People Before Profit called for a vote in Northern Ireland to leave the EU.
We saw the referendum as a vote on the nature of the EU and put forward a left wing position. Our opposition to the EU was based on the fact that:
*The EU is designed to impose neo-liberal and austerity policies on the peoples of Europe. Its punishment of the Greek people for daring to vote for an anti-austerity party was a classic example.
*The EU has created a fortress Europe that excludes migrants and refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.
*The EU is fundamentally an undemocratic union which facilitates corporate lobbying.
*The EU is promoting an arms industry and is increasingly developing a military apparatus that serves the interests of the big powers.
This distinctive left position received little public airing in the mainstream media before the vote and the debate on Brexit came to be dominated by on the one hand hard-line Tories and on the other those who wish to sow illusions in the EU as a progressive force.
Contrary to the expectations of the Tories who called the referendum to deal with their own internal splits, British workers took the opportunity to voice their opposition to austerity – even if that was sometimes mixed with an embrace of anti-immigration sentiments.
Overall, however, the left voice on the EU was marginalised and it has now fallen to the Tory party to implement a Brexit that will be on terms that is most advantageous to their class.
It is unclear how exactly they will proceed but of one thing we can be certain: workers need to defend their interests against a right- wing offensive that will be launched on them – whether or not Britain exits.
This offensive will be mounted by the Tories in London; by the Northern Ireland executive who will resist demands for pay rises to compensate for inflation; by the Fine Gael and ‘Endapendent’ government, who will use the ‘crisis’ to wrest more concessions from workers.
This document outlines the key areas of struggle that People Before Profit will be fighting on, post Brexit.
NO BORDER CONTROLS
None of the ruling parties on either side of the Irish border want a re-imposition of border controls. The common travel area existed before the formation of the EU and it should continue. Should any attempt be made by the British government to impose border controls, they should be met with mass protests and people power to dismantle posts, where possible.
PAY INCREASES TO TACKLE PRICE HIKES
One immediate impact of Brexit has been a fall in the value of sterling and therefore a rise in inflation. Such movements in currency often occur suddenly in the global market but the immediate cause appears to be Brexit.
Workers need to defend their living standards by putting in claims for higher wages. There is no reason why workers should suffer from the madness that accompanies ‘market forces’. People Before Profit will actively support strong unions who put in pay claims.
We shall also resist spurious arguments that are used by the Southern government and their Fianna Fail allies to claim that there can be no full restoration of public sector because of ‘uncertainties caused by Brexit’.
MAINTAIN GRANTS AND COMMUNITY FUNDING
The Tory right wingers who promoted a Leave position promised an extra £350 million a week for the NHS. Their posters appeared all over the North. They were, of course, lying but it means that we should not tolerate any attempt to cut back on public funding. We should insist that the same funding and grants that came via the EU community projects must be maintained. That means that the British government must now replace this funding.
RESIST RACISM – MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE
The Tories are trying to re-connect with a conservative popular base by increasing their anti-migrant rhetoric. This emboldens others to engage in abuse and physical attacks. We should stand absolutely firm against his racist poison.
We should also insist that the Southern Irish government takes no further moves to tighten immigration controls to appease the British Tories.
We should insist that migrant workers in Northern Ireland maintain their full rights to work and travel.
CHALLENGE IRELAND’S TAX MODEL
North and South of the border the political elite want to organise Irish capitalism as a tax haven.
The decision to refuse €13 billion in tax from Apple is a dramatic illustration of just how craven the Southern estate is to global corporations.
In the North, the DUP-Sinn Fein government have joined in this race to the bottom by cutting corporations tax to 12.5%. The Southern experience shows that this will amount – after the use of loopholes -to a tax rate of only 5-6%.
Ironically, the tax haven model of Irish capitalism is particularly vulnerable to Brexit for a number of reasons
- If the British elite continue with their exit strategy, they will try to re-configure the City of London as a more de-regulated tax haven.
- Once Britain is outside the EU, Ireland loses its main ally in defending of its own tax haven status inside the EU.
- The growing indebtedness of EU states – as a result of trying to prop up capitalism – means they will be more determined to crack down on the Irish tax haven.
- On top of all that, Trump’s promise to cut US corporations tax to 15% will also lessen Ireland’s ‘attractiveness’ as a tax haven for US corporations.
This model of economic development has therefore exhausted itself.
The failure of Irish capitalism is evident in the fact that its two main sources of exports are the supply of agricultural products to the British markets and the output of multinational companies who are located here primarily to dodge taxes.
In the longer term this is unsustainable. The relatively successful strategy of the Irish elite of riding two horses – that of Anglo-American capitalism and the EU powers – is no longer tenable.
It will no longer be able to get away with acting as a ‘good EU member’, while at the same time deploying a strategy of ‘beggar thy neighbour’ to rob tax revenues.
One effect of Brexit, therefore, is to amplify Ireland’s position as a weak link within global capitalism.
Faced with this, People Before Profit advocates a full scale defence of working class living standards through strong trade unions which break from the chains of social partnership.
In addition, we offer a vision of a different, more sustainable economy. Specifically, we want an economy:
*Where major enterprises are in public ownership and where there is a serious strategy of economic development. We favour the nationalisation of our gas and oil reserves; the -renationalisation of all privatised industries; the use of a public banking system to gain leverage over the wider economy; the take-over of enterprises which close down operations and their re-orientation to the provision of socially useful goods and services.
*We favour a unilateral write down of Ireland’s debt which has tied us to an austerity ‘fiscal space’ dictated by the ECB.
* We will put in place the means to collect the full tax revenues owed by multi-nationals to close off their continued tax avoidance strategy. We shall use the resources to fund high quality public services and publicly-funded research institutes that develop innovative products and services
* We see the need to reduce our carbon emissions as a major priority and therefore seek a distinct green orientation in our economy, in which public funds are invested in afforestation, home insulation, public transport facilities.
* Steering the economy towards the needs of people also means breaking from restrictive structures imposed by institutions like the WTO and international trade deals, such as CETA and TTIP. We favour the creation of publicly owned generic pharmaceutical industry and the design and creation of an open source software industry.
* We favour the nationalisation of our gas and oil reserves; the r-enationalisation of all privatised industries (which is illegal under EU fiscal rules); the use of a public banking system to gain leverage over the wider economy.
*The re-direction of a 32- county Irish economy away from the failures of private capitalism, will mean that we cannot be bound by undemocratic EU rules which entrench privatisation and austerity policies. We insist on the democratic right of the Irish people to take the economic decisions that benefit them rather than private interests.