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Brexit Never Just Meant Brexit

by Dan Mallon

“Brexit means Brexit” is one of the many cryptic slogans that constantly emanated from Theresa May’s shambolic – soon to be defunct – Tory Government. What it means is anybody’s guess. Many have speculated it is Theresa May opting for a hard Brexit over a soft Brexit, however these are not tangible constructs, they are mental constructs. The idea of a hard/soft Brexit are nothing more than negotiating positions and seeing as no one has sat around a table yet, nobody can say for sure what the consistency of Brexit will be once it’s finally baked. Considering the European Union (EU) wants to make an example of Britain so as to dissuade other countries from following suit means heading into a negotiation taking a soft approach, will only end in tears. The idea that EU super-state ideologues like Guy Verhofstadt, will simply roll over and allow Britain have an amicable divorce from their pet project, is naivety to the extreme. One thing is for certain though: May’s Tories sure as hell don’t understand what the Brexit vote meant.

Ever since Britain voted to leave the EU on the 23rd of June 2016, there has been a steady stream of diagnoses and theories as to why the referendum result fell the way it did. Some theories have been far more insightful than others; while many have resorted to the equivalent of ideological trench warfare. There is no doubt that the referendum was deeply divisive and as a result it ended up being close to a 50/50 split. To truly understand the result of the referendum, in all its mutifaceted complexity; requires to my mind, a stepping back from the equation and taking the focus off of any one, or few factors that have undoubtedly contributed to the situation and instead focus on what ties them all together. To do this Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning electoral victory needs to be cross examined with the initial Brexit vote, as there are some fascinating observations to be made.

Jan-Werner Muller writing in the London Review of Books, back on June the 2nd, 2016 asked the question “Would the Brexit debate have played out differently in a calmer, less crisis ridden Europe?”. A fascinating and important question to ask, one he goes on to look at in great detail, with some interesting insights. However, I feel he has somewhat failed to answer his own question, or perhaps more to the point, failed to ask the right question.

Surely a far more revealing question would have been “Would the Brexit debate have played out differently had the referendum taken place before the financial crash of 2008?”.

While Muller’s well thought out and reasoned analysis gets to the heart of the European question, it is largely from a vantage point out of reach to the average voter. His forensic examination of the European Union’s bureaucratic machinations and political convolutions, strangely neglects this very point. Perhaps he does so as he sees it as a moot point, considering – rightly – that the global recession was not caused by the EU; rather by a far more complex set of economic factors, that I won’t even begin to profess I fully understand. That being said, more than a finger can be pointed at the EU’s austerity driven policies that many European countries were forced under the spell of in the wake of the crash. However in this instance, Britain cannot – even though it did – blame the EU for wholeheartedly adopting austerity policies; that finger can be squarely pointed at the Tory led government that took power in 2010.

The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the British government worked hand in glove together to impose harsh austerity measures across the EU, just as the Obama administration had done in America. By 2015, austerity had been widely discredited as being grossly ineffective, highly damaging to economies and was the cause of much suffering in the countries it was imposed on. Everyone appeared to get the message, except for Britain. After David Cameron won a surprising outright majority in the May 2015 election, the Tory government doubled down on its austerity measures, under the insidiously incompetent hands of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

This climate of austerity driven cuts – which the Tories effectively laid the blame for at the EU’s door – allowed for an environment of public resentment to build up around inward migration and the relatively small EU contributions of £8bn per annum; just 1.2% of public expenditure, which doesn’t account for the economic gains that membership affords. This is however, by no means an apology for the EU’s deeply regressive and repressive economic measures it imposed elsewhere. Nigel Farage’s UKIP party, whose sole mission was to exit the EU; effectively capitalised on this burgeoning state of malaise that had gripped the UK, by directing people’s anger and anguish away from the Tory led austerity programme and towards the EU’s policies. Chief among them being one of the central tenets of EU membership, free movement of people; as well as the annual contributions.

The question of immigration was one of the defining talking points in the debates around Brexit; however considering London – whose population, according to the 2011 UK Census has a 37% non British born demographic – voted overwhelmingly in favour of remain, clearly there is a far more fundamental issue at play. Immigration is integral for any country to grow and prosper, as people with different skills and different cultural backgrounds provide new and innovative approaches to a whole host of social and economic situations. That being said, uncontrolled immigration can also have adverse effects on societies, by driving down the cost of labour at the bottom; whilst simultaneously driving up rewards for the top.

Clearly cheap labour is attractive to companies in order to maximise their profit, however a hollowing out of the labour market like this can cause deep inequality, as well as deep resentments towards the foreign migrants. Not only is the cost of labour affected, workers rights can also end up being trampled, as new and enthusiastic migrants take up jobs caring little for the pay and conditions. This has manifested in things like zero-hour contracts and stagnant, unrealistic wages that people can’t afford to live on. When you add the insidious cuts to public pay and services. which have a greater and greater demand thrust upon them, is it any wonder people lash out when given a chance. Clearly this is not sustainable economically, socially or culturally and not just for Britain; but for the countries where talented and skilled people are often forced to leave their homes in search of a better life.

Considering high levels of immigration was not a major bone of contention in London, why then was it such a motivating factor in other parts of the UK? To assess this phenomenon we need to take a trip around Britain and have a brief history lesson. Britain’s political system has historically been built around two main political parties, who have been fundamentally orientated around class. The Tories aka the Conservative Party have historically been a right wing party who look after the interests of the wealthy, corporate sector and landowners. Labour on the other hand are traditionally a left wing party, who look after the interests of the working classes, espouse a more social outlook and who grew out of the trade union movement of the late 19th century. Travelling around Britain today and it is evident class is no longer the defining topic it used to be, instead it is geography. Starting in the late 70’s, deindustrialisation has had dramatic effects on whole regions of the UK; particularly the Midlands and Northern England, where once bastions of heavy industry such as shipbuilding, steelmaking and mining: now are dependent upon the service sector, where work is often unsatisfactory, insecure and low paid.

