Brexit crisis: battle lines drawn as parties fracture

'Fck Johnson, fck govt' demonstration, London

On Tuesday 23 July the wealthy Etonian and flamboyantly self-promoting MP Boris Johnson was overwhelmingly elected as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by paid-up members of the Conservative Party. His opponent, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, was a distant second. Johnson won with just over 66% of the vote, 92,153 votes, to Hunt’s 46,656. The total number of UK parliamentary electors in December 2018 was 45,775,800, so about 0.2% of the electorate have, in effect, elected the new Prime Minister. DAVID YAFFE reports.


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Taking care of business: The collapse of Four Seasons

On 30 April, Four Seasons, Britain’s second largest private care home oper-ator, with 17,000 residents and 22,000 staff, collapsed into admin-istration. Its owner, private equity firm Terra Firma, lost £450m on its investment due to the low profitability of the sector and servicing Four Seasons’ debts racked up in a series of debt-fuelled sales. Four Seasons is only the latest example of such reckless gambling in a sector dominated by finance capital. Its collapse demonstrates that capitalism is incapable of providing a stable system of care for the majority.


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Hard Times: UN report on poverty in Britain

In November 2018, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, visited Britain. At the time he concluded that the UK government is in a ‘state of denial’ about the misery it is inflicting with its ‘punitive, mean-spirited, and callous’ austerity programme. On 22 May, Alston published his full report to the UN Human Rights Council – a 21-page page indictment of modern Britain, where one fifth of the population live in poverty,1 including one in three children; where the gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest stands at 7.9 years for women and 9.7 years for men; and where nearly half of those in poverty – 6.9 million people – are from families in which someone has a disability.2 Blame for this state of affairs lies principally with a benefits regime of conditionality and sanctions which Alston likens to a Dickensian workhouse. Seamus Padraic reports


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Brexit: Ruling class disarray as May is forced to resign

Pro-remain demonstrators in London

Undeterred by the worst Conservative performance for 24 years in the 2 May 2019 local elections and the threat of an even more damaging outcome in the 23 May European elections, Prime Minister Theresa May resolved to make a last ditch stand, a fourth attempt to get her Brexit withdrawal agreement through Parliament.[1] On 21 May in a speech at the London headquarters of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the second largest professional services multinational in the world and one of the Big Four auditors, she outlined the content of her supposed ‘new and improved’ and ‘bold’ 100-page withdrawal agreement bill. The Prime Minister intended to put forward her revamped bill to be debated in Parliament in the week beginning 3 June.


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The chasm between rich and poor

A rough sleeper in Britain

The 2007/08 ‘financial crash’ was a manifestation of the unresolvable crisis of global capitalism. This is a system that is defended and organised by the capitalist class and their lieutenants, necessarily through imposing costs on the working class. As such, when the banks were hit, it was the poor who took the beating, not the wealthy. Over the last decade they have, Phoenix-like, done very well out of the wreckage; their finances have not crashed, they have soared. The abject ruination of the bottom rung of society is evidenced by stagnating wages and increased mortality.


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Protecting the rich while hammering the poor

British law conceals, protects and rewards the operations of tax havens and the perpetrators of major financial crimes, while at the same time vilifying, hunting down and imprisoning some of the poorest people in society for so-called benefit fraud. Two realities exist in Britain side by side. In 2017, the country was home to 73% of all millionaire bankers across Europe, while at the same time demand for foodbanks has surged as the working class is driven ever deeper into poverty. Mark Moncada reports.


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Brexit: Tory government in meltdown

100,000s march for a people's vote in London, March 2019

‘Brexit day’, 29 March 2019, was the date chosen for the UK to leave the European Union (EU). This had been Prime Minister Theresa May’s ‘solemn promise’ to the British people, endlessly repeated in speeches, conferences and declarations for two years. The government broke this promise because they had been unable to force the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU through Parliament. ‘Brexit day’ saw a third defeat for the agreement by 344 votes to 286, a margin of 58 – higher than most commentators expected. This was another humiliating blow for the Prime Minister. It is the chaotic outcome of an irrevocably divided British ruling class facing the most significant strategic decision on the future path of British imperialism.1 DAVID YAFFE reports.


