In 2016, Brexit fractured the nation, even more so than the Beatles/Rolling Stones debate in the 60’s. If you voted leave you are often considered a racist, while voting remain could result in an accusation of being a pawn of the elite. Although the powers of neoliberalism may not have cooked this up purposefully, I suspect they will not be too perturbed with the outcome. I’m not referring to the result, I’m eluding to the deep ruptures within UK society. There are sizeable divisions already carved across political party lines, economic disparities, geographical variations, racial differences, gender issues, religious affiliations and now Brexit. Each side of the Brexit fiasco attempts to grasp the moral high ground, while pretending they are the enlightened ones. I propose that neither side have got it right for this simple reason; neoliberals control the EU, whilst a neoliberal regime runs the UK under the Tories. Until the leading political orthodoxy is usurped nothing dramatic will ever occur.,
One of the first criticisms levelled at the EU is, it is undemocratic. It is indeed true that the Commission President and the individual commissioners are not directly elected by the people of Europe. It is equally accurate that under the provisions of the EU treaty, the commission can only propose laws in areas where the UK government has allowed it to do so. So maybe it is not as undemocratic as it first appears. What is worrying, however, is that the EU has a strong commitment to neoliberalism, on a systemic level. Meaning laws are designed to encourage private enterprise.
As a result of this, there has been a huge transfer of ownership of industry from governments to corporations and ultimately out of the UK. Neoliberal policies dominate the; European Commission, European Parliament, European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice. The EU constitution actually enshrines neoliberal economics into it, making it impossible to be socialist or democratic. The EU has always promoted ‘free trade’, ‘free’ movement of capital, business austerity, flexible labour markets, low pay, privatisation of public services and the eradication of welfare states.
One of the most glaring examples of the EU’s economic control is Greece. Greece’s issues were triggered by the global financial crisis of 2008. However, in 2009 the government confessed that they had been telling ‘porkies’ regarding their financial situation, this raised some ‘red flags’ in relation to Greece’s economic situation. By 2010 Greece was shut out of borrowing in the financial markets and was hurtling towards bankruptcy. To prevent this potential calamity the; International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission (later known as the Troika) issued two bailouts amounting to €240 billion.
This rescue package unsurprisingly came with strict conditions. Firstly the lenders enforced harsh austerity terms, comprising of deep budget cuts and large tax increases. These tax increases weren’t aimed at the rich particularly, in fact they primarily affected those in need. This type of ‘economic package’ from the likes of the IMF and the World Bank, was a classic ‘disaster capitalism’ tactic, as highlighted in Naomi Klein’s book ‘The Shock Doctrine’. Rather than the bailout money being utilised to stabilise the nations finances, it was actually used to pay off its international loans.
In a paper written in 2016, by the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, it was revealed that only 5% went to the Greek fiscal budget, while the other 95% was directed towards saving European banks and its creditors. Similar versions of this neoliberal charade have played out all other the world, from Chile to Russia. This one just so happened to use mechanisms of the EU as well as the IMF. In Greece’s case, there was an inept government, slow to respond to the crisis; private initiatives rushing in to fill the gaps; local officials seizing the chance to push forward pet schemes and a population too bewildered to do anything about it.
But austerity is not unique to the EU. As we know, this already exists and has been enforced in the UK by the Tory party for 8 years. It is probable that the Tories will use Brexit as another opportunity to push further legislative changes, particularly in the area of human rights. Although the UK are tied to the European Convention Human Rights until 2022. Obviously, Brexit will end free movement of labour and a seat at the EU negotiating table will also be conceded. I suggest the Tories, however, will see this as a way to construct a brave new world in their image. In particular, removing regulations that may be a burden on business, such as those relating to climate change directives.
So can I make a case for Europe as a Socialist? Lets give it a try, these suggestions to remain came from an Independent article.
- It gives citizens of the EU the freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe. Which is great if you have the social and economic freedom to do this, which many ordinary folk do not.
- It sustains millions of jobs. In 2001 it was reported that 3.1 million jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU. This is brilliant, but in my old stomping ground, in the north of England where 10 of the 12 most declining cities are, it’s unlikely to be much comfort for people in industrial areas such as the North East, Yorkshire, North West and the Midlands. The working class have witnessed industries such as; car manufacturing, coal mining, ship building and the steel industry disappear with nothing substantial to replace them. These skills are lost forever, often to cheaper oversees contractors.
- Your holiday is much easier and safer. Awesome, if indeed you have the cash to travel abroad on your zero hour contract ‘bullshit’ job.
- Your less likely to get ripped off. Being a member of the EU affords equal consumer rights while shopping abroad. Again I feel this only appeals to a certain section of the population who actually have the funds to travel abroad.