These regions were once Labour strongholds and people who grew up there came from cultural backgrounds that equipped them for reasonably well paid manual labour, that provided a sense of identity, community and self worth. After Thatcher began the process of deindustrialisation, it was a slippery slope to where these regions are today. Tony Blair’s New Labour government, elected in 1997 saw the traditional ties with the these areas all but severed as he pursued Thatcher’s neo-liberal policies, continuing to slash manufacturing and focusing on a knowledge based economy. What was once sold as economic modernisation – now known as globalisation – has become industrial decay, with nothing of any substance to fill the void.

The North-South divide is important because whereas places such as London have massively diverse economies that can swallow up the effects of low cost labour without it being readily apparent; places like Sunderland are entirely different, with the economy comparatively stagnant; issues like immigration can become easy targets.

Following the betrayal by Labour to their traditional base – enter UKIP stage right. Picking up on the palpable discontent among huge swathes of the British electorate and massaging it to their own ends; immigration became the burning topic with both sides using it inversely to bolster their positions. Leave campaigners used immigration as an easy target to direct their anger at, while remain campaigners refused to acknowledge any issues surrounding uncontrolled immigration and branded anyone who dare mention it a racists and xenophobic.

The vote for Brexit has widely been claimed to be a protest vote, although the protest seems to have largely been misdirected towards the EU, whilst ignoring the glaringly obvious. That being said, I would personally guess that behind all the smoke and mirrors – and of course obvious cases of racism and xenophobia – people deep down and quite unconsciously knew exactly what they were protesting about. Which brings me back to the question “Would the Brexit debate have played out differently had the referendum taken place before the financial crash of 2008?”. I personally don’t think there would have been a debate; certainly not one that would have led to a referendum result like the one on the 23rd of June. None of this is to say the EU as an entity is not deeply dysfunctional and probably needs to be broken up before it can be put back together again; however it would be more than a little disingenuous in this instance to say that all roads to lead to Rome – en route to Brussels.

This neatly brings me round to the more recent developments – the spectacular results of the UK general election. Defying all odds and predictions and surviving a sustained and deeply cynical, full frontal assault by the various wings of the UK media, not to mention a hideously hostile, Blarite filled parliamentary party – Jeremy Corbyn came up trumps. Unlike Donald Trump however, Corbyn is no populist; rather he is simply popular and for good reason. There has already been fierce debate as to how and why Labour managed to make this record smashing turn around. Some people are convinced it can be boiled down to a Remainer revolt; while others point to May’s insipid campaign and lack of clarity. Clearly there is more than a grain of truth to be found in these positions; May really was awful and the remain vote had to find a home somewhere: however these are not what lit the fire in the Momentum train.

One only has to look at the bizarre campaign the Liberal Democrats had to put the anti-Brexit backlash argument to bed. They threw everything they could muster at the despondent Remainer demographic, running a passionate, youth centered campaign and came up with paltry returns. They lost 5 seats, then picked up 8 to give them a grand total of 12, 3 more than what they started with. Nick Clegg, perhaps one of the most passionate Remainers even lost his seat, a seat he had held for 12 years. After the Brexit referendum there was an attempt to polarise the nation along the lines of age. Older voters said to have voted Leave, while younger voters Remain. Considering they hardly showed up to vote, it is hardly a fair appraisal. Contrast that to a historic show of support from the 18-24 year olds, who practically all came out to vote for Corbyn on a Brexit platform and this theory is utterly demolished.

The result in Scotland is possibly even more bizarre, particularly in light of the string of elections they have been through in recent years. They lost a third of their seats, the bulk going to the Tories and surprisingly not to Labour. Clearly the issue of independence has been postponed for at least a generation, if not two. Voted against independence, voted against Brexit; outraged at being dragged out of the EU against their will and widely touted as getting and voting for a 2nd independence referendum. Nope, not the case apparently, not after losing two of their heavy hitters.

Then there is Northern Ireland, perhaps the most ironic of all. Theresa May’s ashen faced failure to secure a majority has led to her having to go begging to the only major party who actually voted in unison for Brexit. The DUP of course hold a double dose of irony for the Tories who clamoured to accuse Corbyn of having ties to Sinn Fein and being an IRA sympathiser. The DUP just so happen to be the flip side of that IRA coin.

Last but not least is the demise of UKIP, whose voters seemed to have developed bi-polar and split down the middle between Labour and the Tories. With strong gains in the North, clearly those left leaning UKIP voters – the crucial swing vote in the Brexit referendum – came back home to where they belong. Why is that?

Perhaps it is because Labour under Jeremy Corbyn went back to its roots, it stood for something. It stood for everyone. What began as an election focused on Brexit, very quickly became an election centred on domestic policy. After years of brutal austerity and a starved public sector, Corbyn’s manifesto is exactly what the doctor ordered. Corbyn’s electoral victory is truly awe inspiring. Imagine if his party had of spent their time wiser, banding around him and giving their full support; rather than fighting with each other over who would stab him in the back next. Imagine if the media hadn’t have spent over a year ridiculing him and had given him a fair platform. I reckon he would be sitting comfortably in No. 10 right now.

I have always felt Brexit was the right decision, but for the wrong reasons. It felt at the time like a missed opportunity to challenge the EU and drag it back from its all consuming trajectory. Just as individuals need strong boundaries to thrive and just as enmeshed codependent relationships are detrimental to people’s well being, it is clearly the same for countries, as the EU’s crisis ridden reality is a testament too. We need less Europe Mr. Verhofstadt, not more. We need healthy separation, not forced codependence. Cooperation will surely follow.

