a case of advanced brexifraction

Simon Coveney rules out bilateral no-deal talks with the UK
BBC, Aug 21 2019

Ireland will not be entering into bilateral negotiations with the UK regarding no-deal Brexit planning, Tánaiste (deputy Irish prime minister) Simon Coveney has said. Mr Coveney said trade policy was a matter for the EU. He said the Irish government cannot come to a separate arrangement with the UK. He also said it was realistic to expect a return of power-sharing before the Oct 31 Brexit deadline. Mr Coveney met Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith on Tuesday about Brexit and the lack of government in Northern Ireland since Jan 2017. He told Irish broadcaster RTÉ it was important that he developed a good personal relationship with Mr Smith that is based on trust. He added that commentary about the events in Northern Ireland over the past two weeks had become “divisive and difficult.” He said it was not the case that the Irish government was refusing to talk to the UK, but said he would not be facilitating the UK in walking away from commitments in the withdrawal agreement. he said:

We are not in the business of facilitating the UK moving away from commitments that they’ve made to Ireland and the EU to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to protect an all-Ireland economy, which is a commitment that they have made, and to replace that with some sort of makeshift deal in the weeks before a no-deal. We are not in the business of being steamrolled at the end of this because a British prime minister has rolled out new red lines. We will not abandon the Good Friday Agreement for some kind of promise on the basis of trust. Instead what we have been doing for over a year now is, we have been planning for contingency in the context of a no-deal Brexit, should that happen.

Johnson met Merkel in Berlin, and reiterated his call for the Irish border backstop plan to be scrapped. Johnson has said the arrangement to avoid a hard border after Brexit is “anti-democratic” and must be removed to secure a deal. But the EU has rejected the possibility of any changes to the backstop.

Merkel tells UK government no Brexit concessions; Corbyn steps up calls for caretaker government
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Aug 22 2019

Johnson met Merkel yesterday for talks over Brexit. Today he will meet Macron in Paris. The trip, ahead of this weekend’s G7 Summit, is the first that Johnson has made out of the country since taking over from May last month, pledging that the UK would exit the EU with or without a deal on Oct 31. After demanding the EU rip up the Withdrawal Agreement it signed with May, Johnson this week wrote to EC President Donald Tusk, insisting the EU abandon the “backstop” measures aimed at ensuring there is no post-Brexit hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Johnson is seeking concessions based on convincing EU leaders that Britain crashing out also poses major problems for Europe. But there were no signs Wednesday that he would receive any positive response in Berlin or Paris. The overarching concern of the European powers is preserving the unity of the EU and its 27 states, including Ireland. The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, described Johnson’s letter to Tusk as a “targeted provocation” and editorialised:

What’s more important is that the member states continue to present a united front.

This stance should be maintained, even if some countries, including Germany, were hit by a disorderly Brexit, it opined. Central to the calculations of Germany and France is that Johnson may not last long in power, as he confronts a UK parliament in its majority either opposed to a no-deal outcome or to Brexit in any form. Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday, Elmar Brok, a CDU MEP from Germany and close ally of Merkel, said:

There is a majority against a no deal. The House of Commons has shown that.

The EU’s intransigence can only worsen the bitter political divisions in Britain over Brexit. Johnson knows this and told Sky News Tuesday:

As long as they think that there is a possibility that parliament will block Brexit, they are unlikely to be minded to make the concessions that we need.

At his press conference with Merkel, he pressed his demand for a removal of the Irish backstop. In response, the German chancellor said this was not an option, but that changes to the text of the Withdrawal Deal’s accompanying political declaration text could provide a solution, at a later stage, to the backstop problem. Putting maximum pressure on Johnson, she added:

Maybe we can find that solution in the next 30 days.

Macron fuelled tensions as he prepared for his talks with Johnson by insisting Wednesday evening:

If the result is no-deal, that would be Britain’s doing, always.

No political outcome to this unprecedented crisis can be excluded, given what is at stake for Britain and the EU under conditions of mounting tensions between the major powers and trading blocs internationally. The UK’s escalating crisis saw renewed calls this week by Corbyn for dissident Tories and the other opposition parties to accept his proposals for a temporary “ c aretaker government” under his leadership. Corbyn put this offer forward last week under pressure from the right-wing Blairite wing of his party, which represents the main political forces of the pro-EU faction of the ruling elite. In a speech Tuesday in the town of Corby, Corbyn reiterated that he was prepared to lead such a temporary government in the interests of the bourgeoisie. As parliament returns from the summer recess, he promised:

In September, the country is heading into a political and constitutional storm. We will do everything necessary to stop a disastrous No-Deal for which this government has no mandate. We will work together with MPs from across parliament to pull our country back from the brink. If our no-confidence vote succeeds I would seek to form a time-limited caretaker administration to avert No Deal and call an immediate general election so the people can decide our country’s future. And if there is a general election this autumn, Labour will commit to holding a public vote, to give voters the final say with credible options for both sides including the option to remain.

Corbyn tried to combine his call for unity with every other pro-capitalist party in parliament to avoid a no-deal outcome, in the interests of dominant sections of big business, with rhetoric promising that his policies would transform the lives of working people:

A general election triggered by the Tory Brexit crisis will be a crossroads for our country. It will be a once-in-a-generation chance for a real change of direction potentially on the scale of 1945.