- It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber crime. This is through the sharing of information. To be fair it’s difficult to find a fault with this one.
- Our businesses rely on the EU. The Confederation of British Influence estimates that the EU membership adds 4-5% of GDP to the UK. This is all fine and dandy, but there are some issues; this supposedly good news hasn’t really been witnessed in pay packets across the country, real wages are still less than they were 10 years ago.
- We have a greater influence. It’s considered that being apart of the EU would be the only way to be relevant on the international stage. But, for someone is who is flipping burgers in Wigan, with no further job prospects, I’m not sure the UK being important economically, militarily or diplomatically on the world stage would feel of much use to them.
So did I state a solid case for EU, probably not. It was admittedly hard to find much to be positive about. Now, I’ll try the same sort of thing with a few articles that are pro Brexit.
- Top of the list is immigration. We could decide who comes into the country. In a study by the London School of Economics, it is surmised that immigration could rise in the short-term. This is thought to be due to migrants visiting before the rules change. The second reason is family reunification. Article 8 of ECHR provides the right of individual persons to have a family life. Remember the UK have committed to the ECHR until 2022. Another point of contention is, the porous Irish border may well be used as a back door. Finally a points based system doesn’t necessarily restrict entry, rather that it is a means of selection.
- We could make our own laws again. A Telegraph article proposed that 65% of laws are from the EU. There is no definitive consensus for this, but it is thought that 13% to 65% of laws are made by the EU, suggesting that somewhere in middle is more likely. So technically yes you could make your own laws, but it doesn’t stop them being crap laws.
- We could set our own tax rates. This is primarily referring to VAT and to lowering it. The EU does not permit lowering VAT on goods and services below 15%. Although, as VAT is currently 20%, the government could essentially lower VAT by 5% now. As a Tory government tends to push regressive taxes like VAT more than constructing and enforcing a progressive tax such as a well thought out income tax, this point is pretty much irrelevant.
- Next on the list, are what can only be described as, 1970’s inspired regressive actions as suggested by the authors of the article. Firstly you could dispose of your fridge, by throwing it in landfill. Awesome! The article suggests the UK could get rid of windfarms. Pump up the CO2! Also it’s proposes no more pesky recycling bins. I guess you could just throw all your rubbish into next doors garden, like the good old days. We could also return to blackout inducing, non energy conserving light bulbs. While we’re at it, how about if we went back in time, good old ‘jumpers for goalpost’, while sending your kids to work down the pit at the age of 7.
- Finally, it wouldn’t be Brexit without the mention of blue passports. I always thought they were black anyway. You could soon have your own UK passport lane. Queuing up with other pissed up Brits singing “here we go” on their way back from places like Megaruff (Magaluf). Oh the joy!
So there was a very brief summary of both sides. I hasten to add equally shit (in differing ways of course) and each one as capitalistic as the other. The conclusion is there is no real chance of any discernible changes, unless of course Jeremy Corbyn bulldozes his way through the doors of number 10 some time soon. Sadly, I suspect the ruling elite and the media will already be plotting to defend against this eventuality. So who are the folks who voted to leave and who makes up the group who are insisting (in vain) for a second referendum? Firstly geography, every area (or country) apart from Northern Ireland, Scotland and London voted to leave. One of the most dramatic splits, however, according to YouGov was seen along educational lines, 70% of voters who’s highest academic attainment was a GCSE (or equivalent) voted to leave. While 68% of voters with university degrees voted to remain in the EU.
This as far as I’m concerned, is the closest we get to a class split, purely because you have less chance of going to university, if you are from an economically depressed area and if you attended a crap school. Plus if your siblings, friends or parents didn’t attend university, again you are less likely to go. This group are also more than likely to be from areas that have seen higher than average unemployment and a mass depletion of once prominent industries. It isn’t surprising that many were inclined to vote leave, change can be exciting and offers hope when you have little to lose.
Does this lack of education give the Remain crew some sort of moral high-ground, because they are presumably more educated? Absolutely not, people have different needs, life experiences and priorities. Also education and intelligence manifests in a plethora of ways. It doesn’t miraculously materialise in the lecture halls of universities. People learn from countless different sources. For many decades only a lucky few ever attended university, but the voices of non-attendees were still considered valuable.
For the many Remainers with a university education, their degree will see on average a greater earnings potential than someone without, especially when this is projected out over a lifetime. Many will be more economically secure, therefore, voting for the EU status quo which supports social justice, while providing the freedom and ease at which to roam Europe would make total sense. The small matter of a neoliberal juggernaut in Brussels is unlikely to bother them, as this largely middle class section of society have generally done reasonably well from the EU. So long as they can get their cheap skiing holidays to Courchevel, I suspect everything will be rosy.