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Britain’s Tech Sector: Expanding Parasitism

Computer factory

A consistent theme of British ruling class propaganda over the past few years has been the espousal of the digital tech services sector. In his 2018 budget statement, Chancellor Phillip Hammond said he aimed at ‘reinvigorating capitalism for the digital age’, following that up by saying ‘I want Britain to be one of the great winners of the technological revolution’. Both the Conservative and Labour manifestos in the 2017 General Election pledged a similar level of dedication to British technology companies. Labour said that they would appoint a Digital Ambassador to promote investment in tech and the Conservatives promised similar results via a new institute of technology. Both parties make it clear in their manifestos that they want the growth of this element of the British economy to go further.


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Spring Statement 2019: Lies, damned lies, and statistics

A man protests against high fuel prices

On Wednesday 13 March, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond gave his Spring Statement, a biannual update on government revenues, spending and fiscal policy. Mark Twain once commented that there are three kinds of lies: ‘lies, damned lies and statistics.’ The latter are used deliberately to ‘beguile’, confuse and obfuscate the truth. Hammond’s Spring Statement is an exercise in ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics’, in which he painted a picture of a completely imaginary British economy which is ‘working for all.’


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Glossing over imperialism: the British left and Brexit

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 268, February/March 2019

Costas Lapavitsas, The left case against the EU. Polity Books 2019 184pp £14.99;

Another Europe is Possible: The left against Brexit – an internationalist case for Europe. 2018 48pp; downloadable from 

As the Tory government staggers from one political crisis to another, so the opportunist British left continues to flounder in a reactionary morass of its own making. Determined from the outset to participate in the Brexit process, the left has put forward spurious and conflicting arguments as to why socialists should support either the Remain or Brexit camp. Whatever they may claim, however, both sides capitulate to chauvinism and imperialism. Remainers raise the spectre of future US domination to oppose withdrawal from the EU; ‘Lexiters’ play on the fear of a European juggernaut with Germany at its core undermining a future Jeremy Corbyn government. Corbyn himself is still pro-Brexit but leads a divided party where a majority are for Remain. ROBERT CLOUGH examines the arguments put forward by Costas Lapavitsas, a Lexiter who advises Corbyn, and those on the left of the Labour Party who favour Remain, organised in Another Europe is Possible.


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BREXIT: Ruling class deadlock

House of Commons

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 268 February/March 2019

‘Everything under heaven is utter chaos; the situation is excellent’ – Mao

On 15 January 2019 Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal, the product of more than two years of convoluted, drawn-out negotiations with the EU, was overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Commons by an unprecedented  230 votes.  202 voted for the deal and 432 against. 118 out of 317 Tory MPs voted against it. This is the largest defeat suffered by a British Prime Minister in modern history.1 The last time there was a defeat of such proportions was on 8 October 1924 when Ramsay MacDonald’s minority Labour government was defeated by 166 votes in the ‘Campbell Case’.2 DAVID YAFFE reports.


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Interserve represents a troubled future for Britain’s public services

Interserve construction employees

Interserve, a multinational corporation based in Britain which describes itself as a ‘leader in innovative and sustainable outcomes’ is attempting to fix its financial troubles. It is following the path of Carillion which collapsed a year earlier on 15 January 2018 (see FRFI 262). Like Carillion, Interserve has been awarded numerous government contracts through Private finance initiatives (PFIs) in sectors including construction, healthcare, hospital cleaning services, school  meals and probation services. This is the way public services are now run in Britain: contracts are awarded to private companies, putting tax money in the pocket of big business, and jeopardising the sustainability of these services.


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London public meeting - Brexit chaos: the position of communists

David Yaffe at the London RCG meeting 'Brexit chaos: the position of communists', January 2019

On 16 January, David Yaffe, editor of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! addressed a public meeting at SOAS university in London discussing the politics and economics of Brexit, the day after Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Bill was defeated in parliament with unprecedented opposition. The speech laid out the deep divisions within the ruling class over the crisis of British imperialism and explained that these lie at the heart of the political crisis over Brexit. In these conditions real possibilities exist for communists if they can expose the dangerous arguments being put forward by opportunist social democrats and all others seeking to mislead the working class. The continuing political chaos, and the reactionary positions being taken by all sides in the Brexit debate, vindicate the position taken by the Revolutionary Communist Group from before the EU referendum. The RCG has refused to take sides in this dispute between factions of the ruling class, and has instead argued for the need to build an independent working class movement to fight against austerity, racism and war. Get in touch with the RCG to be part of building that movement!

