Mar 04 2019

WHAT VOTING LEAVE HAS REVEALED

Category: How they are organised,The EURCN @ 2:41 pm

Murdo Ritchie, a contributor to this blog, who has been an advocate of a Leave vote, argues what a Leave vote represents.

 

WHAT VOTING HAS REVEALED

Blue – Leave
Yellow – Remain

 

The loud vote of no more in the United Kingdom against remaining in the European Union has been one of the most successful protest votes in history.1  Unlike the previous referendum on Europe in 1975 voters were not asked to vote Yes or No, but to Remain or Leave.  This turned the poll into a vote of affirmation for the EU institutions and Prime Minister David Cameron’s strategy or rejection for a multitude of different reasons.  Never have the class and national divisions that make the UK been made so visible. The UK’s semi-detached approach to the EU may have never undergone the depth of crisis that Greece, Ireland or Portugal experienced or the flights of population that many countries in the south and east still undergo, but many voters unexpectedly unleashed an angry statement they were not prepared to continue living with the rotten status quo.  It was a protest without a coherent plan, but a protest nonetheless.  This crisis would not have occurred if the Remain vote had won.

The enormous tensions within the UK’s ruling elite reveals one of the main reasons the bourgeoisie has never been able to create a republican consciousness for itself or an “imagined community” across a larger class base to erect a British nationalist culture.   Some have tried to argue that the referendum only came about because of an internal dispute within the elite, principally the Tory party. Nevertheless, even if the large turnout of seventeen million voting to Leave is assumed to say nothing, an elite quarrel has freed the enormous anger and widespread alienation that has been ignored about life across the UK.  Prime Minister Theresa May, despite her ongoing actions to the contrary, has been forced to proclaim that austerity is over.  Many will hear this as yet another lie and deception that is at the root of the simmering anger.

London was the only electoral area of England to vote to remain, the other eight voting strongly to leave.  The vote in Scotland was in many ways a continuation of the earlier independence referendum reflecting the hegemony of the Scottish National Party.  It was also an rejection of the centralising London/ South East hegemony of the UK. Northern Ireland also sought to break with the centralising power but by using the newly acquired economic weight of the southern republic and the EU.  By every possible interpretation, this was a rejection of the status quo ante and definitely not an affirmation of the neoliberal strategy of the EU.

Architects of austerity David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg may have left the tottering building they designed to pursue careers in the lofts of adjacent structures but they are unable to disguise the contempt they have for the leave voters no matter how high they climb.  This is shared by enormous chunks of the middle classes in the UK and Europe.  As well as the declared austerians of the Tory party, the monopoly bourgeoisie in big business and its representatives like the Confederation of British Industry, also a majority in the Institute of Directors, the boards of the banks that crashed the economy, the PR industry that tries to tell others what to think as well as the great, good and self-interested from all levels of the middle classes were horrified by the result; they casually assumed a remain vote with business continuing as usual.  Conservatives with big and little “c”s and liberals with big and little “l”s were thrown into a panic.

“The big guns of the international liberal order were wheeled out to stop us going along the Puerto Rican option: the IMF, the WTO, the OECD, Ten Nobel economists added to the din; Obama wagged a finger; Clinton too. Then Soros.  In reply a forest of fingers was stuck in the air.  This was a vote against experts and technocrats, and the architects of austerity; it was also a vote against ‘free’ as in free trade and, above all, free movement; the ‘free’ of global markets and the single European market.  People know by now what’s meant by market democracy: markets”2

Of course many wannabe “radicals” can be found trying to shore up the liberal status quo too.  Like the assorted conservatives and liberals they are also people of tradition too.  Theirs’ is the continuity of calling for the urgency of dramatic alternatives but not yet; demanding revolutionary movement but expressing hostility to the ruptures they didn’t expect would open; change in words without change in the real world.  High moral platitudes explained how they weren’t defending the status quo but preparing for a better future by rejecting a far worse alternative of populism.  The strident assertiveness of the new imperialism of the Euro with the Four Freedoms of Fortress Europe were preferable to a revival of the decaying corpse of the British Empire.  Even now, a bewildered “left” still cannot explain to itself what has happened.

 

POLITICS-BY-PANIC

The single most shocking expression of middle class contempt for the result was their determination to overturn it.  After all, how could seventeen million common people be so stupid as to follow the leadership of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg?  After all, aren’t they only decorations carefully placed for entertainment only? These leaders may only be another voice of “establishment” Britain, but don’t the mass of voters recognise the acceptable mainstay from the gargoyles kept safely perched at the fringes?  Most people who voted to leave could clearly see the opportunistic outlines and shapes of these effigies; it was their real world of lived experiences of lies, deceit and self-service from the mainstream elite and its officer class they met in daily life not these peripheral leaders demonic posturing that made them vote the way they did.

Nevertheless, the mainstream remain camp knew that if enough feeling about being too close to the absurd views of these ridiculous creatures could be crafted then enough guilt-by-association could be created.  Ugly pictures of leave voters as stupid, easily fooled, uneducated, unambitious, racist and many other tropes were conveniently spread. Jasper and his pantomime populist villains fooled the easily led.  Ironically, the remain camp was only the local expression of the views of the EU elite that built its supranational institutions to by-pass the national parliaments where the unenlightened populace brought the populist politics of communism, fascism and nationalism into power.  They knew better.  The vote had to be overturned somehow.

The UK’s elite has long shunned popular sovereignty keeping it away from the mass of people with the doctrine of the crown-in-parliament, or parliamentary sovereignty.  The first successful legal challenge to the vote relied on activating this doctrine.  Financier and philanthropist Ms Gina Miller, argued that only parliament could decide if the UK stayed in the EU.  After all, a referendum has no real authority, let alone obligation for the result to be implemented; it is only a consultative referendum –just like the previous one in 1975.  But that one made the right decision.  This appeal to the UK’s antique unwritten constitution defeated the recently written constitutional right of a country to secede under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The supremacy of EU law, so dominant since 1973, was overturned by the dynastic Bill of Rights of William and Mary.

The UK may have only half-heartedly integrated itself into the EU’s structures and economy since 1973 so, unlike other countries, it ought to be easier to break free.  But it will still cause enormous difficulties, and regulatory alignment will still be required to operate behind the EU’s protectionist walls.  Stress tests carried out across the entire economy show that disaster is immanent when the UK leaves; lorries are stacked up outside south coast ports as exercises to show No voters what they voted for; entire factories are closed now because of uncertainty about supply chains in the future, panic is created by willing PR companies servicing eager news outlets; a government hopes by this method to corral votes from its own putative supporters to push through its unsupported policies; essential medicines have to be stockpiled because they will soon be unavailable.  There are even plans in place to evacuate the Queen when the riots occur.  Complacent indifference before the vote has been replaced with vindictive panic afterwards.

In Westminster no compromise and no deal will happen.  One collapse seems to follow another.  The mood of despair grows.  Yet the creation of these panics shows only a small amount of the power a petulant bourgeoisie can use.  An organised left would take advantage of these opportunities but instead lines up with the left liberals finding more ways to console them by giving support to their principal institutions.  Malcolm X, as well as others before him, used to draw a distinction between house slaves and field slaves.  When the master’s house caught fire the house slaves would become flustered running around calling on other slaves to help fighting the fire.  The field slaves stood back and let the flames consume their oppressor’s home.