Another split during the 2016 vote was age, 71% of under 25’s voted remain, while 64% of over 65’s voted leave. The accusations from under 25’s has been that the ‘baby boomer’ generation stole their future. Sadly for them it’s called democracy and if only 36% of their age group could be bothered to turn up, they as a whole have only themselves to blame. To resolve this issue the Independent suggested that maybe 16-17 year olds should vote, curiously it was estimated that 82% would have voted remain. While a piece in Time magazine, postulated that older people should not vote, as they make poor choices. Fair enough, how about we keep changing the rules until your team wins, because that doesn’t sound at all entitled does it? This seems to be a common theme regarding ‘Remain Voters’, there is a distinct air of “I know best”, snobbery and entitlement.
Did all racists vote leave? I would imagine so. Are all leave voters racist? Absolutely not. An interesting point states, only 34% of leave voters, cited immigration as their main reason for voting leave. However, if you listen to remainers you would swear that there is a Tommy Robinson in every leave voter just waiting to burst out. But understandably, after 10 years of austerity and nearly 40 years of de-industrialisation people were losing hope that things would change for the better. These areas are now homes to warehouse and distribution work, payday loan companies and slum land-lording. They are ripe for exploitation, land is cheap and so is the labour.
The working class have had to worry about universal credit, a chaotic NHS, social cleansing and scarce housing. On the other hand the middle class have emerged from 2008/9 relatively unscathed and simply cannot grasp why people would want to leave the EU. Remainers have not relented; often suggesting that those who voted Brexit were too stupid, poorly informed or just plain gullible, thus falling for the leave narrative. While in contrast Remaniacs are the enlightened ones.
It needs to be made crystal clear that the Remain clan isn’t just made up of the middle classes. It also consists of large chunks of the establishment; many politicians, corporate CEO’s, economists, scientists and the media largely led by outlets such as the Guardian. Tony Blair has obviously poked his nose in, to be fair many of the people who are staunch Remain supporters are former Blairites. Blair is unsurprisingly calling for a second referendum, he’s also stated that people who voted leave are living in denial and don’t recognise what will happen.
In effect, what the liberal elite are saying is their political views are worth much more and therefore, should carry a greater weight than others. What Blair doesn’t understand and never has, is the working class people. For them, things haven’t gone so well for quite some time, partly due to his policies. So I get a sense that they really feel they have nothing to lose. It’s less of a case of not understanding the importance of the decision to leave and more, not giving a shit about what a load of rich Oxbridge graduates think anymore.
On the 20th of October, the self proclaimed ‘peoples march’ took to the streets of London, which is about as Eurocentric a place as there is. To be fair 670,000 people turned up, but what astonishing arrogance to call a movement ‘peoples’ when the majority of the people didn’t vote for their side. Remainers when campaigning like this, often remind me of Richard Burton’s character in 1984, asking Winston how fingers is he holding up. This clan dressed in blue and yellow, taking part in placard competitions, displaying an array of witticisms couldn’t have been any more middle class if they tried. But I’m sure this approach won over the hearts and minds of working class people all over the UK.
You could read this drivel and decide due to my derision of Remainers that I’m pro-leave and you’d be wrong. Like I intimated at the start I think the whole sorry saga is a lose-lose. But, I do have much more empathy towards the majority of leave voters and no, not the leave voters who were voting for Brexit to apparently keep out ‘Muslims’. I’m referring to the people who were crapped on by Thatcher, gained little from Blair’s middle class crusade and then were further dumped on by 10 years of austerity.
This group, if they have jobs, often make up the working poor, slaving away for people like Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame. These workers have been penalised for massive crimes such as going to the loo, while the GMB Union confirms this, claiming staff are treated like robots. It’s also suggested that 600 ambulance’s have been called to Amazon warehouses in 3 years. But hey ho, who cares as long as a middle class Remainers gets their copy of ‘Jamie cooks Italy’ by Christmas.
Will Brexit help the people who voted for it? Probably not and certainly not while the Tories are in power. I expect more of the same pain. I’m afraid, post Brexit could be accompanied by an erosion of human rights over a period of time. I suspect trade will take a hit too, as most experts seem to predict. It’s clear to me that things will not change for the better until we move away from neoliberalism and hopefully Uncle Jeremy can be elected as Prime Minister. One word of warning though, unless we win back the working class and fight under one unified idea, which should be the reduction of obscene economic inequality, Corbyn and the left will not stand a chance. Until the middle classes the likes of whom we see in blue and yellow, start communicating properly with people outside of London, rather than condescendingly lecturing them with tweets and posted Guardian articles, discernible change will never materialise.