For more information, read David Yaffe's most recent article: Brexit chaos: no end in sight -


BREXIT CHAOS: No end in sight

100,000s march against Brexit in London, 20 October 2018

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 267 December 2018/January 2019

After months of negotiations, with further concessions having to be made by the British government, Prime Minister Theresa May was able, finally, to announce on 14 November 2018 that all aspects of the withdrawal (transitional) deal – including settling accounts, citizenship, and the Irish border – had now been finalised and agreed at negotiator level. This agreement is essential if the UK is to retain the benefits of the single market and customs union for a further 21 months after leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. The transitional period itself, however, depends on the withdrawal deal being agreed and ratified by both the UK and EU parliaments. The negotiators have also agreed on the outline of a political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship. DAVID YAFFE reports.


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Budget 2018: No end to austerity

Anti-austerity protest

On 3 October, Prime Minister Theresa May made a series of promises in her speech to the Conservative Party conference. These included £20bn of additional funding for the NHS, and an end to austerity. Designed as a unifying message for the hopelessly fractured Conservative Party, these pledges had to be met by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond alongside existing commitments that included eliminating the Budget deficit by the middle of the 2020s. Saddled by the lack of any certainty about the state of the British economy following Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, Hammond presented a different message. In his, much weaker, wording austerity is ‘coming to an end.’ In reality, three quarters of the benefit cuts planned since the 2015 General Election are still to come. Austerity is not ‘over’, and nor is it ‘coming to an end.’ Séamus Padraic reports.


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BREXIT: Theresa May humiliated at Salzburg summit

Protestors against Brexit at the Tory conference in Birmingham 2018

The outlook for the Conservative Party looks increasingly bleak. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chequers agreement,1 foisted on her divided Cabinet at a meeting on 6 July 2018, was not well received by the EU’s Brexit negotiators, or by significant sections of her feuding party. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the demands contained in the agreement were not a firm basis for negotiations with Brussels and fell foul of the EU’s red lines and founding principles. Boris Johnson, who resigned as Foreign Secretary shortly after the agreement was announced, crassly derided May’s Brexit strategy as ‘wrapping a suicide vest around the British constitution’. The arch-Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg, head of the 60-strong European Research Group MPs, said it was ‘absolute rubbish’ and we ‘should chuck it and have a Canada-style free trade agreement’. DAVID YAFFE reports.


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The ‘inequality question’ has no solution under capitalism

A man begging in Manchester

Since the 1970s, inequality has grown to such obscene proportions, both domestically and globally, that some historians are comparing modern society with medieval feudalism and ancient slave-owning economies to try and understand what might happen next.1 The vast majority of people have taken only a small part of income growth for several decades; they look on with growing and justified resentment as an elite minority accumulates spectacular wealth while their own wages stagnate, decade on decade, and the public services they depend on for daily life are neglected, dismantled and privatised. Some sections of the capitalist class are clearly becoming uneasy as the growing rift between rich and poor could soon threaten economic and political stability. Economists, business leaders and policy thinktanks attempt to solve the ‘inequality question’ with a variety of proposals, ranging from well-meaning philanthropy to a global wealth tax. But they are bringing knives to a gunfight. The historians are right – inequality will be levelled by disaster or by revolution. Will Harney reports.


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Brexit: Tory infighting shatters government illusions

David Davis, Boris Johnson, Theresa May

It has been clear that every move by the Tory government on Brexit is designed to contain the splits in the Tory Party, hold together a deeply divided cabinet, and maintain a working majority in Parliament through a deal with the reactionary, pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The government is having to do this while, at the same time, gradually moving away from a ‘hard’ Brexit deal that would seriously damage the British economy, dominated as it is by financial services and the global activities of the City of London. That is why Prime Minister Theresa May’s major speeches on Brexit, since the Conservative annual conference in October 2016, have necessarily moved from a ‘hard’ to a ‘softer’ Brexit standpoint. The latter is, at present, embodied in the so-called Chequers agreement made at the special cabinet meeting of 6 July 2018. The inevitable limitations of this process have been dramatically exposed with the resignation of two leading Brexiters from the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, shortly after the Chequers agreement was announced. DAVID YAFFE reports.


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Brexit: The end game approaches as imperialist rivalries intensify

As Britain’s withdrawal from the EU draws closer, the most difficult decision involves avoiding a ‘hard border’ between the Irish Republic and the north of Ireland

It is possible to forget that behind the chaos, backstabbing and rifts in the Tory party over Brexit exists the very real question of the future course of British imperialism. The parasitic character of British capitalism leaves it increasingly incapable of withstanding the economic and political challenge of US or European imperialism as an independent global imperialist power. In this context the Brexit conflict is essentially a dispute between sections of the ruling class over two necessarily, totally reactionary outcomes for British capitalism – staying as part of a European imperialist bloc or leaving and becoming an offshore centre for usury capital under the umbrella of US imperialism.1 The recent decision of US President Donald Trump to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and impose further sanctions on Iran and any countries and companies trading with Iran has dramatically highlighted the serious consequences for British imperialism from the eventual outcome of the Brexit conflict. David Yaffe reports.