If jobs are going to go, why has the UK got one of its highest levels of employment?  Weren’t EU quotas previously responsible for turning mining, shipbuilding, steel and fishing communities into “ghost towns?”  If the EU was responsible for high levels of migration, why were there so many migrants, principally Irish and Commonwealth citizens in the UK before joining the EU?  Without EU rules falling from the Commission, workers would have no protection but would have to organise into trade unions to fight for their own interests instead. Abolishing the Working Time Directive might even stop its stated maximum number of hours to be worked remaining the minimum necessary hours before achieving a decent living wage; any supposed protections negated by the right to opt-out and the employer’s refusal to hire anyone who doesn’t.  State aid would cease to be outlawed by EU laws with the private sector yet again fearing being “crowded out”.

EU migrants might lose their rights or is it obligation to get on a plane and look for work in a country that doesn’t speak their language. The soi-disant “left” was appalled when then Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit demanded workers get on their bikes and look for work in nearby towns and villages; now it demands that the surplus population of Europe have a right to travel to the rich countries for work. The right of individual workers is only the obligation of the single European market making factors of production move to where they are demanded or from where they have been rejected.  It is not an expression of citizenship.

“Conversations with young Southern European immigrants in London … are a welcome reality check.  They know all too well what the ‘free movement of labour’ means for people like them, and how much the discipline on the Euro is responsible for driving them north.  No lessons in the mechanics of wage suppression or Deutsche Bundesbank’s anti-keynesianism are needed.”3

RACISM AND RACE GUILT

Unease at the EU’s policies, according to the remain camp, can only be because of the indigenous population’s inherent racism. Anger at the never-ending deceit of society’s officer class and lack of control over important areas of life either by the migrants or their hosts is entirely disregarded.  After all this is a properly working European economy.  Because of previous waves of migration, the UK has built an extremely diverse set of cultures within its borders.  Indeed it could be argued that the UK has never been so hostile to racism as it is at present.  Take a look at the current Westminster or Holyrood cabinets, or the Mayor of London.  Most public institutions have successfully countered most forms of racism, even if more needs done.  Institutional racism may be structurally absent even if there are still racists.  But although racism will always be present in capitalism, there is also a lot of race guilt.  Vague and nebulous it often originates from various chunks of the middle classes who have to publically display their “inclusiveness.”  Far too often, it accuses others of racist and sexist behaviour when others act outside of its narrow framework of “political correctness.”  It ignores the racism of the remain camp’s plans as well as ignoring the anger in the population it doesn’t see or even believe exists.

“The average immigrant is younger, better educated and healthier than the average British citizen …In addition, most of the people who appear as immigrants in the migration statistics are students … Of the 330,000 net arrivals in the latest numbers, 169,000 are students… [T]he reality of young, healthy, hard-working thriving immigrants wouldn’t have helped the remain case [because] it touches on too many sore points about being left behind”4  Since the accession states from Eastern Europe joined the EU, the number of immigrants residing in the UK is about 3.3 million around 5 % of the total population or about 7% of the total workforce.

Being squeezed out of meaningful employment is, of course, only one form of alienation.  Watching all services being eroded while being told that total wealth is increasing is another. Being left behind implies that there is a final destination to be reached.  It is always somewhere else.  And it seems only other people arrive there.  The remain camp constantly calls on people to move and move again.   Migrants are pulled to the UK; London for the ambitious UK subject.  “No single measure uniquely defines someone as being a member of the Left Behind, although one has a sense of the defining footprint of an area that is Left Behind is there is a tendency towards a lack of ambition and a feeling of mistrust and alienation, with perhaps a sense that there situation has resulted from the malign (be intentionally or unintentionally) actions of others.  It is no surprise that this group is very vocal in its condemnation of immigrants as taking jobs, wealth, housing and services they feel are theirs by right.  For those trapped in this landscape, depression and pessimism have a higher currency than optimism and ‘can do’”5

SEVENTEEN MILLION RACISTS

According to one who believes many “argued for a remain vote did so not because of illusions in the EU but because they saw that the main issue in the campaign … would inevitably be reactionary nationalism and outright racism”6  Put simply, don’t vote to answer the question on the ballot paper, vote for something else. Besides if voting leave assisted “reactionary nationalism and outright racism,” why would voting to remain obstruct it?  Surely, that is an illusion about the EU?  That comment was in International Socialism the journal of the Socialist Workers Party.  A larger article did mainly pre-empt this question earlier.  “Some comrades nevertheless argue that the British debate on the EU will be so dominated by racist anti-immigrant arguments that we should vote Yes [remain] to express solidarity with migrants.  That doesn’t address the fact the ‘reforms’ with which Cameron will seek to justify campaigning for a Yes [remain] are likely to include restricting EU migrants’ access to welfare benefits.”7 Indeed there is an enormous difference between freedom of mobility to cross borders as a citizen and freedom to cross borders as only an individual component in a factor of production in an all-Europe labour market.  That is all the EU offers.

Under David Cameron’s so-called “emergency brake” of the proposals he submitted to the EU, the UK would be permitted to withhold social benefits just not for the first four years after they arrived but to have it extended for a further three years.  Child benefits could still be paid abroad but only at a rate commensurate with the rate in the recipient country.  There would also be limits on the movements of nationals from outside the EU who were married to EU citizens.  If David Cameron had won his referendum, he would have used that victory to fight for these policies.  Of course, this is not to claim that the EU would have accepted or endorsed these proposals, though existing restrictions on welfare benefits for migrants in other countries suggests he may have found some receptive ears.

Has there been a dramatic outburst of racism during or since the vote?  Quite simply, nobody knows.  The way the figures are counted reveals how difficult it is to establish if racism is really increasing, decreasing or simply stays constant.  The Institute of Race Relations publishes a fortnightly round-up of racist incidents and far-right activity taken from the local press and some police reports.  “[V]erbal abuse on public transport, vandalism of religious monuments, poorly attended protests by extremist groups are culled from the local press.  They’re usually not considered important enough to merit national attention … Anecdotes … are difficult to verify, and reports of hate crimes can go up when people are looking for them.”8  By this haphazard manner official figures are created. There were about a hundred reports of alleged racist abuse and hate crime immediately following the announcement of the result.  However, hate crime is only an expression of subjective perception.  Essex police Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Mason explains how, “If the person feels its hate crime it’ll get recorded as a hate crime.” Most were, in his opinion, “low level matters, some members of the public complaining about Nigel Farage or whatever, that’ll be recorded as a hate crime”9  In the absence of accurate statistical evidence, this is why assessing racism requires a political judgement.

Not to have illusions in the EU but vote to remain is the same as claiming to have no illusions in Euro-imperialism but to remain in it -ie give it support by voting for it.  Almost as absurd as claiming to support democracy while campaigning for a second vote whose only purpose it to reverse the first.  Only cynics, the unbelievably naïve,  or those with such ridiculously short-term perspectives can support this approach.  How is it possible to be a democrat and vote to remain in in a treaty based organisation set-up, designed and maintained to keep major decisions away from parliamentary assemblies and demand compliance based on the supremacy of EU law?

The EU was from its creation a mechanism for the ever more direct expression of bourgeois class power, especially through its core doctrine of the Four Freedoms.  Through them, it became possible to pursue the ideas that could continue the necessary bourgeois economic modernisation that the European bourgeoisie needed. But, as far as the UK was concerned, it was a confused attempt to graft a bourgeois economic modernisation onto a decaying feudal host did not take properly when the political state was still using methods from another era.

