rid competition law from our public services will be sorely disappointed as private health moguls who successfully sued our NHS under EU competition law will now be able to do so under UK law.
It means that energy customers who paid for electricity at higher rates than our European neighbours from the exact same energy firms will continue to do so.
Most importantly, it means that renationalising our public services will require full contract buyouts and be much more expensive than could have been the case.
This is a bad macroeconomic deal for the UK.
In addition, it is bad for those who wanted a close educational relationship with the EU in the future.
The cancellation of UK involvement in the Erasmus programme is a hammer blow to young adults who dreamed of spending a semester at a European university to broaden their horizons.
Britain will become a smaller, more inward-looking place as a result of this deal.
Likewise, the hostile treatment of EU migrants who want to work in the UK is bad for Britain.
Millions of EU workers are net contributors to our economy. They add to the economic and cultural fabric of our society.
Denying access to welfare benefits for workers who will still be flown in to pick strawberries for Wimbledon is petty.
It will permanently condemn manual EU workers to working poverty, asking them to survive on less because of where they were born.
This is also a bad deal for climate change. The deal contains a token agreement for the EU and the UK to become carbon neutral by 2050.
A Labour government would have brought that forward by at least 10 years.
The climate cannot afford to wait 30 years for neoliberalism to be dragged kicking and screaming into a carbon-neutral world.
The watering down of a level playing field of regulations on health and safety and environmental protections will now provide the Tories with an avenue to worsen standards in the workplace in a way that puts workers’ safety in harm’s way and that damages the environment.
This deal gives the Tories a way to cut standards in the name of profit. At a time when Leicester and, in particular, my own constituency of Leicester East are fighting to increase safety in the workplace and workers’ rights this is heading in the opposite direction our country needs.
This deal is also bad for British manufacturing. The rules of origin will make it very difficult for British car firms to export tariff-free into the EU.
This is because the car parts will be deemed to be from outside the UK because they contain components from Japan and other parts of Asia.
This will cost jobs in the UK among manufacturing firms that cannot source those parts from UK suppliers.
This situation has been created by 40 years of neoliberalism favouring the London Square Mile over the entire UK manufacturing industry, and it will take a generation to put right.
This deal also makes it harder for the UK to step in and save firms that are of strategic importance to the UK economy.
British steel is an obvious example. Where an expertise or specialism exists, or where a British industry is considered important to the long-term future of our country, it is crucial that the government can subsidise these industries where necessary, or bail them out if they encounter free market turbulence beyond their control.
The deal Johnson has signed with the EU makes this harder as not only does it set sustainability criteria and rules on creating a level playing field but crucially it prohibits bailouts unless a wider economic or societal impact of failure can be proven.
This will make it harder for the government to protect UK automotive industries that fall foul of the rules of origin, for example.
This deal once again hurts Britain’s long-term economic interests. Johnson has placed the priorities of his hedge-fund pals ahead of the British firms that will struggle after this deal.
This deal will pass tomorrow and will become law. Nothing individual MPs can now do will stop this.
With a very heavy heart, we will be subjected to a bad deal over a no deal. I promise you I will work my hardest to campaign for the worst parts of this deal to be renegotiated by a future Labour government.
We must foster a deal which treats EU migrants, who give their working lives to our economy, far better.
We need to campaign for better environmental protections and prevent this agreement being used to rip up important health and safety legislation at a time when more protections are needed.
Ultimately, we must remove permanent neoliberalism from our relationship with Europe.
Whether you voted Remain or Leave, this is a bad deal, it is not our Brexit deal, we do not need to own it.