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The decline of British industry

Fight racism! Fight Imperialism! 112 – April/May 1993

industry decline
Longbridge MG Rover plant, 1979

In 1992 output of all production industries – including manufacture, energy and water – fell for the third year running, the first time this has happened since the early 1930s. As if some belated dawn of recognition had struck the government’s brain, John Major declared that ‘... services aren’t enough because services in a recession are the first thing you cut, so we need the manufacturing base both as import substitution and as part of the continuing export drive’. TREVOR RAYNE examines the decline of British manufacture.


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Spring Statement: austerity continues unopposed

Philip Hammond claimed Britain was approaching ‘a turning point’ in his Spring Statement on 13 March. He fooled nobody. The Tory Chancellor said that the burden of public debt is forecast to start falling next year, allowing for the ‘easing of austerity’ not now but after his Autumn Statement. The reality is that the biggest annual benefits cut for six years is about to come into effect, hitting 11 million families, and three-quarters of the benefits cuts introduced since 2015 have yet to take effect. Far from the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ Hammond forsees, the worst is yet to come. Brian Henry reports.


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Brexit: hard facts deflate Tory illusions

Prime Minister Theresa May’s hubris at every stage of Brexit negotiations has been progressively deflated. Britain has been forced to give way on each significant, contested point.1 The Brexit transitional deal agreed on 19 March 2018 between Michel Barnier, European Union (EU) chief negotiator, and David Davis, UK Brexit Secretary, is no exception. Britain has provisionally secured a Brexit transition lasting until 31 December 2020 by offering concessions on UK sovereignty in order to avoid a cliff-edge exit from the EU at the end of March 2019. This allows businesses and citizens a further 21 months to prepare for Brexit-related changes. Markets welcomed the news, with the pound climbing above $1.40 against the dollar, reaching its highest level for three weeks. More concessions will be necessary in a third phase of negotiations during which Ireland, governance issues and future trade relations will be further discussed in parallel. David Yaffe reports.


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Britain’s decaying capitalism on display in half-empty high streets

 derelict high streets

For the second time in five years, ‘retail tsar’ Bill Grimsey is leading a ‘troubleshooting task force’ that aims to revive Britain’s half-empty high streets. It comes after two of Britain’s best-known retailers, Toys R Us and electronics specialist Maplin, collapsed into administration on the same day in February, putting 5,500 jobs at risk. Fashion retailer New Look then said up to 60 stores would close, putting almost 1,000 jobs at risk, and Conviviality, the company behind the off-licence chains Bargain Booze and Wine Rack, announced it would be appointing in administrators, threatening 2,600 jobs. Elsewhere, restaurant chains including Jamie Oliver, Prezzo and Byron have all announced closures amid a severe downturn in trading. In the first half of 2017, 14 shops closed every day. Britain’s semi-derelict town centres perfectly illustrate a decaying capitalism that needs to be put out of its misery. Brian Henry reports.

State of the nation of shopkeepers

See one town centre in Britain and you have seen them all. The same big name chains dominate: the same restaurants, the same bars, the same cinemas, the same music and fashion shops, all gleaming and soulless. Even knock-offs and tat have been monopolised by Sports Direct and Poundland. Variety and character be damned. This is the dreary monoculture of 21st century consumerism, the manifestation of the demands of capital accumulation. And yet, in the sixth richest country in the world, each of these mini corporate meccas is punctuated and surrounded by shuttered and abandoned shops and stores, skeletons scattered among their living conquerors. It’s a turf war, and the gang with the bigger muscle always wins.


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Councils in crisis

In October 2017 The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy warned that many local authorities were running down their reserves to ‘plug gaps in day-to-day spending’ and would soon find themselves in ‘significant financial distress’. On 2 February this year, Tory-controlled Northamptonshire County Council issued a section 114 notice – the first of its kind in 20 years. This means it has banned new expenditure on services except those that protect vulnerable people and will not be able to produce a balanced budget by the end of the year, as required by law. An inspector’s report concluded that the county council should be scrapped and replaced with two new unitary councils.