THE OFFICIAL CAMPAIGNS AND THE VOTE

The official state funded leave campaigns rarely reflected any grassroots issues or worries but continued the themes of a new world based on more free trade.  Indeed, the only difference between the official campaigns to remain or leave was free trade inside the European Union fortress or free trade outside its protectionist walls with the wider world.  At this level only the “inside” elite battled the “outside” elite.10  But the anger that could not be expressed through parliamentary elections, or even the referendum, still made itself heard by a vote of rejection in this referendum.

This is one of the fundamental differences between the two votes.  With or without illusions a vote to remain was vote of endorsement for an existing set of institutions and a continuation of its politics.  Or, at least, that is how it would have been used.  It would try to change nothing.  The EU, David Cameron and George Osborne would have attempted to continue governing the way they had always governed.  The EU would have continued its neoliberal policies and bringing into effect the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Policy with even more supranational court structures that by-pass democratic institutions would have been created.11   Besides Cameron and Osborne also claimed they had no illusions in the EU too.

Discontent was rife in pre-exit Britain.  “For some, Cameron will always be the man who wrecked his country in a clumsy attempt to save his party.  At worst, a bad Brexit could break not just the economy, but the union –giving Scotland new reasons to seek independence, even pushing Northern Irish voters towards unification with the south … Had Brexit never happened, Cameron would still have bequeathed us the bedroom tax and axed Sure Start centres. He would be the man who cut tax credits for the poor while abolishing the 50p tax rate for the wealthiest, left teachers soliciting donations from parents so they could buy basic supplies, and whose ‘jobs miracle’ (record levels of employment) relied heavily on insecure and part-time work.  And his defence for all this –that without austerity, Britain would have lost its credit rating and faced even more painful cuts.”12

But the leave vote was not an endorsement of the officially sponsored Leave campaigns.  It was a vote of rejection for all sorts of reasons most of which would have been rejected by the leaders imposed on the official Leave campaigns. The Vote Leave leaders held no high office; they put forward no policies that could realistically been implemented. Its leaders were demagogues that resembled cartoon villains in a referendum designed in such a way that they should have lost.  They could say anything they wished knowing that they had no obligation to implement it.  But the anger over too many issues such as unsatisfactory employment, housing and public services meant that voters told our rulers, “Take back control!” Even when they didn’t want to.  When David Cameron left No 10 he was merrily whistling.  Both Osborne and Clegg were visibly relieved to be leaving political life.

FINDING NEW FRIENDS

 

Of the twelve electoral regions, nine voted to leave, three to remain: London, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The referendum was fought under the same rules used to contest Westminster General Elections.  These were the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and the European Union Referendum Act 2015.  The right to vote was limited to residents of the United Kingdom who were Commonwealth citizens or citizens of the Republic of Ireland.  The age of eligibility was eighteen years and members of the House of Lords were excluded.  These are the traditional features of the Representation of the People Acts of 1983 and 1985.  Although these were the traditional rules for eligibility, a more extensive precedent had been set by the referendum on Scottish national independence to lower the age to sixteen years and to include EU citizens and Commonwealth subjects who were not UK subjects.  It was a precedent that was not followed.  This does not make the referendum undemocratic or corrupt.

The South West electoral region also includes the electorate of Gibraltar.  This did not stop the region from voting to leave.  (Though Gibraltar alone with its transplanted population voted to Remain.). Gibraltar joined the European Economic Community as part of the UK in 1973.  Crown Dependencies that are not part of the United Kingdom such as the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey were also excluded. Inhabitants of the Isle of Man, nevertheless, are defined as British subjects under the Nationality Act of 1981.

By voting to remain, the most cosmopolitan area of the UK most integrated into EU structures became allied with the two regions most desperate to break with centralist submission to its national power.  Two (Northern Ireland and Gibraltar) were colonial legacies and claimed by other nations.  London was the centre of the former British Empire with Scotland formerly one if its strongest supporters.  “Take back control!” had a different meaning in each of these areas. In two of them, time to remain meant time to go too!

THE TWO LONDONS

There are two Londons.  One is the enormous metropolitan colossus that grows and grows and grows with an undefinable external border.  The other is the chartered City of London with its own city wall inside the metropolis.  Both voted to remain inside the EU.  Both Londons seem increasingly detached from the remainder of the UK seeking to attach themselves to the European Union.

The metropolis is the largest city in the European Union; its population of 8.8 million inhabitants in the Greater London Authority area is only slightly less than the total of the non-English nations of the UK. Its sprawling conurbations form a city-state within the English nation.  It has no perimeter walls; instead it sprawls and sprawls.  The sprawl should stop at the boundaries of the GLA, but it continues to grow outside this, absorbing other areas further away.  Some measures put the real size of its population between twelve or fourteen million.  The city’s growth was chaotic, for most of the eighties and nineties there was no public authority to address the city’s issues of housing, public transport, and education.

A recent Resolution Foundation report13pointed out that a third of the net employment growth across the UK occurred in London.  Despite this jobs boom, London has some of the highest rates of poverty and inequality, the lowest records of well-being as well as high anxiety.  A lot of this is because of the city’s housing crisis. “[I]t becomes clear that central government has boosted London’s economy, with a cost to industries and people in the rest of the country.  But … this also [has a] cost [to] people living in London.”14

Population pressures keep forcing up rents and housing costs as well causing difficulties for essential services.  Recruitment to certain services such as with schoolteachers and nurses is made more difficult by constant public expenditure cuts, frozen wages, and the financial incentives of wealthier private sector employers. The housing market becomes increasingly more speculative with houses ceasing to be built to house people but becoming financial assets to store wealth to sell at a later date.  The growing financialisation of the city keeps pushing up the exchange rate making the industrial and exporting sectors of the entire UK economy less able to compete.

TRICKLE DOWN GEOGRAPHY

The powerful magnetic pull of London allows central government politicians the ability to shift costs over to the European Union rather than address the issues of UK inequality in other regions.  A convenient ideological outlook establishes itself to justify this.  Former Mayor Boris Johnson said this quite openly, “A pound spent in Croydon is of far more value to the country than a pound spent in Strathclyde … You will generate jobs in Strathclyde far more effectively if you invest in parts of London”15  This approach described as trickle–down geography argues that because London and the South-East are the only productive parts of the economy the rest of the UK is only kept afloat by them.  Consequently a policy of more of the same is all that is required.

Nevertheless, London’s economy has felt many of the same pressures as the rest of the UK; the docks have moved further downstream to Felixstowe and Tilbury, much manufacturing has gone now 3.2 million of its inhabitants (85%of the labour-force) work in services.  The city’s largest industry is finance.  All major national and formerly regional banks are head-quartered along with 480 overseas banks.  These handle some $1.9 trillion daily mainly in the so-called Eurodollar market ie dollars held outside the USA.

Over 70% of the UK’s top listed companies in the FTSE 100 are headquartered in the metropolitan conglomerate and 75% of Fortune 500’s operate in it.  Media companies such as the BBC try hard not to be so London centred but repeatedly fail to escape the city’s cosmopolitan pull.  Fleet Street may no longer be the one street of shame for the nation’s newspapers, but London is still their location.  Yet it is because it is also the seat of government that it attracts the ambitious as well as the enormous resources to sustain it.  It has the highest non-food retail sales of any city in the world with a total annual spend of £64.2 billion.  It is geographically closer to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels than Edinburgh or Belfast.