Considering Corbyn’s long held position vis-a-vis the EU and considering how he managed to lead a Brexit campaign that picked up so much support, particularly from the young; all without having to resort to gutter politics or project fear. Perhaps the most interesting question to ask would be:

“Would the Brexit debate have played out differently had Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for Brexit, as he surely would have liked to do; with the vision and inspiration of his general election campaign?”


53 Comments

  1. I live in an area that voted 70% Leave. It’s a northern post-industrial town, left to ‘managed decline’ and beached long ago by the rising tide that floats all boats. We don’t have a a major immigration issue as it’s not somewhere people particularly want to move to. Despite the right-wing press’ rhetoric about Leavers, I’m educated, well-read and not xenophobic, but I voted leave because I wanted to upset the political apple cart and to express my frustration.
    The best and simplest explanation that I have heard for Brexit came from the comedic politics commentator Jonathan Pie on YouTube who said that people simply wanted to be listened to. The 2015 election left people feeling that their votes under FPTP don’t count. Give them something as simple as Brexit/Yes/No and they voted in droves.
    Having said all that David Cameron should be held to account for driving the country over a cliff edge to appease his eurosceptic backbenchers while having no idea whatsoever for dealing with an outcome that he didn’t expect or plan for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Butties says

      “David Cameron should be held to account for driving the country over a cliff edge ”
      What cliff edge would that be?

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      • Putting the EU vote to a referendum, which he then encouraged to become a media circus full of misinformation. He didn’t put Brexit to a national vote for the good of the country, he did it to appease his backbenchers with no real thought that people would actually vote leave. Add to that TM triggering Article 50 before announcing a general election. We’ve had a a couple of prime ministers clearly unable to read the public mood. I voted leave but none of us know what the outcome of Breixt will be.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Butties says

          “None of us know what the outcome of Breixt (sic) will be”

          Well here are some known’s with commentary;

          UK will leave the EU in accordance with the decision of the UK voters.
          UK will repeal the 1972 Act ( see both Labour and Tory manifestos which combined garnered more tha 80% of the popular vote on June 8th)
          UK will transfer into law all EU laws and rules for the time being to ensure legal continuity. Our elected Parliament can revise/improve/reject these laws in future as we see fit.
          So, the UK will not be in the single market or the customs union. If the EU wish to put tariffs on trade we can obtain goods from other countries by negotiating our own tariff arrangements (something we cannot do at the moment in the EU). Current trade deficit with EU is historically;
          2010-£28.5bn
          2011-£21.7bn
          2012-£39.5bn
          2013-£57.4bn
          2014-£61.6bn Source ONS . Would the EU wish to penalise this situation?

          We will take back control of our borders . We will decide who we wish to enter the country.
          Our Parliament will pass laws for the UK, subject to the wishes of the electorate in our democracy. (We will have the power to change totally our Parliament every 5 years or sooner by consensus)
          There is more as I am sure you are aware given there is a White Paper on the issue.

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          • (sic) knowns.
            Right, and everything always goes exactly according to plan does it? I voted Leave, not remain, but seeing as David Davis has fallen at the first hurdle I think all bets are off in terms of any of us knowing the path this will take.

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            • Courage mon brave – if that’s an appropriate exhortation at this time!

              Davis hasn’t fallen at the first hurdle, no matter what the ever-excited MSM reports. All is on course. It won’t be long before we regain both our sovereignty and our national self-esteem which were so carelessly thrown away in the 70s

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              • If we had a cross-party agreement on the talks, or they weren’t in the hands of this government I’d have more faith. It seems at this moment, for them, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king!

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  2. BigBG says

    I see Treason May has been getting all cuddly with Macron to discuss, inter alia, how they can neuter net neutrality to ‘disarm’ extremist terrorism. Not forming a government with the UDF, Red Hand Commandos, or the individual rights and eco-terrorists of the DUP would be a most effective remedy, IMO. Picturing the ‘happy couple’ in the grounds of the Elysee – it didn’t look like an imminent divorce to me! The back door is still open, Theresa… God, how I miss ‘Spitting Image.’

    Brexit means Brexit? Let’s face it, Brexit means whatever you want it to mean, most especially in the hands of Atlanticist, bankster-minded, monopoly Capitalist serving politicians – like these two ‘Fluck and Law’ puppets. It is a French farce of indeterminate outcome. Or is it?

    Of the two, Macron’s plan is the most transparent: soften up the country; emasculate the Unions; and disenfranchise the public – in preparation for turning France into a rentier economy. Then retire from self-serving public office in time to benefit from the transfer of state, municipal, and public assets to the banks. Job done.

    May’s plan, off track and in a siding, is exactly the same. Only more advanced. Our industry, agriculture, fishing (anything that could constitute a real economy)… have long been hollowed out. Our unions are ineffectual and anachronistic. The days when ones labour was a unit of value upon which real economies could (and should still) be built – are long gone. Thanks to the blue rinse Thatcher puppet – we’ve been ‘Flucked’ for quite a while.

    Brexit will come to mean whatever it takes to get the banksters gravy train back on the tracks. Under the cover of darkness, no doubt. That it is a one way track to disenfranchisement and debt peonage for the many requires the current and necessary obfuscation. The voting public are restless: they clamour for change. They make unreasonable demands: like jobs; meaningful employment; financial security; benefits for the sick, disabled and elderly; security of tenure; affordable housing, education, healthcare… Such wanton selfishness is bad for the privatisation of business; and as a trait, should be reserved for the Ruling Elite.