The CIPFA said more local authorities were likely to follow suit because of the severe central government cuts handed down since 2010. Grant funding from government will end by 2020, meaning councils will be expected to rely on council tax and business rates for most of their revenue. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has calculated that even if council tax revenues increased by 4.5% a year, adult social care spending is likely to amount to half of all revenue from local taxes by 2035. Most councils are raising council tax by 4-6% including a 2-3% precept for Adult Social Care. If councils meet their social care costs through local tax revenues ‘the amount left over for other services – including children’s services, housing, economic development, bin collection – would fall in real terms by 0.3% a year, on average’, the IFS warned.

The Labour Party could have stood up for the working class by refusing to implement the cuts ordered by central government. Instead it has stood with the ruling class. In September 2016 the party introduced a rule which meant disciplinary action could be taken against Labour councillors who opposed or abstained on legal – ie pro-cuts – budgets. Labour claims that the Tories are solely responsible for the crisis engulfing council budgets but in reality it has been wholly complicit.

FRFI correspondents from around the country have sent in reports detailing the state of the public finances in their areas. We demand that councils set budgets that meet the needs of the people.


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Brexit chaos and Tory rifts as the City prepares

Philip Hammond accused of hindering Brexit

The Tory party is hopelessly divided. Prime Minister Theresa May is on the back foot, seriously at a disadvantage, often outmanoeuvred in her negotiations over Britain’s future relations with the European Union (EU). The meaning of Brexit is constantly in flux. The dominant sections of the ruling class, corporate business and the City of London, horrified at the damage an abrupt ‘cliff edge’ exit will do to the British economy, have started to up their game. A ‘no deal’ Brexit is no longer on the agenda. Brexit negotiations have, so far, seen Britain forced to give way on each meaningful, contested point. David Yaffe reports.

The exit agreement

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, had insisted that sufficient progress had to be made with the exit agreement – settling accounts, citizens’ rights, and the Irish border – before discussion on the future relationship between UK and the EU, particularly that on the terms of trade, could begin.1 At the end of November 2017, Britain submitted to the principal demand of the exit agreement, by stating that it would fully honour its financial commitments on leaving the EU. The net figure likely to be paid was thought to be in the region of between €40bn and €45bn.


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Carillion: What is hidden in the ruins

Carillion blacklisted 800 of its unionised employees for calling them out on poor health and safety condition 3

When Carillion went into liquidation on 15 January 2018 it was the biggest collapse in the history of the British construction industry and one of the largest bankruptcies in recent British corporate history. Carillion’s demise is not an aberration of capitalism: rather it expresses exactly what capitalism has become in Britain: corrupt and parasitic, incapable of providing decent public services. From plundering our taxes to enrich its executives and shareholders, to the teams of accountants paid millions for cooking the books and the swarm of hedge funds gambling on its failure, Carillion represents British capitalism today. This system must be got rid of. Trevor Rayne reports.

Carillion described itself as ‘one of the UK’s leading integrated support services companies, with a substantial portfolio of Public Private Partnership projects, extensive construction capabilities and a sector-leading ability to deliver sustainable solutions’ (Annual Report 2016). It was Britain’s second largest construction company, after Balfour Beatty. However, 90% of Carillion’s work was outsourced to sub-contractors; there are 30,000 of them. It held some 450 contracts with the government, worth 38% of its income in 2016. It was one of eight building firms forced to admit to running a blacklist of 800 trade unionists who had complained about health and safety conditions.


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Taking Britain Backwards - Autumn Budget 2017

Philip Hammond
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond

Philip Hammond attempted to shrug off the huge divisions in the Tory Party by cracking a few jokes as he delivered his second Budget since becoming Chancellor, but the biggest joke was the portrayal of himself as a great moderniser putting Britain ‘at the forefront’ of the world’s imminent ‘technological revolution’. He said the Conservatives would ‘run towards change’ and make Britain ‘fit for the future’. The grim reality is markedly different. Barnaby Philips reports.

  • The Resolution Foundation said that wages would not return to 2008 levels until 2025, meaning two lost decades of wage growth for workers, the longest fall in living standards since records began in the 1950s.
  • The state sector continues to be stripped to levels not seen since the 1930s under the plans of the previous Chancellor, George Osborne.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) announced its biggest downgrade for economic growth since it was set up in 2010. Growth in 2017 was reduced from 2% to 1.5% and growth through to 2021 was knocked down by between 0.2 and 0.5 percentage points; it will only creep back up to 1.6% in 2022. Even these figures are optimistic as they ignore the uncertainty of Brexit and the increasing probability of recession – Britain has suffered one in every decade since the 1970s.
  • GDP per person will be 3.5% smaller in 2021 than forecast in March 2016. The loss of growth will mean the economy is £65bn smaller in 2021 than previously thought.