As the former centre of empire the mix of its population reflects the past as well as the present and future.  The 2011 census showed that 2,998,264 or 36.7% of the city’s denizens were foreign born; only New York exceeding this population.  But this census placed India as the largest origin of foreign population followed by Poland then Ireland, Nigeria and Pakistan as the main contributors to the city.  The collapsing economies of Europe will probably show a rise in immigrant numbers from Eastern and Southern countries seeking the opportunities the common single market denies them at home.  Currently, London is a model of national and racial integration with 69% of all children born having at least one parent born abroad.

The City of London behind its perimeter wall inside the metropolitan conurbation is the historical location of the other older London. It is the other London.  The square mile is the home to the Bank of England, the London Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s of London the insurance market, as well as St Paul’s Cathedral.  It is from here that the pound sterling is the fourth most traded currency in the world and the third most held reserve currency.  Initially “the City” was uneasy about the common market fearing that it may be subject to too much regulation, but as the European Union’s capital centres fought for bigger shares of arms deals, dictators’ stolen wealth and spending from Russian oligarchs’ laundered money, they quickly realised that the European Union’s regulatory ambitions rarely affected them.

Through its governing Corporation, the City of London essentially operates at arms-length from most English law.  It has so many legal peculiarities that it behaves like a separate country within a larger city and country.  Surprisingly, it has only a small residential population of only 7,000, but the non-residential vote of business is the main source for the electorate in this area.  It comprises about 32,000 business-electors.  Businesses with less than ten employees have one vote; ten to fifty, one vote for every five employees; more than fifty gives ten voters plus an additional voter for every employee for every fifty afterwards.  This is how the Corporation is chosen as the second quarter of the twenty-first century approaches.  It escaped the Municipal Reform Act of 1835 and has been escaping ever since.  It should be no surprise that it easily identifies with the neoliberal, counter-democratic, supranational institutions of the European Union.

The City’s long arm also reaches far outside its walls. Its Corporation owns and runs Leadenhall and Smithfield markets including many parks, forests and common lands in around Greater London.  It owns most of Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath.  It owns in neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets, Old Spitalfields Market and Billingsgate Fish Market.  Even many public spaces in Northern Ireland are owned by it through its association with the Honourable Irish Society.  The City or Corporation of London is essentially a private company, and has the only person who can enter the floor of the House of Commons other than elected members and staff –the Remembrancer.  It runs its own police force.  The Corporation also owns the Old Bailey, the English Central Criminal Court offering its use as a gift to the nation.  Both the Inner and Outer Temples of the Inns of Court are located in its walls.

One important demand of the creditors during the recent Greek debt crisis was that the country’s debt be structured around English law.  It is unlikely that any dispute will be heard in a court in Newcastle, Liverpool or Swansea, as the London courts eagerly sell themselves in the global market for justice.  They have already become one more tool for disagreements between Russian oligarchs. A similar response has some former and current African dictators from francophone countries petitioning the Paris courts.

Leaving the EU has a number of immediate consequences. The European Medicines Agency –the UE medicines regulator- closed in late January with the loss of 890 jobs though some will go to its new home in Amsterdam.  Much of its other work in testing in UK laboratories as well as hosting lucrative conferences will go too. The European Banking Agency –the EU banking agency- with 180 jobs will now be located in Paris.  It is expected that between €750 million and €800 million of assets that will leave London mainly in the first quarter of 2019 draining further hundreds billions of Euros from the economy as more and more financial firms relocate into the EU.  It is also estimated around 10,000 jobs will be relocated to Frankfurt.  “According to the Brussels think tank Bruegel, 35 per cent of the city’s wholesale banks service EU27 clients, so as much as €1.8 trillion in assets might be on the move, including potentially 15 per cent of banking jobs.  That would include 3,300 positions in five major US investment banks, 10,000 regular jobs and up to 20,000 consultancy, legal and accounting positions. Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Luxemburg and Dublin are circling”16However, the financial sector took several hundred years to grow as strong as it did; it is unlikely to entirely disappear.

The metropolis appears to exist solely to service the economic wishes of the Corporation, even if it has its own vibrant life and culture.  But “the city” is the role paradigm for the rest of the United Kingdom so a narrow, limited view of the rest of the UK is continually reproduced.  John Lanchester observed citing and paraphrasing Kipling, “’What do they know of England who only England know?’  But there’s a variation which might be more relevant. ‘What do they know of the UK who only London know?’”  He further pointed out, “[t]o be born in many places in Britain is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat –a truncation of opportunity, of education, of access to power, of life expectancy.”17  The vote to leave the EU was also a vote against the London elite’s apparent culture of comfort and complacency.  London was the only English electoral region voting to remain.

SCOTLAND: REMAINING TO LEAVE?

Would Scotland have voted to remain if the independence referendum had not occurred less than two years before the leave referendum?  Like all counterfactual questions it is open to interpretation.  But the political ground had been shifted by the earlier referendum.  Labour hegemony had been dislodged and the SNP were attempting to establish theirs. A desire to take back control from London had asserted itself.  But surely this was not simply to hand it over to Brussels?

All local authority areas in Scotland voted to remain with a total vote of 1.662,191 (62.0%) against 1,018,322 (38.0%), on a 62% turnout. Scotland also had the highest abstention rate.   Almost every political party in Scotland voted to remain.  There was no real dissenting campaign.  The growing nationalist hegemony was joined with traditional labourism which was joined to the conservatives by voting to remain.  The peripheral Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish Socialist Party could also bask in the comfortable huddle of seeking to remain in the counter-democratic structures of EU imperialism tpp.  But they all wanted to reform it, if only they could think of a way how.  During the independence referendum the SNP was distinctive struggling against the consensus of the other parties against independence; now it was in harmony.

The Scottish National Party in Westminster voted against holding a referendum on leaving the European Union.  This ought to be surprising because the politicisation leading up to the referendum in 2014 dramatically transformed the ground in Scottish and UK political life allowing it the chance to take a bolder political stance.  Both referenda should have been won decisively by the coalition government.  Also on a high turnout, the Labour-Tory-Lib-Dem coalition just about scraped a victory while enormous numbers of the population underwent the psychological and political changes that made them able to see that Scottish national independence was a real possibility.  A change had just occurred even if it had failed to win the majority in the vote.

Undoubtedly exhausted, many activists in Scotland saw the result as a defeat rather than the advance it was.  Still other features registered that the movement towards national independence was going forward.  The 2015 Westminster General Election saw the Scottish National Party win 56 out of 59 seats. This was a result that had never occurred in Scottish politics.  There was some retrenchment in the 2017 General Election.  Since the independence referendum the opinion polls have hardly shifted.  They show that a sufficiently solid vote for national independence endures, even if there is still no increase.  Making that number grow is, or ought to be, a major issue concerning the independence movement.

The term Project Fear was used to describe the strategy of the No camp in the independence referendum by promoting uncertainty and doubt in the popular mind to stop the growth of a consciousness that would have had the courage to move toward change.  Hope encourages; fear debilitates.  Politics-by-panic can only succeed momentarily, but if it succeeds at the wrong moment a lifetime’s hopes can disappear.  It has later been used to describe the post-vote tactics of the remain camp.  This will have an effect for those arguing for Scottish independence.  By adopting these tactics on the EU it will discourage supporters of national independence by creating doubts in the public mind that could inhibit the will necessary for a decisive break with the past.  The mind-sets and tactics from one campaign can spill over into the other.

