Brexit, Free Ports and the super-exploitation of the working class


Brexit, Free Ports and the super-exploitation of the working class

Steve James

4 February 2019

Boris Johnson, the leading Brexiteer and former foreign secretary, spoke last month at an event organised by Lord Bamford, the billionaire chief executive of earth moving equipment manufacturer JCB. Johnson reportedly earned £10,000 for his grovelling speech, littered with droll references to JCB’s products.

His remarks were directed towards sections of the ruling elite who might back a Johnson Conservative Party leadership bid. His appeal promoted regional economic competition and deregulation as the bedrock of a post-Brexit economy.

The government “should be devolving power to cities in coherent regions,” he said, including bundling together local taxes such as “council tax, business rates stamp duty, land tax” to give to “local mayors and politicians to spend so that they have clear incentives to go for growth.”

Johnson called for the creation of Free Ports, pointing that “there are now 135 countries in the world that have Free Ports.” These attract growth “and it is absurd that Britain will be forbidden by this deal [Theresa May’s European Union (EU) Withdrawal Agreement] from doing the same.”

Free Ports are better known as Free Trade Zones (FTZ) or Special Economic Zones (SEZ). The last three decades have seen hundreds of such zones proliferate worldwide, particularly in the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia and China. The zones have become synonymous with the unbridled exploitation of the working class.

In floating Free Ports in Britain, Johnson is speaking to a discussion within both the Conservative and Labour parties on how best to use the Brexit crisis to complete the deregulation of the economy and slash the wages and conditions of…

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