    Brexit was being set up as a Trojan Horse to contain the biggest transfer of Sovereign power, civil liberty, and public wealth since 1215: a reverse Magna Carta – from the people to the Robber Barons. It was, and still may well be, an ‘enabling act’. The Atlanticist European Neoliberal business model may be broken – but the intent is still to extract as much wealth as possible by “rent and usury (taxation, interest)” [Michael Hudson] as they can get away with. Brexit is both the means; and if necessary, the prefabricated chimerical scapegoat – when all goes wrong. Which it almost inevitably will (from a working class perspective.)

    The true mettle of the reinvigorated and recently enfranchised Labour Party, (if it is to remain true to its Socialist roots) will be to prevent this happening – by providing effectual opposition. IMHO, we won’t be able to effect any real change unless we, inter alia, defund and disenfranchise the Banksters, and bring back the original Clause IV nationalisation “to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry”. But that is real Socialism, and way too Left for the majority of the country. For now. Baby steps…

    Watch this space.
    [This is a repost from Thursday. First time for me, but the original didn’t show up. Tory censorship!!?]

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with the restoration of Clause IV but we have gone so far down the route of globalisation that it would require real investigations and morals on the part of big business not only to instigate this at home, but also abroad, when big questions would need to be asked about the labour that provides our cheap goods. But, the General Election result was a resounding baby step in the right direction.

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      • BigBG says

        I’m no disingenuous economist: but Greece is the financialisation model for Europe. From a working class POV, we’re metaphorically already there. According to the TUC, our wages are only just above that of a Greek workers. People are bridging the gap between poverty and a real living wage with cheap credit (or not so cheap credit; like Payday Loans.) If it wasn’t for the financial services – we’d have little or no economy at all. Rent is a bigger sector than Manufacturing. But the financial services rely on the FIRE economy – financialisation, insurance, real estate (to which we can now add car loans) – which are all debt fuelled bubbles [Michael Hudson]. Economists and politicians plan to deficit spend our way out of this: or ignore and obfuscate the inevitable consequence. My question to an honest economist, if such exists, would be: when you are in a bubble, at what point do you stop inflating (the debt)?

        When will the working class realise that our financial future is basically Greek? IMHO, we need to save what we can, BEFORE the coming firesale. Hudson’s maxim is “debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid” – hence defund and re-regulate the Banks. PFI contracts, for instance, need to be rolled up and shoved where the sun don’t shine. Bring back our manufacturing and industrial base (in common ownership if we can.) Labour put together a half decent fiscal stimulus package (even better if it were funded by Sovereign debt free currency – baby steps…) – the Toxic Tories aim only to hasten our demise. When will the sh_t hit the fan? Shortly after March 2019 is my guess… Watch this space… Negotiations start tomorrow!!!

        Liked by 2 people

        • labrebisgalloise says

          You’ve said what I think privately but rarely admit, even to myself. There won’t be money to compensate the capitalists and speculators and if you burst the bubble at the moment, what on earth is there worth saving, we can’t even build a motorcycle or bicycle, let alone a ship or train. The privateers will have to be told: “you treated our economy like a casino: sorry, buster, you gambled and lost, game over.” There will be a collapse in house prices and rents will tumble, just as they should. There will be a run on the pound and drastic measures will have to be taken to stop the outflow of capital (as you say). Tsipras and his mates ran away from making these choices but the Greeks are fucked regardless: someone needs to take a stand somewhere. As La Pasionara said: “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”

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        • The personal debt bubble, I notice, has made the headlines today. It’s a ticking time bomb. All this while the Tories claim the economy has been growing. We need a second GE, bank regulation will never come under the Tories’ watch.

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          • BigB says

            Yep, it’s the fault of the deliberately impoverished, and the relatively impoverished (what used to be known as the Middle Class): that they will continue to live beyond their means. It’s really holding this country back!

            That’s the spin. Whilst there is some truth in that, the fact it is deliberately encouraged is never questioned. No consumers = no consumption = no (new) debt = systemic failure. When the bubbles burst (2000, 2008): simply re-inflate and carry on. The Neoliberal solution to enforced debt impoverishment is enforced debt impoverishment.

            I’m no expert, but everything I’ve read leads me to believe that a future crash – which would be far from inevitable if we took immediate remedial course of action – would result in the more or less permanent impoverishment of the many. QE, TARPs produced a tepid ‘recovery’ (except for the few). Debt relief and debt cancellation are not in the Neoliberal lexicon. Next time?

            Labour proposals at least used debt to invest in infrastructure, industry, SMEs: which is much more socially responsible than creaming off the top and enriching your mates! Another 5 years (heaven forbid!) of Nasty Party rule and we won’t need to go to Greece on holiday – for the working class, we’re already there!

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  3. Great article, thanks Dan Mallon.
    Some great comments also.

    The EU was set up by the CIA & MI6, post WWII, as a bulwark against Communism in the USSR, via the Marshall Plan.
    This was always a Bankster plan.
    The EU has evolved through many stages into what it was always intended to be: a stepping stone to a global govt, along with the UN.

    Nigel Farage correctly identified the anti-democratic & anti nation-state nature of the insidious project in this hilarious 5 minute video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHvTq68_pg
    Who are you Mr President? Nigel Farage asks Von Rompuy

    John Doran.

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  4. “…relatively small EU contributions of £8bn per annum; just 1.2% of public expenditure, which doesn’t account for the economic gains that membership affords…” Yes, and that only matters to bosses and politicians catering to them exclusively. Workers (and other individuals) are not economies. You know something’s not right when this defense of the vibrant economy is discussed at the same time as austerity is acknowledged. The economy’s great! For who though. Is it a minority who experience austerity? I’m not saying the author is making that argument. I’m just riffing off of his comments.