The exhausted supporters of national independence never had the time to develop a strategy for a second independence referendum. The announcement of the European Referendum occurred so quickly that the class perspectives of the SNP’s leadership were switched on so quickly that a properly considered position lay unexamined. Although, even if more thought had been given to the strategy and tactics required to attain national independence, it is doubtful they would have responded differently.  The self-interested wishful thinking passivity of the middle classes now permeates the Scottish National Party.  Immediately after the Independence referendum, the SNP underwent an enormous growth in membership.  It became, and may still be, the party with the largest membership base in the UK.

A nationalist hegemony had begun to assert itself.  The disorganisation of the “wider nationalist movement” meant this quickly became the hegemony of the SNP.  It was this hegemony that gave the vote to remain its strength in Scotland, even though this allied it with the London elite and the bureaucratic interference of the European Union; ironically, the same EU that was established to combat nationalism.  Pursuit of national sovereignty was being side-lined to achieve a form of European elite class solidarity.  Little attempt was made to understand and educate about the European Union as an institution, its history and its neo-liberal imperialist ambitions.

Much of the new membership had never been through the earlier debates and brought with them views and positions that expressed their “centrist” perspectives, practices and outlooks.  This included the naive ideas that because the US government and president and held democratically elected government positions (“the democracies”) so they would easily understand their aspirations for national indpendence. This reasoning applied to European national governments and the European Union institutions also.  Consequently, SNP support for NATO was strongly asserted and, of course, a desire for membership of the European Union.  They assumed support from “the democracies” would be readily forthcoming; the support they did not get during the independence referendum.

However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is well aware that the UK’s membership of the EU is not like most other member states.  The UK had opted out of many of the institution’s key treaties, such as those involved with economic and monetary union, the Schengen treaties on borders and migration, and most police and security treaties.  UK membership was essentially based on the achievements of Mrs Thatcher’s assertive diplomacy and Gordon Brown’s dour rejection of the Euro. It was not membership of the European Union she sought but to remain inside under the already existing terms set by Mrs Thatcher and Gordon Brown.  Though the SNP leadership wish to remain inside the EU, they have been clear about distancing themselves from those campaigning for a second vote to overturn the 2016 vote, the so-called People’s Vote.  They feared winning a vote in another independence referendum only to watch it being overturned by a later referendum refusing to accept the negotiated. A campaign for Indy2 would simply be transmuted into yet another for Indy3 and possibly even more.  It would be a referendum best avoided.

Mrs Sturgeon feared leaving the EU and having to apply for membership again because the decisions made at Copenhagen summit would make it obligatory to take part in economic and monetary union of the Euro under the externally imposed convergence criteria.  As well as making a mockery of national independence, these conditions of new membership would impose severe austerity on the Scottish people as it has on every other population that have experienced them.  One further fear was that once outside the EU walls, a referendum would be imposed that highlighted these unpleasant features and would be rejected.  But membership of the EU was a policy desired by the financial business elites that the SNP hoped to court.

Since the independence referendum, all political strategy has focused on remaining in the EU.  By some unexplained process, this would aid the struggle for national independence.  Membership of the EU somehow expressed the “European values” of equality and inclusiveness that were also held by the Scots.  The economic crises imposed by the European Central Bank on Greece, Ireland and Portugal became invisible and were hardly mentioned.  Strangely enough for a party committed to national independence, all attempts at finding a strategy for the next independence referendum ceased. Even talk of national independence as a goal became rarer and rarer.  Occasionally Nicola Sturgeon and other leaders would be compelled to make statements that national independence had not been forgotten.  After all wasn’t that the reason they had come into politics and had fought for all their lives?  Many SNP activists who became concerned found they were now embedded in a massive sea of mainly new members who expressed unchallengeable loyalty to the leadership.

Until Venezuela’s recent crisis, there was no way to show the necessary loyalty to the “international community” that comprises the US led NATO.  Though the recent statements of the Defence Secretary revealed a failure to attack the Tory governments spending on Trident instead showing a desire to “offer a constructive opposition to the Conservatives on defence”18At its early stages, this indicates a rightward shift in SNP perspectives.  Showing loyalty to the national governments in Europe and EU institutions that wanted to curry favour with the United States is an unwelcome change.  They think this is “clever politics” by claiming one thing publicly while sending out “dog whistles” audible to the powers but not their natural audience.

But the most important concession to neo-liberalism was the online publication of the Sustainable Growth Commission that envisaged a highly marketised economy.  Most importantly, however, it planned to use the pound sterling for a considerable period of time.  Promises of a separate Scottish currency were made, but with no real detailed explanation of how such a transition could occur.  It was clear this period would be used to bring about the necessary changes in the public mood to bring about the eventual membership of the Euro. Something that can only be done by adhering to rigid convergence criteria.

NOW IS ALWAYS THE WRONG TIME

The massive turnout at the All Under One Banner demonstration in late 2018 revealed a growing feeling that more needed to be done to advance Scottish national independence.  The SNP made a number of favourable statements about its unexpected size but, undoubtedly, felt uneasy about a nationalist organisation that was not under its control.  The jitteriness of many nationalist leaders is growing greater and greater.  Nicola Sturgeon was about to move into a public confrontation with former First Minister Alex Salmond who had expressed his unhappiness with the failure of the SNP leadership to create the case for independence.  He was immediately silenced and remains silenced by the series of criminal charges levelled against him.

What started as pause for recovery from an exhausted movement has transformed into passivity on national independence.  It is either complete indecisiveness over a future independence strategy or wilful evasiveness caused by a strategy of somehow bringing the EU and NATO on side.  During the independence referendum the EU made clear its fear of prompting secessionist movements across Europe.  The brutal suppression of the independence movement in Catalonia where, even now, government ministers are in jail or exile, shows how little enthusiasm the EU would have for a country eager to enforce its national sovereignty.  Undoubtedly the EU would welcome into membership a future independent Scotland, but it would be a far weaker presence than currently exists with the United Kingdom.  Besides, the new rules that would be imposed would be far more brutal than have ever existed for the semi-detached UK.

“Over the weekend [Andrew ] Wilson [the author of the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission Report] praised an opinion piece by the journalist Joyce McMillan in the Scotsman where she argued the case for building a consensus in favour of independence over the long term rather than a new vote [for national independence] in the short term,” observed The National.19

Exactly how the soothing numbness of consensus would motivate more to vote for national independence has never been explained.  It will still require the energised motivation of the existing vote rather than nice words to the jittery, self-interested and timid for change to occur.  Reassurances will not motivate them; only by adapting to changing reality can that adjustment occur. They must be made aware that the status quo can no longer exist and will be overturned.  But that can only happen by mobilising the newly energised supporters of national independence.  Building on existing strengths not known weaknesses is the only workable strategy –one feared by the SNP leadership.

Pausing, and resting in order to rethink a new approach makes sense, but it has turned into fatalism that something, sometime will somehow spontaneously permit national independence to emerge. It is almost five years since the independence referendum and nothing that even resembles the outline of a strategy has emerged.  The SNP leadership have placed nothing on the table and risk losing what they have gained.

Macmillan locates the origins of these hesitations, “’If Nicola Sturgeon is proceeding with great caution … it is because she has good reason to; and because, as a politician who tends to seek consensus, she knows that Scotland remains almost evenly divided on the matter of independence … Sometimes, amid the maelstrom of Brexit politics, it is wise to step back a little and look at the big picture of where we would like Scotland and the other countries of these islands to be in 25 years time; and if the final goal is a peaceful confederation of countries living in a mutually respectful economic and trading union, with open borders and close cultural links, then we are unlikely to get there by seeking to snatch a second referendum out of the jaws of the Brexit crisis, and pushing a divided electorate to a knife edge decision.”