Despite seven years of austerity that was supposed to eliminate the budget deficit, originally by 2015, the Tories have been forced yet again to increase borrowing. The OBR rejects Hammond’s assertion that the hole in the public finances will be gone by 2025, saying it would remain until at least 2031. The Institute for Fiscal Studies added that national debt – currently standing at £1.94 trillion, with an annual servicing cost of £48bn – may not return to pre-crisis levels until the 2060s.


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Brexit: Ruling class divisions entrenched as negotiations begin

The split in the Conservative Party which brought about the EU referendum has become an open wound since Brexit negotiations began in June. The ‘hard’ Brexiters in control of the government are not prepared to entertain talk of a transitional period after the March 2019 deadline that would push back the end of free movement and withdrawal from the Customs Union and Single Market. They harbour fantasies of an independent British imperialism that is simply no longer possible. Barnaby Philips reports.

The Brexit debacle is a manifestation of the deepening capitalist crisis and intensifying inter-imperialist rivalries. British imperialism’s relative decline1 forced its ruling class to make a decision it did not wish to make: become a junior partner of US imperialism or forge an imperialist bloc with Europe. With the US facing its own acute crisis under the presidency of Donald Trump, it is easy to see why much of the ruling class is determined to secure a ‘soft’ Brexit that would retain access to the Single Market and the Customs Union.


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Spring Budget - Dismal prospects for an unequal, divided Britain

spring budget

The change of Chancellor and the decision to leave the European Union (EU) did not alter the timeworn formula underpinning the Budget speech. As usual there is little correlation between the exaggerated claims for the state of the British economy and the stark, grim reality of millions more working class people driven into low-paid jobs, confronting failing public services and increasing poverty. David Yaffe reports.

On 8 March, in his first Budget speech, Chancellor Philip Hammond spoke of a British economy that ‘has continued to confound the commentators with robust growth’; which ‘delivers further investment in our public services’; ‘extends opportunity to all our young people’; has ‘a labour market delivering record employment’, and ‘a public sector deficit down by over two-thirds’ as it ‘continues the task of getting Britain back to living within its means’. It is an economy, he said, that provides ‘a strong and stable platform’ for Britain’s negotiations to exit the EU while ‘building the foundations of a stronger, fairer, more global Britain’.1 The reality is markedly different.


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In-work poverty in Britain hits record high

Durham teaching assistants

In imperialist Britain, the sixth richest country in the world, the number of people afflicted by in-work poverty has hit a record high. One in every eight workers, 12%, lives in poverty, exposing as lies six years of cynical pledges from the Conservative Party to ‘restore the link between hard work and reward’. The government’s real agenda has been to divide and rule by attempting to drive a wedge between ‘strivers’ and ‘scroungers’. But as an annual state of the nation report conclusively shows, for the poorest sections of the working class in Britain, the working and the unemployed are equally tormented by the rule of capital. Barnaby Philips reports.

Published on 7 December 2016, the Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2016 report,* written by the New Policy Institute on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, revealed that the number of working people living in poverty in 2015 increased to 7.4 million, up from 6.3 million in 2010. This represents a record high of 55% of the overall 13.5 million of the population living below the official poverty line. The vast majority – four-fifths – of the adults in working households are employed, some 3.8 million workers. The remaining fifth predominantly look after children.


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The gig economy: new name for old exploitation

Deliveroo drivers strike

The increasing casualisation of employment, along with new online platforms for marketing labour and goods, have generated new terms which are celebrated, debated and decried by politicians, commentators and journalists. Central among these is the ‘gig economy’ – where self-employed workers are paid mainly by individual jobs or ‘gigs’ performed, with jobs often communicated through a smartphone app or website. Despite the supposed empowerment at the heart of this model, exploitative big businesses – such as delivery company Deliveroo and taxi firm Uber – have become emblematic of the gig economy. Workers usually have few employment rights, but resistance has begun, with Deliveroo drivers organised in the International Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union demanding union recognition, and a recent employment tribunal ruling on 28 October that Uber cannot categorise its drivers as self-employed, and must pay them the national minimum wage. The gig economy is a vague concept which links loosely into wider casualisation – notably the rising use of zero hours and temporary contracts in fields such as care work, retail, catering and, increasingly, higher education. Luke Meehan looks at what the gig economy means for capitalists, workers, and resistance.


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