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    • Dan Mallon says

      Sorry Arrby, I can see how my phrasing may have resulted in my point being lost in translation. I was just trying to make the point that austerity can’t be blamed on contributions made to the EU, rather on Tory led policies. I by no means think the British economy is vibrant, it is very repressive and regressive. Much like the EU imposed austerity policies on other European nations.

      There are economic gains from EU membership no matter which way you cut it. But as you said, who are reaping those rewards is more important. The economic gains LARGELY come in the classic Neo-Liberal form of trickle down economics.

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  5. michaelk says

    Something as mind-bogglingly complex as the UK’s role in the European Union, should never have been reduced to a simple-minded question like Brexit, in or out, because, in reality the UK isn’t going to be ‘in’ or ‘out’, what matters is the kind of relationship the UK is going to have with the rest of the European Union. How advantageous, or not, is that economic and political relationship going to be going forward? A vast and historic set of complex and contradictory questions about the future are close to being the very last thing suited to a referendum where so many other factors affect the result, many of them having next to nothing to do with European realities, with interests and parties fighting for temporary political advantage, but with huge longterm consequences for coming generations. At the very least one should have qualified the result by demanding that the result was based on a true majority of the electorate voting for in or out and not just a simple majority on the day. This thing was handled incredibly badly by the ruling elite and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

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  6. John says

    I think there is one other crucial event that has to be taken into account.
    Western influence in the Middle East contributed indirectly to Brexit.
    Britain’s role in destabilising both Libya and Syria triggered situations of havoc, conflict and anarchy.
    This – in turn – led to massive movements of refugees fleeing conflict and persecution.
    The anarchy of Libya allowed massive numbers of refugees and pseudo-refugees to travel to Europe.
    Add to all this Merkel’s “Open Door to Europe” policy and Brits were appalled at the prospect of more migrants.
    Viewing large numbers of uncontrolled and largely unchecked migrants clearly had an impact on the Brexit.
    It seems the Germans have even shorter memories than the Brits so Merkel may well weather her storm.
    However, her policies on migration have helped to sweep aside a number of political actors, now May too?

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    • Dan Mallon says

      Hi John, completely agree with you, the fallout of geo-political shenanigans was definitely a huge contributing factor. I intended on incorporating it into my piece, but very quickly realised it is an essay in itself. I really just wanted to focus on the underlying and fundamental motivating factor for the average voter in Britain.

      While it absolutely had an effect on the vote, it was also quite polarising and I don’t feel it was the defining force that brought the Brexit vote home; rather it was a surface level layer to the equation. I don’t mean for that to sound like a dilution of how serious the situation is, or is perceived to be.

      The irony of May and the Tories in general, is to rail against immigration and close down the borders while simultaneously providing military equipment to the Saudi’s, as well as diplomatic support and military advice; all the while following a hawkish American Neo-Con foreign policy in the MENA region. This isn’t a solution to anything other then their geo-political objectives and is quite clearly the root cause of the migration crisis and all it’s residual knock on effects.

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    • Dan Mallon says

      A Corbyn led Government would certainly attempt to change the UK’s foreign policy. I wonder how successful he would be, it would be a very interesting time in British politics!

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  7. Frank says

    What is often missed in discussions of the EU is the fact that it is not simply a neo-liberal economic configuration, but that it is also a geopolitical project. The EU is the flip side of NATO. There is no longer a European project, there is a North Atlantic project under US command. European foreign policy is controlled by the US through the NATO occupation of Europe. It wasn’t always thus; as late as 2003 both France and Germany opposed the Anglo-American war in Iraq. However, since that time, the Euro-Quisling/Petainist faction have gained control starting with Sarkozy in France and Merkel in Germany.

    The inclusion of the Eastern states, particularly Poland and the Baltics, was the key to this process. Euro-deepening was pushed off the agenda by Euro-widening. The Ukrainian crisis was pivotal in this series of events, the EU becoming little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic security alliance.

    ”The destructive Russophobia of the ‘new Europe’ (i.e., the Eastern European states) undermined the credibility and cohence of the EU as a whole. It had been anticipated that the ‘new’ members would be ‘socialized’ in the ways of the EU, but instead, the EU was in danger of reverse socialization – incorporating the dynamics and virulent neo-liberal free-marketism of some of the newer members by their prioritization of Atlantic security over EU social solidarity.” (Frontline Ukraine – Richard Sakwa)

    Thus we not only got a neo-liberal Europe, we also got a neo-conservative foreign policy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Mallon says

      Wholly agree with you Frank! I resisted straying down the path of geo-politics in this piece because, as you said it is not often discussed and is not part of the mainstream dialogue.

      Neo-Liberal economic policies and Neo-Conservative foreign policies are truly the vice grip of doom!

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      • Butties says

        Why do you think it is “not often discussed” Dan? In fact I have hardly come across ANY discussion on this issue in the MSM, where the whole issue seems to revolve around Money. I voted leave when it became apparent that the european elite decided that Europes border was Afganistan! Have you posted anywhere about the EU complicity in encircling Russia and siting weapons on their border?

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        • Dan Mallon says

          Butties my intention behind this essay was to highlight what I believe to have been the underlying, fundamental motivation for people voting for Brexit; that being economics. Not an appraisal of how the MSM framed the debate.

          Amongst that constituent there was naturally a whole raft of individual, personal reasons; much like your own vis-a-vis Europe’s borders.

          As for geo-politics, it is not often discussed; certainly not in any honest fashion by the MSM. It is also a deeply complex, conflicted and contradicted topic, that is generally out of grasp to the layman voter. Which is why I didn’t deal with it in this piece.

          Successive British governments were part of that European Elite and were actually the driving force in expanding the EU to incorporate E. European countries. The first link I included, by Jan-Werner Muller discusses this in detail.