This is probably the clearest statement from anyone near the SNP leadership showing how far the battle to remain in the EU has sapped its will to fight for national independence.  Desperation to remain in the EU’s orbit now adds its weight pressing down to stop laying the groundwork for national independence.  It is as if they seem unaware that the purpose of political action is to break with the oppressive consensus of the status quo.  Only by motivating others for change can change occur; consensus is the problem and wishful thinking is not the solution.

“Wilson tweeted: ‘What a brilliant piece.  The urgency in many hearts and minds is understandable.  The tub thumping, unthinking populism of too many clever people in leadership positions playing to their own side is patently risible and will set us back. [Nicola Sturgeon] needs backed not barracked.”  Can this really be an unfair complaint when almost five years have passed since the independence referendum?  So far, Wilson has produced a document that sends out “dog whistles” to the wealthy investors he hopes to attract and the comfortable whose ambition for change is only to visit a new shopping mall.  Even a cursory glance at SNP activists would reveal how many are uncomfortable with his “vision.”  It is certainly not one that is motivating many.  Ironically, it was the unplanned, walk out of Westminster by its MPs that brought the greatest spurt of support for the SNP in 2018, not Wilson’s turgid report.

Arguing against the visibly obvious, Macmillan reassuringly concluded, “’This is not to say, of course, that the idea of Scottish independence should be put on the back burner.’”  One important lesson from the independence and European referenda is that for the middle classes the demand for change now is always the wrong time. Like NATO, the desire to court favour with the EU produces temporising, hesitation and growing unwillingness to stick to the Party’s originally stated goals and instead turns them into weakened imitations that keep the status quo intact.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND: TAKE BACK CONTROL!

“Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuiness, greeted the news of the referendum result (56% of the local electorate voted Remain) by embracing one of the principal slogans of the Leave camp, ‘You can have your country back’ was the unmistakable subtext to his demand for a poll on Irish unification.  His Brexit supporting coalition partner, Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party brushed the call aside.  Having spent decades calling for majority rule … the DUP weren’t keen on putting that principle into practice.”20

Yet the DUP having lost in its own electoral region had won in England.  Unlike the divided Tories there was more unanimity within the Party.  It clearly wanted to leave; it wanted a stronger alliance with Westminster.  Membership of the EU has shifted the economic and political ground.  The vote to remain was less about the EU institutions and its appalling practices so much as an alignment of forces to bring down the border to unify Ireland again.  Nevertheless, many of the business groups that have sustained unionism openly or secretly hoped that a vote to leave would not happen.

Northern Ireland is heavily dependent on trade with the south.  In 1974, the south sent 9.3% of its total exports to the north but this had fallen to 1.8% by 2014.  Up to 37.9% of the north’s services went to the south in 2013, and 25% of its manufacturing exports in 2014.21  The north also needs to import a large amount of its meat and dairy produce too. Indeed because of different time periods for calving and grass growing milk exports to the south will be drastically affected “Some of the 120 million litres of northern milk heading south will have originated in the south: after going north to be processed in a co-op such as Strathoy in Omagh, they will have been sent back south to be sold by retailers…. If the UK is forced to revert to WTO rules post-Brexit, Northern suppliers will need EU approval to supply the market, and raw milk will face tariffs of up to 50 per cent. ”22

The Northern Ireland Executive set up under the Good Friday power sharing arrangement currently is in a state of paralysis.  Yet it is still considered it as “one of the EU’s greatest successes … [whose] transition from violent conflict to peace and political stability stands as a positive example.”  Or at least this was what an anonymous senior Irish figure wrote to Michel Barnier.23  The paper continued that the EU dimension recognised “an island with an invisible border, common trading standards and a sense of pooled sovereignty including a shared European identity [which] which provides crucial reassurance to the nationalist community.”  It pointed out that the Good Friday Agreement was premised on the shared membership of the EU by both the UK and the Irish government.   The vote meant that the cognitive border had gone revealing the very real barrier that comes from the far from imagined colonial status of the six counties scarring the landscape.

But the new relationship is not the same as in the past with the UK holding onto its possession and the Irish government lamely appealing to end the border. Now it is no longer a border between the UK and Irish Republic but between the UK and the European Union.  While both countries had membership of the EU, the border could be imagined out of existence, and business as usual could hide this remaining colonial reality.

The UK and Ulster Unionists realise that the EU could, in theory, use the weight of its twenty eight countries in any future border disputes.  The UK, of course, could use its geographical position to restrict ships, flight and transit to the European mainland to and from the island.  For the Irish Republic the opportunity to reverse the past has to be measured against immediate risks to the present.  However, it becomes harder to ignore it or leave it uncontested. Supply chains between the Republic and mainland Europe are inhibited by the sea and distance making the British mainland an essential transit route for many imports and exports.  Ireland exports ninety per cent of the food it produces, 37 per cent goes to England.  Currently, food exports stand at €3.27 billion.

Although all parties claim not to want a “hard” border it is hard to see how one cannot come into existence.  The requirements from the EU and UK are that goods are not smuggled in or out to avoid different tariffs, taxes and customs.  The UK does not want migration from Ireland into the six counties to become a route for EU migrants to enter the UK.  Ulster Unionists do not want any border between themselves and the UK while still wanting a “soft” border with the republic. Essentially, it is an insoluble problem. The so-called “backstop” consists entirely of legalistic and fantastic ways to meet contradictory demands; so they will all founder.  The leave vote makes the partition of Ireland is an issue that must now be addressed.

Greater economic integration between north and south means that a powerful political case for integration exists that did not before.  Though both sides have happily ridden round-and-round on separate merry-go-rounds in the carnival of reaction, the growing secularisation of both societies has made their circuitous journey a pointlessly dizzying experience.  The demography of northern Ireland now means that the protestant majority is not so large.  Ireland’s votes in favour of abortion and same sex marriage isolate Ulster Unionism from many in their own secularizing community as well as their traditional support in the Tory party make unification less threatening.  The unionist political parties fear this may sway a small but nevertheless significant vote against them.  Amusingly, Jacob Rees-Mogg a born again Roman Catholic needs to make common cause with militant protestants.

The EU has been clear to support the East German precedent that if the north should vote to join the south it will be given automatic, immediate membership without the Dublin government having to re-apply.  This was agreed because the EU Commission feared the Irish government reaching an independent position on the border that the UK might exploit to breach the EU’s protectionist walls.  Fortunately, Ireland was the first country to escape from European Central Bank austerity, so the economic pressures have lessened. These factors are now reasons to assume that even a small shift in the centre of political gravity could create a majority for tearing down the border.

For the moment, the border’s reappearance allows the Irish population to put aside the brutality of the European Central Bank’s “sudden stop” monetary policies and the constant insistence of privatisation, especially of water, as well as the externally imposed austerity policies.  The aspiration for normality will compel a challenge to the border and, eventually, the neo-liberal practices of the various layers of government.

