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June 25, 20181609Views

The Left Wing Case for Brexit

Nigel Hillpaul explains his left wing case against the European Union

Fellow Brexiteers! Do you remember 2016? The days before everybody thought you were racist, ignorant or an ignorant racist, or that Putin hijacked the pencil you used in your voting booth? As much as metropolitan liberals try to rewrite the narrative, the result was as much a working class reaction to the social democrat/One Nation Tory predictions about a glittering bourgeois European future that left large sections of the population feeling marginalised. The only predictions most of us want about Europe are the six numbers for next Wednesday or Friday; if you can’t deliver those, then whatever your background or expertise, your views are just opinions, just like everyone else’s. And what was it Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry said about opinions? Something quite rude as I recall, so I'll let you look that up if you so wish.

And despite the current muddle, it’s not about internal Tory politics. Blair and Brown had laboured under similar problems about Europe. The most criminal element of the referendum was no government planning for losing it and having to implement it. So what next? Foederati, vassalage or walk? They want our money but they want us to pay for an unpalatable deal. A 16-year-old playing poker would walk away from the table, which is why I will never eat this fudge again. This fudge tastes like... not fudge.

A typical Brexiteer rant so far? Fair enough if you think so, but I've never voted Tory and stopped voting Labour with Blair; there's a large disgruntled class of us Lexiteers, left-wingers opposed to the EU.

The history of the EU's vision has been long known; Jean Monnet himself was always open about it. Barroso was very open about it in 2007: ‘I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire’. Union and imperial ambition it seems, though he went on to add 'What we have is the first non-imperial empire; we have 27 countries that fully decided to work together and to pool their sovereignty', though this non-imperial nature seems to have taken a walk now that there's hell to pay for us trying to unpool ours.

But this imperial ambition is seldom acknowledged here in the UK and quickly denied while labelling those who raise it as cranks and gadflies. What is the attraction? Britain is no longer the sick man of Europe, it’s the third biggest contributor. Ted Heath lied about it merely being a trade arrangement and the Labour Party sold its soul for power (Blair could have at least been honest and called them the Social Democrats instead of New Labour as he had more in common with the European centrist parties then he did with his own core voters). Cameron’s attempt to garner a last-minute deal foundered because the EU didn’t believe that they would lose the referendum even if it went ahead, or that they could gerrymander the result again anyway as they had done before. But it turns out they don’t have to; there are plenty of people here who are prepared to do the dirty work for them. The European Union overturns 300 years of European Enlightenment, and so the rights of man, the power of the individual, universal suffrage to vote for governments of your choice are to be replaced with what? Something more amenable to the US and its plantation economics? Picture the frustration behind the anti-democratic tendencies of politicians who find voters tedious at best and annoying at worst, with their refusal to fall in with their grand plans and designs.

The history of the working classes in this country has been one of struggle with our own elites to gain the rights that are taken for granted (and in some cases, like labour rights, seem to be going into reverse). If you count regulations and directives, half of all UK laws come from Brussels, so where does Parliamentary sovereignty lie if laws are introduced on that scale?

Can you describe the political structure of the UK? Here it goes: head of state (the monarch), parliament (the executive and legislature), the judiciary and councils (county, district and parish, one of which I sit on). The EU? I know it has five presidents, a powerful (appointed) executive that can crush national governments like Greece, an emasculated legislature that would do the USSR credit and a judiciary that is more in favour of employers than workers. I might not like the governments we get, but at least they're mine, and despite evidence of anti-semitism and Windrush scandals, I think Parliament reflects (by and large) the fundamental decency of the British people. Look at its makeup compared to the paragons in Europe. UKIP? One MP or was it two? AfD has about 80 in Germany. France had a fascist – sorry, National Front – presidential candidate. And how about Hungary? Or Poland?

Your perception of how right wing Brexit is probably depends on experience. Having gone out with the Anti-Nazi League in the Seventies and Eighties when fighting racism meant more than nodding or tutting at Guardian articles, I can tell you that although society has a way to go, it has come a long way since then – apart from the middle class, for whom diversity can mean whatever you want so long as it means thinking the same. For them discrimination was something they appropriated from the masses and used to reinforce their position through the kulturkampf of the Nineties and Noughties where 'racist' and 'fascist' are the standard insults directed at those who don't fit in with the new puritan choir.

We were told there were no plans for a European army (most famously denied by Nick Clegg) but, shortly after the referendum, plans were announced for an organisation to coordinate national armies (like, hello, we already have one – it’s called NATO!). This Permanent Structured Cooperation Pact (PESCO) includes commitments to integrate armed forces. Why does it need an army if the EU has kept the peace in Europe since 1945? Oh, that was NATO. Anybody remember the handwringing and foot-shuffling over the Yugoslav Civil War? In fact, its adventurism and interference in Ukraine created the conditions for the country’s current brush war with Moscow’s proxies. Why would a left-winger be worried about defence? If your armed services aren’t answerable to your own government, they stop being your armed services and become an occupying force.

Arguments about the scale of trade and percentage of British GDP reliant on the EU depend on who you listen to, but despite the civil service's inability (or unwillingness) to negotiate, open borders are an EU red line; they argue that free movement is essential, but apart from convenience for the EasyJet holidaying liberals, what this really means is a quasi-medieval itinerant workforce moving around the EU and driving down labour costs. This is why UKIP succeeded in attracting 4 million voters; it appealed to working class Labour (and occasionally Tory) voters who saw their jobs and way of life being threatened.

The UK is a fiscal union that transfers resources and goods across itself (albeit not always terribly well on occasion). The EU is a customs union that encourages internal free trade and is prepared to allow revenue to fall in underperforming areas as it hasn’t synchronised the disparate economic cycles of its constituent members or made allowances for the crushing predominance that some have over others. But I'm sure the workers of the south of the EU appreciate their growing dole queues are for the greater good.

What would happen to any business that was unable to sign off its public accounts for as long as the EU was? The corruption and accountability of the big banks that caused the economic crash ten years ago stemmed from the same hubris, but while they may have fiddled their books, they didn't completely hide them.

Speaking of red lines, I don't know of anyone on the left for whom TTIP was one of the big ones. Negotiated in secret, it means the NHS will be targeted by US healthcare companies (see James Bloodworth's excellent Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain for what a future dominated by globalist corporations looks like), who if they did not get their way would use the Investor-State Dispute Settlement System to sue governments if their profits were infringed.

I'm sure you're familiar by now with most of the remoaner arguments against Brexit. How about this one: ‘It’s not a valid referendum, not everyone voted’. Ho hum. Or ‘It was only an advisory referendum’. Mmnh. ‘It’s not valid because Parliament should have the final say’. Right. Anyone remember this though: ‘The referendum is your chance to decide if we should remain in or leave the EU. This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide‘.

And not before time. I may have missed the revolution and marriage and a mortgage may have mitigated most of my desire to bring it about, but when I look at the sleek apparatchiks of Brussels and their apologists in this country, I can remember Tony Benn's five questions, and so should you:

What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interests do you exercise it?
To whom are you accountable?
How do we get rid of you?

If you don't get an answer that you're comfortable with, you should do something about it. And so we did.

We voted Leave.

Nigel Hillpaul

Byzantinist, varangian and rural antiquarian


Twitter: @TheHillpaul


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