          Not quite sure what Russia’s borders have to do with this? Britain in or out of the EU will still dogmatically follow the Washington line, unless there is a massive paradigm shift in terms of foreign policy; not very likely to my mind.

          Perhaps you think I am trying to defend the EU, which I can assure you I am not. Rather I am pointing out the irony in the simplistic view of: Britain good, EU bad. When it boils down to economics and foreign policy, is there a difference? If and when the UK successfully becomes wholly independent, will there be a difference?

          Not on its current trajectory.

          Like

          • John says

            You need to listen to people more.
            Rather like Trump in the US, in the UK there were parts of the country which had been left behind after not just a decline in traditional industries but an absolute elimination of jobs in coal, iron, and clay extraction, with steel production, manufacturing and shipbuilding all dwindling to the point of non-existence.
            Successive governments were perceived as having done nothing about the decline in traditional industrial areas.
            An example of this was the decline in the UK fishing industry, perceived as due to the Common Fisheries Policy.
            The referendum provided an opportunity to both poke the liberal intelligentsia establishment one in the eye and it also appealed to a sense of re-gaining freedom over our own affairs, something that had become impossible due to the sharing of national sovereignty with 27 other EU member-states.
            Different politicians have twisted these developments to suit themselves but the basic resentment towards the traditional UK power elite for their failure to preserve local economies – coupled with undermining local communities – and an innate desire to be free is what explains the outcome of the Brexit referendum – not some of the highfalutin geo-political nonsense being spouted here.
            What part of “We want our country back” don’t you get?

            Like

            • Dan Mallon says

              Was this directed at me?

              If so I am wondering if you have read my piece or if you have listened to me.

              It sounds like we are saying the same thing.

              Like

    • Seamus Padraig says

      Your point about the relationship between the EU and NATO is 100% correct, and it should be shouted from the mountaintops! The EU is just the political and financial arm of NATO. All of Europe, just like all of N. America (and increasingly all of the ‘Five Ayes’ too) is now under the control of the same big banks and oligarchs. The one doesn’t check the other; rather, they all collude together.

      But blaming E. Europe for all the Russophobia is a mistake on two counts:

      1.) Not all of the E. European countries are, in fact, Russophobic. The Czech Republic is not; nor is Slovakia. And Hungary, under Orbán, has been downright solicitous of Russia. Your accusation does hold water when it comes to Poland and Romania, however …

      2.) Neither Poland nor Romania could get away with such foolishness without support and encouragement from the west. I mean, they certainly aren’t in a position to go to war with Russia on their own, now are they!

      No, the real, driving power behind all the Russophobia in the EU is Washington and Berlin. Washington has long had designs on Eurasia (remember Paul Wolfowitz’s famous document?), and Berlin doesn’t want the other EU members–especially those in the East–doing any business with Russia (hence the sanctions). And notice how Germany is trying to route all of Russia’s oil and natgass pipelines through their own country! Merkel wants Germany to continue to be the proverbial ‘big fish in a small pond,’ no matter how much damage this may inflict on the other EU members.

      Like

      • John says

        Is this the same Paul Wolfowitz who stated to West Point graduates that a “Pearl Harbor moment” was needed prior to the 9/11 attacks?
        It seems we are all still living with the insanity of these people, even now and today.

        Like

        • Seamus Padraig says

          Not Wolfowitz directly, no. The infamous Pearl Harbor statement originally came from a white paper published by the neocon stink-tank PNAC, of which Wolfowitz was a member, called Rebuilding America’s Defenses. It his possible that he may have used the phrase at some point himself, though.

          Like

    • That seems to be pretty much the case. It’s good that all those factors are looked at this way because it’s unrealistic to look at each in isolation, as though they don’t interact.

      Like

  8. Carnyx says

    The article misunderstands the situation in Scotland. Firstly the SNP got their second best result ever and won 60% of Scotland’s seats, Indyref 2 isn’t off the cards, instead it might become more pressing since the SNP can no longer sit back and wait, they might lose the pro-Indy majority in Holyrood, so if they are going to have one they’ll have to do it before the next Scottish election. Also the intent of having a second Indyref once the Brexit deal is known has already been passed in Holyrood. SNP support isn’t exactly the same as support for independence either, polls consistently show independence is more popular than the SNP and the balance is roughly 50/50 and remains so, big hitters or not.

    The SNP’s losses are mostly due to Unionists tactically voting Tory in relevant wealthy rural parts, and Slab in central Scotland. North east coast fishing communities also have hopes for Brexit reviving their industry and thus oppose the SNP’s pro-EU stance, whereas previously they may have supported the SNP as being able to get a better deal for Scottish fishing than Westminster. A Corbyn bounce and terrible weather on the day also played parts in the result, turnout dropped in Scotland while it rose in England. Just to illustrate the extent of Unionist tactical voting in North East Scotland, in Gordon, Salmond’s seat, the Libdems lost 14 000 votes since coming second in 2015, and the Tories gained 16 000.

    Scotland historically identifies more with continental Europe than England, the Union of 1707 was partly motivated by the fear England could cut Scotland off from it’s European trade partners and allies at will. Further it was the EU that forced the UK to devolve power to Scotland, as such Brussels has acted at times as a counter balance to Westminster centralisation and Thatcherism in particular. The old Scottish aspiration to be closer to Europe and the hope Brussels serves to balance out Westminster played a part in Scotland’s pro-EU Brexit vote.

    Like

  9. Hogwash ! BREXIT is really very simple as the trade deficit is €100bn per year so EU dies on its feet without UK buying their goods. Straight WTO rules with say an average duty of 4% windfalls €4bn per year to the UK. The rest is just bla bla while EU hides its blind panic at having lost one of it’s top 2 contributors !