This was a reference to Clement Atlee’s post-war Labour government which came to power in a landslide and inaugurated the welfare state, including a mass social housing programme and the NHS and nationalised a swathe of essential industry. This too was done in order to protect British capitalism and ensure social peace. But by comparison, Corbyn’s promise of social change is entirely bogus. His appeal to Blairites, the Lib Dems who spent 2010-15 in a pro-austerity government with the Conservatives, and pro-EU dissident Tories, itself excludes any radical outcome. Everything Corbyn has done as opposition leader has shown that any Labour government he is part of, as his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has stated, would be “the stabilisers of capitalism.” Labour have no intention of waging any political struggle that would damage the interests of the corporations and super-rich. Moreover, the measures outlined by Corbyn as the basis of an election manifesto are minor in the extreme. He has nothing more radical on offer than a £10/hr minimum wage, allowing a few trade union bureaucrats to sit in company boardrooms, and a hot-air promise to “rebuild British industry with a Green Industrial Revolution.” Corbyn’s behaviour since becoming Labour leader nearly four years ago, suppressing every struggle of the working class in collaboration with the trade unions, made possible the present Tory government led by Johnson and other fanatical Thatcherites. As Margaret Thatcher’s former chancellor Nigel Lawson has claimed:

There is now a chance to finish the Thatcher revolution.

Corbyn’s speech was followed Wednesday evening with an announcement that he had invited leaders of all other political parties and senior cross-party backbenchers to talks on “all tactics available to prevent no-deal.” Such is the degree to which he has adopted the demands of the Blairites that the Guardian, which has led the campaign against Corbyn for four years, is now filled with appeals for his critics to back his proposal. In an editorial aimed at Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, and some Remain-supporting Tories who said they could not accept Corbyn leading a national unity government, the Guardian argued:

Jeremy Corbyn plays a part in many of these divides, but he also has to be part of any solution. He should be taken seriously, not dismissed.

Blairite columnist Poly Toynbee assured the ruling elite:

While his equivocations on Brexit continue … Corbyn may yet be the one to lead the escape from Brexit. He is not the bogeyman of Tory propaganda; the red demon about to turn Britain into Venezuela … Nothing in his broadly social-democratic plans has come close to the revolutionary explosion Johnson intends in 10 weeks’ time. This would be his finest hour as the moderate compromiser putting his country first when others refused. It would send his chances of winning the election soaring up in the polls.

For all Toynbee’s flannel about a Corbyn election victory, the aim of the Blairites is to prevent a no-deal Brexit and then to oust Corbyn as party leader and form a pro-EU “government of national unity.”

Johnson and Macron to hold ‘frank’ Brexit talks in Paris
Angelique Chrisafis, Groon, Aug 22 2019

Emmanuel Macron will hold a friendly but “frank” working lunch with Boris Johnson on Thursday after dismissing his request to renegotiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement and scrap the Irish backstop as “not an option.” The French president told reporters on Wednesday night that there was a “British democratic crisis” over Brexit and he was seeking “clarification” from Johnson on his proposals as the Oct 31 exit date approaches. Some French political observers fear Johnson is setting up a confrontation with the EU that will allow him to reap domestic political capital from what he will cast as EU intransigence, singling out France for blame if the UK leaves without a deal. But Macron firmly rebutted that ahead of the lunch, saying:

Any no-deal exit will be the responsibility of the British government. It will be Britain’s doing, always. It is impossible for us to agree to scrap the Irish backstop, which was negotiated by Britain during two years of talks. Doing so would give us an unacceptable choice between protecting our internal market and preserving peace in Ireland. Protecting the Northern Irish peace process is crucial. We have to help the British deal with this internal democratic crisis, but we mustn’t be held hostage to it nor export it.

France believes a no-deal exit is now the most likely scenario, an official in Macron’s office said. The EU member states have a united front and there was not a “cigarette paper” standing between the positions of France, Germany and others EU members, he added. Much of the meeting will centre on preparations for the G7 summit in Biarritz this weekend, Johnson’s first appearance on the international stage since he became prime minister last month. Johnson began pinpointing France as a problem long before he became PM. While being filmed for a documentary last year when he was foreign secretary, he said of France:

Why are they trying to shaft us?

He called France “naughty children” on the issue of Europe. He later denied he had called the French “turds” over Brexit. Johnson is well known in Paris for what the local media call his “French-bashing” for a domestic audience, notably as London mayor when he said his city’s bike scheme was a Rolls-Royce to Paris’s Citroën 2CV. He said the Socialist government at the time, with its proposed high tax rate on the very rich, had been “captured by sans-culottes” running a “tyranny” of the like not seen since the French Revolution. One French interviewer asked him as mayor:

To be popular in the UK, do you always have to criticise the French?

He replied:

No, not at all! I love France!

Macron said a no-deal Brexit is not his preferred outcome but France has prepared for one, including drawing up special legislation on ports and customs. Christian Lequesne, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris, said:

It appears to be in Johnson’s interest to say that a no-deal exit would be the responsibility of the Europeans, and the French in particular, for not accepting his conditions. But on the French side, Macron’s line will be to say a no-deal exit is nothing to do with the Europeans, who have done everything to try to have an arrangement. Of course, there will be a war of interpretation. And when that happens, old cliches emerge: that the UK has blocked Europe or that the French are intransigent. In England, the present can’t be interpreted without immediately searching for parallels with history.

Parts of the British media have previously likened Macron to de Gaulle for standing firm on the length of any extension on the UK’s departure.

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