THE FORGOTTEN ROCK

“It seems very strange that in this twenty-first century, the military occupation of a part of an EU member state’s territory is commemorated by another member state.”24

Northern Ireland is not the only land border the UK has with the European Union.  The Peninsula of Gibraltar is one of the UK’s oldest colonial possessions.  The commemoration of Admiral Rook’s capture of the peninsula of Gibraltar in 1704 with English and Dutch marines allowed the UK vital access/ area denial to shipping entering and leaving the Mediterranean at critical times.  It kept the French fleet in the port of Toulouse during the French revolutionary wars and was essential in keeping Napoleon’s army and navy from wider adventures. The Anglo-French competition for Egypt was only a precursor for control of the Suez Canal that turned the Mediterranean Sea into an Anglo-French Lake.  Gibraltar was one of the spoils that the UK obtained under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.  The area under the treaty was extended by gradual movements, initially claiming, in the 1820s, that it extended as far as a cannon ball shot from the town walls. The Spanish attempted a recovery during the siege of 1882-84 but failed because of the UK’s superior means of supply, and firepower.

 

Gibraltar joined the European Economic Community as a British Overseas Territory in 1972.  It has exemptions from the customs union, the Common Agricultural Policy and the Schengen Agreements.  Its peculiarity is even greater because it is not a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, formerly the British Commonwealth, formerly the British Empire.  However, it does have associate membership of the Commonwealth Foundation and is allowed to compete in the Commonwealth Games.  In order to vote in EU Parliamentary elections, the peninsula is affixed to the South West Regional area comprising Cornwall, Devon, Dorset etc..  Its population voted by 96% to remain even though the entire electoral region wanted out. The United Nations places it on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, but the UK actively campaigns for it to be removed.

 

Lord Curzon described its imperial totemic importance, “Even now he Rock of Gibraltar was regarded by a great number of [British] people as a pivot and symbol of Britain’s naval strength in the Mediterranean. And any suggestion to give it up would … create such a commotion throughout the Empire as had not been known for a century.”25

 

The population was made up of some UK subjects but mainly Spanish, Italians, Jews and numerous other nationalities.  It required maintenance from the nearby Spanish towns for a supply of labour and essential provisions.  Around a third do not speak English.  The economy for most of its existence has depended on servicing the Royal Navy.  The dockyards have been the main employer, in 1984 around 60% of the population were employed.  It is claimed that this is now only 7%.  Gibraltar is an important base; it was a rallying point for the ships of the Atlantic convoys to assemble during the Second World War.  It still has considerable military significance.

 

Like many British colonial outposts, it has become a tax haven with the financial sector becoming a major employer, joined by an influx of bookmakers and online gambling operations, shipping and tourism. There is also a small manufacturing sector including a company that converts SUVs into ambulances for the UN and other NGOs.  During the Second World War the entire civilian population was evacuated. Around 16,000 were moved, “the evacuation of what were inelegantly called ‘useless mouths’ began [in May 1940] before actual hostilities … Since evacuation to the United Kingdom was regarded only as a last resort, the first evacuees [were] bound for Casablanca in French Morocco.”26  France was to fall a few weeks later. Yet by shortly after the end of the war only 9,500 returned.

 

When Spain was under Franco, the UK operated a “slush fund” paying senior Spanish officials to inhibit any attempts a recovery of the region, this was not a strategy they could maintain for long. However, the post war settlement worked strongly against Franco, despite his occasional outbursts of demagogy. “Spain was ostracised in international relations after the war, excluded from the United Nations in 1945 and even from American Marshall Aid in 1947.  In these circumstances, not getting embroiled with the British government continued to be a necessary principle in Madrid.  The British authorities therefore had an opportunity to carry out certain changes –such as putting up large permanent buildings on the contested area occupied by the airfield … So long as Franco felt thus corralled by international isolation, the Gibraltar ‘question’ remained dead.” 27

 

In 1967 the UK government issued a declaration, “Her Majesty’s Government will never enter into any arrangement under which the people of Gibraltar will pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.”  Described by some as of the same importance as the Treaty of Utrecht, it left the resolution of the peninsula essentially insoluble.  After joining the EU, Spain, like Northern Ireland, it became possible to imagine the border out of existence.  Initially, when Gibraltar joined the EEC, Spain was not a member and besides the EEC was not so significant an international player.  By the UK exiting a new relationship exists at the border.  Spain and the EU now border sovereign British territory; but one that has been disputed for over three centuries by most of the world.  It is difficult to see how Spain will not use this new situation either to reclaim the entire territory, the part that has been acquired since the signing of the Utrecht treaty, or demands payment from the UK for the use of Gibraltar.  The US would not like to lose this base and feels it would be safer on British hands. However, it could live with an arrangement between the UK and Spain for a form of condominium possibly demanding payments from the UK for the use of the base.  The EU may feel it useful to activate tensions with the UK but only to bring about concessions on other issues.

 

THE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES

 

  1. The Invisible Becomes Visible. The scale of class tensions, geographical tensions and the feeling of anger and alienation that affects much of the UK managed to get a voice.  Conveniently ignored, it now makes the normal way of ruling almost impossible.  The border with Northern Ireland that could be imagined out of existence, now makes clearer the enormous difficulties the partitioned six counties always were. The Tory Party in the past were prepared to take the UK to civil war in the hope of keeping Ulster British.  It will be interesting to see if they still feel this way.  An analogous situation exists with Gibraltar too.

 

  1. Politically Compromised. The failure to address the European Union as an institution will personally and politically compromise many if not most of those “remainers” on the so-called left. They will state how they hold no illusions in the EU, but increasingly will express opinions that reveal how many illusions are at the heart of their thinking.  Fantasies will be concocted about the supposed progressiveness of this institution as opposed to the UK state. The EU may be a differently structured form of imperialism, but it is still imperialism.  It may claim to have no guns but by ignoring that it was created to fight the Cold War by organising production, resources, distribution and mobilising the civilian population, it misses the essential feature of the EU’s purpose.  Wars are fought at the factory floor, finance office and not the battle alone. “[S]oldiers, sailors, ships, guns, tanks, and planes available at the outbreak of war represent only the initial stake.  The issue will be decided in dependence upon the extent to which a given society is able, while under fire, to produce ships, guns, soldiers and sailors.”28

 

  1. An Unreformable Set of Institutions. “Reforming” the EU’s institutions will be advanced even though the so-called parliament has no powers to initiate legislation and can only sack an entire Commission but not a corrupt or rotten commissioner. It is a limpid institution that bears no similarity to any real national parliament in Europe.  The European Council of Heads of States will still meet in secret issuing no minutes of their meetings setting the agenda.  The Council of Ministers and the Commission will still have the legislative initiatives it proposes drafted and prepared by powerful business lobbyists.  The unelected Commission will still have power to advance the neo-liberal agenda of the Four Freedoms that elected parliaments may lack the courage to put to their electorate.  The supremacy of EU law will still compel member states to adopt policies that have never been discussed in national parliaments.  These features will only become more pronounced and, therefore, more visible.

 

  1. German Led EU Imperialism. With the UK exiting, the Franco-German motor of the EU may make possible some greater integration on more initiatives especially to do with military matters.  Germany has become the hegemonic power while France has declined in power and influence.  Germany is currently looking for partners to help it overturn the military prohibitions imposed on it after the war.  It also wants a fig-leaf that will allow it control of nuclear weapons, probably under some Franco-German pact or EU committee.  It will need to approach its own re-armament stealthily for fear of upsetting not just the rest of Europe but also the USA, so it will become ever more loyal to NATO.