    Sadly expect to see more journalists try to carve out a living spinning over the corpse on about the death of the EU or UK? Conversely going back to the EEC saves the day.

    Victoria Nuland nailed it !

    Like

  10. Seamus Padraig says

    Immigration is integral for any country to grow and prosper, as people with different skills and different cultural backgrounds provide new and innovative approaches to a whole host of social and economic situations.

    If this is true, then how should we explain the European Renaissance, Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution? Were there massive waves of immigration into Europe before each of those “innovative” eras? How did Westerners ever manage to come up with new ideas before immigration?

    Overall, this was a great article. I’m just offering up a minor cavil here.

    Like

    • Dan Mallon says

      Hi Seamus, good question. The renaissance is a good example of the benefits of immigration, as it only came about thanks to people – such as the Byzantine Greeks fleeing from the Ottoman Empire – who brought with them translated copies of the old classical Greek texts. These philosophical writing, by the likes of Aristotle, Plato et al. had been burnt in Europe during the Dark Ages, thankfully many of them had been translated into languages such as Arabic and were preserved far away from the Catholic Church.

      Immigration is integral, not massive waves of it. The massive waves we are seeing today are as a result of famine, war and disease; which is a mainly Western born crisis.

      Like

      • Jen says

        Immigration of French Huguenots, other Protestants and Jewish people fleeing Catholic persecution elsewhere in Europe into Britain, the Netherlands and the Spanish Netherlands (later to become Belgium) during the 17th century brought textile-making skills and commercial knowledge and experience that laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution to occur early in those countries. The Industrial Revolution would arrive much later in the Catholic countries that those migrants fled.

        But the discussion does raise a good question about the nature of the massive e of immigration of refugees currently coming into Europe: when so many refugees appear to be men of military draft age, you start to wonder if this immigration is a deliberate strategy aimed at weakening Europe or Europeans and who would be behind such a strategy.

        Like

  11. Seamus Padraig says

    There has already been fierce debate as to how and why Labour managed to make this record smashing turn around. Some people are convinced it can be boiled down to a Remainer revolt; while others point to May’s insipid campaign and lack of clarity. Clearly there is more than a grain of truth to be found in these positions; May really was awful and the remain vote had to find a home somewhere: however these are not what lit the fire in the Momentum train.

    I agree. Now let me see if I can come up with a better explanation for the strange results of recent British elections: if exit polling from the Brexit Referendum is correct, nearly a third of regular Labour voters opted to leave the EU. If that is so, then it is quite possible that a significant number of them might have held their noses and voted Tory back in 2015 for the sole purpose of getting that Brexit Referendum in the first place. Once they did–and once they got their Brexit too–they returned to the Labour fold and voted for Corbyn. (Although Corbyn was officially in favor of the EU during the 2016 referendum campaign, back in the 80s, he was an EU-skeptic, and his lackluster campaigning for Remain gave many people the impression that he was secretly an EU-skeptic still.)

    With strong gains in the North, clearly those left leaning UKIP voters – the crucial swing vote in the Brexit referendum – came back home to where they belong.

    Perhaps Mr Mallon agrees with me?

    Like

    • Dan Mallon says

      Would Owen Smith or Angela Eagle have brought those voters back into the fold? Would they have fired up the youth to come out in historic numbers?

      Like

  12. An Excellent Analysis for a very Big Subject. Neo-Liberalism and its rejection is I think at the heart of it though.
    Neo Liberalism is Polarising .
    “Neoliberal democracy. Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless.

    In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet, and will be for the foreseeable future.”

    ― Noam Chomsky

    “This is the permanent tension that lies at the heart of a capitalist democracy and is exacerbated in times of crisis. In order to ensure the survival of the richest, it is democracy that has to be heavily regulated rather than capitalism.”
    ― Tariq Ali, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad
    tags: anti-democratic-thought, capitalism, democracy, deregulation, economics, financial-regulation, late-2000s-financial-crisis, late-2000s-recession, leftism, neoliberalism
    “Technology is a means, not an end, no matter how brilliant it appears. How we use digital technology, exploit it and benefit from it depends on old-fashioned political concepts of how we treat each other: how we approach class, race, gender and war and peace. Nothing has changed in that regard. At present, we are ruled by an extreme version of capitalism called ‘neoliberalism’. Technology in the service of any extremism has a catastrophic history.”
    ― JohnPilger
    tags: automation, class, neoliberal, neoliberalism, peace, race, technology, unemployment, war

    False Dilemmas: A Critical Guide to the Euro Zone Crisis | Corporate Watch
    corporatewatch.org
    There are two Brexits on the table Now, Jeremy Corbyn/ Labour Manifesto Brexit which is of the Social Democracy Sort or the Neo-Liberal Sort. The EU is decidedly Neo-Liberal Still, much of the Labour Manifesto would fall foul of EU competition laws.
    The Key to Brexit and for ditching the neo-liberal Voodoo Economics is, of course, the `Magic Money Tree” neo-liberal thought is of course that the Magic Money Tree should be in private hands for private profit, essentially the ECB delivers this and institutionalises Mr Schaubels Austerity.