 

Germany has grown in influence because of its re-unification with its ability to impose its will on the Euro making it only a disguised version of the Deutschmark. While France would love to see a dilution of the Euro’s rigidity on buying sovereign debt and some occasional devaluation the neo-liberal core of Germany, Austria Holland Denmark and Sweden make this impossible.  Besides the middles classes across the Eurozone seek financial stability in almost all countries driving wages downwards and transferring wealth to the major industrial exporters.  Because of increasing financialisation, the relationship of France to Germany has diminished.  It has only limited influence, diluted by economic paralysis and an enlarged EU membership.  It may even seek to share the force de frappe in return for its partners picking up some of the costs.

 

The Euro and the dollar will increasingly compete with eachother to become the main currency in a larger number of colonial and formerly colonial countries. The dollar is already the main currency in twenty-eight countries, the Eurozone also includes, because of the French Franc, a number of francophone currencies in Africa in its orbit.

 

  1. An Independent Working Class Alternative. Up to now the socialist left has failed to prepare and present a working class alternative to membership of the European Union.  It has confused this European institutionalised imperialism with a form of soft, social-democratic internationalism.  The broken economies of Greece and Eastern Europe are invisible to their eyes seeing only migrants looking for employment in their own lands but not the organised political processes that have institutionalised a massive reserve army of labour sloshing across the continent.  Migration is presented as a right but felt by most migrants as an obligation.

 

  1. Class Dependency. Most worryingly, the left has aligned itself with the arguments of the liberal-left. It fantasises that there is a group of extreme right-wingers who will achieve power if the liberal-left is not given political support.  This lesser evil approach has resulted in praise and votes being heaped on Merkel and Macron while they are painted as if they are staunch anti-fascists.  In the UK a vote to remain on the Prime Minister’s racist terms was portrayed as the lesser evil over the ridiculous leave campaigners who held no government offices or positions.  The vote to leave was falsely portrayed as a vote for Farage, Johnson and Rees-Mogg even though they were always political outsiders. Thankfully most people acted independently registering their vote as an expression of anger at austerity Britain.

 

  1. Guilt Tropes.The race trope if believed would have slandered enormous numbers of voters as racists.  This may give the sanctimonious middle classes a smug feeling of superiority but was only a way of dismissing the genuine anger that motivated this vote of rejection.  The ease by which so many remain voters sought to overturn the vote reveals a contempt not just for democracy but a barely disguised class-based contempt for working people.  If the so-called People’s Vote were ever to be accepted, it would set a precedent that would be used to stifle national independence for Scotland and, possibly, Northern Ireland.  Unfortunately, the doctrine of vote and vote again and again until you get it right is well established in EU elite practice.  The fight for popular sovereignty and democracy is essential.

 

  1. SNP Misleadership.  The SNP now displays a complete paralysis of will as sends out “dog whistles” to the powerful forces in the banks, business community, NATO and the EU.  These messages preclude it from the essential mobilisations required because they may unleash demands that will alienate these elites and the corporate power they wish to extend over Scotland.  The demand for the achievement of national independence has been eclipsed as these reassurances are repeatedly given.  These practices are clearly the result of trying to please the powerful forces of NATO and the EU.

 

  1. The EU Will Dominate Future Politics. The long-term consequences for UK politics of campaigning for the various schemes to remain means that membership of the European Union will stay at the head of UK politics for perhaps an entire generation.  It will distort and mis-shape all political activity for the foreseeable future.  No issue such as Scottish national independence, an independent working class perspective on workers’ rights, migrants’ rights will be able to independently assert itself because they will all have to prismed through the demand for re-joining the European Union.  False pictures of the rights gained by EU membership are presented.  EU membership must come before anything else can be gained. It will lock the left into an unnatural alliance with the corporate bourgeoisie in helping build the liberal order.

28.2.19

 

 

Notes

  1. The vote held on 23rdJune 2016 produced a result of 17,410,742 (51.89%) for leaving the European Union against 16,141,241 (48.11%) to remain.  Nine out of twelve regions voted to leave while 270 voting areas voted to leave out of 382 voting areas.  It was achieved on a turnout of 72.21% from a total of 46,500,001 eligible electors. This is more than most Westminster General Elections.  It would be necessary to go back to the Westminster General Election of 1997 for a comparable result (71.3%).  The electorate entitled to vote was decided by the same criteria as General Elections.
  2. Comment from Jeremy Harding, London Review of Books, Volume 38 Number 14, 14 July 2016.
  3. Comment from T.J. Clark, ibidem..
  4. “Brexit Blues,” John Lanchester, London Review of Books, Volume 38 Number 15, 28 July 2016.
  5. p127, Nigel Culkin & Richard Siummons, Tales of Brexits Past and Present, Emerald Publishing, 2019.
  6. “In a Hole and Still Digging: the Left and Brexit,” Wayne Asher International Socialism Issue 161, January 2019.
  7. “The Internationalist Case Against the European Union,” Alex Callinicos, International Socialism Issue 148, October 2015.
  8. Comment from Daniel Trilling, London Review of Books, Volume 38 Number 14, 14 July 2016
  9. http://www.yourharlow.com/2016/07/05/essex-police-reveal-hate-crime-spike-since-eu-referendum/
  10. The official campaigns were the Britain Stronger in Europe, and Vote Leave promoted by Conservative Eurosceptics; there was also Leave.EU supported by Nigel Farage. Vote Leave was designated the official campaign by the Electoral Commission which gave it £7,000,000, a free mailshot, TV broadcasts as well as £600,000 of public funds.  Non official organisations would still be able to campaign but could be at risk of being sued by the other campaigns or fined by the Electoral Commission if their funds breached the rules after they were aggregated into the spending limits that were imposed.  This had happened previously to independent anti-racist groups that stood no candidates in by-elections where racists and fascists were in the contest.  In this way, the appearance of choice was only yet another expression of the lack of choice.
  11. Under the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investor Partnership that the EU was promoting with the clear blessing of the governments of the UK, France and Germany clauses on investor-state dispute settlement would allow companies to sue governments outside national courts for loss of profits resulting from new regulations including health and safety regulations to limit the use of known dangerous substances such as asbestos or tobacco.
  12. Gaby Hinscliffe, “Seven weeks before we leave the EU … has anyone seen David Cameron?” The Observer, Sunday, February 10th, 2019.
  13. https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/
  14. Luke Raikes, “A jobs boom in some northern towns makes real inequality across the UK,” The Guardian Tuesday, January 15th, 2019.
  15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjFboRwGiqc
  16. pp304-305, Tony Connelly, Brexit and Ireland, Updated with a new chapter, Penguin, 2018.
  17. “Brexit Blues,” John Lanchester, London Review of Books, Volume 38 Number 15, 28 July 2016.
  18. Commonspace “SNP members deserve better than this” Scottish CND criticise SNP response to UK Govt Defence speech, Monday, February 11th, 2019.
  19. Kathleen Nutt, “Salmond: now is the best time for indy fight,” Monday, January 21st, 2019.
  20. Comment from Daniel Finn, “Where Are We Now? Responses to the Referendum, London Review of Books, Volume 38 Number 14, 14 July 2016.
  21. Figures from the Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency cited p44, Tony Connelly, op cit.
  22. Cited in Connelly ibidem, p68.
  23. pp106-107, Connelly ibidem.
  24. From the Spanish newspaper El Pais cited in Blue Water Empire. The British in theMediterranean Since 1800, Robert Holland Penguin Books, 2013, p348.
  25. ibidem, p203.
  1. ibidem, p241.
  2. ibidem p 304.
  3. Leon Trotsky, “Disarmament and the United States of Europe,” Pathfinder Press, 1927)

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also see

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