    Any media from the Brexit campaign especially in the mainstream was deeply flawed. Low information propaganda, such as this from last year just reinforces the point. I have been doing some analöysis of all of the television debates, I am about half way through that exercise.Here is
    A Blog,
    http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/02/article-50-globalisation-and-real-seat.html
    A report
    https://corporatewatch.org/news/2015/jan/23/false-dilemmas-critical-guide-euro-zone-crisis
    And a Movie,

    The Nub Of the election Boiled down to two distinct Issues, Austerity and the race to the bottom and the realisation we are not in that particular Car crash together.
    http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/05/the-nub-of-election-2017-social.html

    And the Difference between Mr Corbyns message of Hope and Free Will, we can create a better life in the Here and now and Good Works Matter ( Parmenides) and Rejection of Mays Determinism and top down elitist ( Hereclitian World View with A sort of Calvinist Pre-Destination.
    http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/06/uk-general-election-2017-top-of-bill.html

    The EU is unappoligeticallly Neo-Liberal and The 2017 Labour Manifesto would simply be illegal in large part under EU competition rules. Here’s a Series of Very detailed posts on Brexit and Article 50 The ECB, The Magic Money Tree and All. The Tories lost this Election at an Intellectual as well as Popular level, as well as just about every level you can imagine a Freind described it thus,

    http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/02/their-lordships-on-article-50bring-then.html

    http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/02/article-50-globalisation-and-real-seat.html

    http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/02/austerity-enlargement-and-monetary.html

    Football is our national game and lots of people are passionate about it.So I’ll use those terms I’ve seen a lot of people who are confused about people being up on a Labour loss.
    Labour have not had a good showing in elections for years, so this election where it was very close,(3%, closer than Brexit) is akin to a 3rd division side getting promotion and getting to the cup final and putting a scare into say Chelsea or Man Utd. Not a win but a fantastic result.Everyone cheering on the team and the manager. what a great job.
    On the other hand the Conservatives did very badly. Imagine being top of the league, in the cup, looking to have strong showing in Europe and then mid-season, the manager changes tactics, the team has a string of defeats, out of the cup, out of Europe and in danger of relegation, now reliant on other teams to stay up. If that was your team, as supporters, you would be furious, rightfully so and calling for the manager’s sacking and immediate replacement.
    So, that being said, where are all the furious Tory voters baying for the sacking of the PM?
    One Last Thing Compare the 1945 Labour Manifesto to the 2017 One, Here ist is in this Blog.

    http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/06/off-form-players-claiming-star-strikers.html

    . They have become very lazy and the TINA “Becuase Markets” Mantra no longer works.http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/05/the-sunday-bloggers-digest-of-blogs.html

    Like

    • Dan Mallon says

      Thanks for the detailed comment Roger! Will definitely dig into some of those links you included. 🙂

      Like

      • Thank You, Dan, I am very bad at concision and often people find it a little off-putting, so it’s nice to know that others share similar tastes to my own. I think the Article is excellent and opened up the Many-Sidedness to this question.

        Like

      • By the way, I got my Parmenides and Heraclitus’s arse about face in the comment. It’s a David Graeber Idea from back in 2005 in the Commoner when he was analysing John Kerry Losing to Bush the Second.

        Like

  13. rtj1211 says

    This ridiculously flawed analysis refuses to cost immigration when noone leaves.

    Costs:
    social housing for immigrant plus family (often large) – rent, utilities plus capital building programmes to increase housing stock due to population increase;
    NHS costs for children(vaccinations etc) and pregnant wives (ante-natal, birth and post natal);
    Schooling costs, including infrastructure uprades to expand school sizes;
    Upgrades to transport infrastructure due to population increases;
    Translation services, where needed plus language lesson provision;
    Cost of keeping Uk citizen unemployed by hiring foreigner.

    Let us say they earn £30,000 a year, so they pay at most £8000 a year in all taxes. That is being generous, many earn much less.

    Are you seriously suggesting that £8000 cover the long list of costs above?

    You are off your rocker if so…..what is going on is subsidising bad employers, especially in London, by a debt-ridden state…..

    Like

  14. There has indeed been a steady stream of diagnoses and theories as to why the referendum result fell the way it did. But for what purpose? No one can ever say what the reasons, or even the main reasons, were , it’s all idle speculation. The important thing was the result, Trying forlornly to enunciate the reasons for it is only of interest to those who hope to rig a “soft exit” from the EU that will pretend to address those totally imaginary reasons. May needs to stick to her “Bexit means Brexit” mantra, but her actions – and David Davis’s recent pronouncement – seem to suggest that Brexit might mean something else. I hope not.

    If there were to be a referendum on, say, capital punishment that resulted in a 52:48 vote in favour, would abolitionists successfully argue that people voted for its reintroduction because they “wrongly thought” it was a deterrence to murder, and thus some lesser physical assault or none at all would be more appropriate? Hardly – capital punishment would have to be introduced, no matter that plenty of very respectable, intelligent and moral people were against it (rightly in my view – I hasten to add).

    Roll on 2019.

    Like

  15. labrebisgalloise says

    This is a great piece Kit. I supported Brexit precisely because I thought it would lead us roughly where we are now, a place Mao-Tse-Tung might have felt quite at home with. The referendum result was a sure fire path to getting the elephant out of the room (UKIP) and opening up opportunities for Labour and, despite what trendy liberals like to think, was more a victory for basic class consciousness than crude racism and xenophobia. What I didn’t predict on the one side was that May would prevail over Boris (and then end up being even more feeble) and, on the other, the sheer scale of the rebellion against Corbyn, without which he might now already be Prime Minister. The Tories are a busted flush and it is only a matter of time before, bleeding all over, they retire from the fray to lick their wounds and regroup. Neither Boris nor May were convinced/convincing regarding their positions on Brexit, Boris being the more opportunistic of the two. The British electorate were always going to punish people who blatantly used both the referendum and the election to advance their personal political ambitions. On the Labour side and with not a little help from May and Crosby, Corbyn has seen off his enemies on the right of the party – but they are still there in substantial numbers and it won’t be long before they start plotting again. If, as no doubt most rational people hope, the next election is just around the corner then the British people will have an ideal opportunity to bury austerity and neoliberalism, in whatever guise/political shade it rears its ugly head, for posterity.

    Like

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