Sunday, 26 June 2016

Brexit: Who Really Won, And What Have We Lost?

EU Flag minus Britain
When EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said that the UK "deserters" would face “consequences” and be treated as a “third country” if it left the union, I'm not sure who he thought he was talking to. Them's fightin' words, and honestly I thought it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Well, we voted out. What happens now?

What is the EU?

Many of the Remain crowd appear to believe that the people who voted Leave were ignorant and ill-informed. Honestly, I believe they were the utterly ignored sticking it to the paternalistic authoritarians who like to think they know more than we do while wrecking the economy. That said, let's make a few things clear: while I voted Remain I've never been too keen on that "ever-closer union" aspect of EU membership. If we're going to discuss what happens next let us first define what the EU is and why we joined it in the first place.

The European Union

The end of the Second World War and the rise of the Iron Curtain got people talking about ways to cooperate in order to ensure that we never ended up in such a destructive situation again. While the various Socialist groups had discussed the creation of a global socialist society and failed, the French and Germans began to discuss the terms of an economic cooperation pact based around the production and distribution of coal and steel. The Schuman Declaration on 09/05/1950 created the framework for the beginnings of political and economic cooperation with a view to the eventual creation of a united Europe.

Europe will be born from this, a Europe which is solidly united and constructed around a strong framework. It will be a Europe where the standard of living will rise by grouping together production and expanding markets, thus encouraging the lowering of prices. - Schuman Declaration

In 1951 the Treaty of Paris created the European Coal and Steel Community; France, Italy, the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) together with West Germany were the first members. The community's High Authority later became the European Commission. A Common Assembly was also created to work with the High Authority; they had a senate and a commons.

The Treaty of Rome estalished the European Economic Community (EEC) on 1 January 1958. The word "Economic" was deleted from the treaty's name by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, and was repackaged as the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union on the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the European Union on 1 January 1973.

It's important to note that a federation of European states was the endgame from inception and that, while Britain was keen on doing business with her neighbours she's never been that keen on the "ever-closer union" idea. Try to imagine Britannia in a cage in a circus ring sticking her head in a lion's mouth, hoping it won't bite down: that is the best way to describe the British attitude to Europe.

The Brexit faction

While the benefits of freedom of movement, etc., have been touted as the best possible reason for staying in, the Brexit faction or Eurosceptics, as they're commonly known, are protectionist nativists who see all of those freedoms as a threat to national sovereignty and personal freedom. They have an array of arguments, all of which have been handwaved away, which resulted in success for the Brexit faction.

A superstate dominated by France and Germany

Brexit proponent Boris Johnson told The Telegraph:

Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.

Let's take a closer look at this, shall we? First of all, the EC was intended to become a federation from Day One. France had actually taken over the coal-rich Ruhr valley in Germany during the days of the Coal and Steel Community and was siphoning off its wealth for itself. Later on, Germany's economy overtook France's. Now Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling the shots. They may be using less violent methods but they are still at the old conquest game.

But fundamentally what is lacking is the eternal problem, which is that there is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe. There is no single authority that anybody respects or understands. That is causing this massive democratic void.

And there you have it. The Right complains that Our Glorious Leaders are trying to mould us into a superstate dominated by a Franco-German coalition against our wills. No amount of scare-mongering or finger-wagging is going to make that go away.

It only seems to benefit the wealthy

Writing for the Guardian, John Harris points out the number of economically underprivileged people who favour Brexit because they believe that the European Union is forcing them to compete with ever-growing numbers of immigrants for jobs, housing, and services. I don't have to go that far to find the exact same sentiment at work around me here in Salford. The Left, however, sees it differently: the EU, they declare, is a fountain of largess for deprived regions like Cornwall, which, they gleefully point out, having Brexited in haste is now repenting at leisure. The Financial Times is belatedly discussing the much-needed reform of capitalism. That needed reforming years ago!

We've lost control of our borders

The anti-Brexit brigade have been reporting horrible racist incidents as part of their ongoing narrative that ignorance is the reason for Brexit. What they're not willing to accept or address is the flooding of many British communities with people from other countries to the point where the natives become restless. Refusing to address this real concern is why the Left lost any traction in the debate; they were perceived as being part of the problem. Meanwhile, any discussion of this gets lumped in with xenophobia whether it is actually xenophobic or not.

The Remain faction

Some of the Remain faction are in the first stage of grieving: denial. There are campaigns flying round the Twittersphere along the lines of "We wuz robbed; the people were not fully and completely informed about the benefits of staying in Europe," or "Not enough of us voted to leave, so let's have another referendum."
That's what boogeyman politics does, Ed. It may be starting to lose its appeal but it still works: spend enough time demonising the opposition and presenting them as a dangerous enemy, and believe me you will see people at each other's throats. Here are some post-referendum tropes floating about at the moment.

They didn't really mean it

One of the features of the Remain faction's denialism is the idea that the Brexit faction didn't really want to leave, they were just lashing out at aspects of the EU they didn't like. As a consequence of this they are not in a hurry to leave the EU. In fact, they might still be persuaded to change their minds. Per David Allen Green AKA Jack of Kent, there's a possibility that the government won't act on the outcome of the referendum without a big push; they've not invoked Article 50, the legal mechanism for leaving the EU, just yet. Prime Minister David Cameron says he won't be the one to do it, whoever takes his place can pull the plug.

Mr. Green has provided a detailed account of the legal ramifications on his Twitter feed on the subject.

The fools! What have they done?!

All over the world people are responding to Brexit. As is widely reported, a lot of us are stunned that the Brexit faction won; you don't succeed at "chicken" by actually driving off the cliff, the idea is to swerve at the last minute. People I know are telling me it was supposed to be a protest vote to get the attention of the elite and the arrogant. Now the realities are kicking in.

The impact on business

People who were keen to kick out those meddling foreigners appear to have forgotten how much we rely on them. Since Our Glorious Leaders have left it to those meddling foreigners to plug our skills gap instead of (I know, it sounds crazy, right?) providing effective education and training solutions like they did back in the day, we are going to suffer. Or — mad idea — we could take advantage of the situation by providing our own people with the necessary skills. Oh, forget it, I can't see that idea taking off.

There's also the issue of data sharing, trading, and all the other things we've been taking for granted. The EU doesn't appreciate "deserters" so expect a Hotel California-like situation in which we've checked out but not quite left because business is keeping us in.

This was about democracy

We live in a neoliberal hegemony in which austerity has been imposed due to the financial disruption caused by our banks getting involved in a financial bubble perpetrated by the Bank of America. This means we have the apparatus of democracy but voters only matter to Our Glorious Leaders when there's an election on, in which case they're all over us like enthusiastic mutts. A Labour canvasser attempted to metaphorically hump my leg once. I metaphorically hit him on the nose with a newspaper and shouted, "Bad dog!" The deal goes like this: they feed us propaganda that plays to our insecurities, we believe it, then vote according to the ideologies of the party we support. Basically, politics is supposed to be like football and we're supposed to support our chosen Premiership team.

Do the British fail at democracy?

When the NERC began a campaign to name their polar research vessel, the internet had a bit of fun with subverting the process. The name "Boaty McBoatface" took off and eventually won the contest. I remember the complaints about it. The naming of the ship was supposed to have been a solemn process, presumably with prayers and sacrifices at the temple of your choice to the deity of your choice before submitting a name. But buried in the terms and conditions of the contest was the assertion that the NERC would have the final say over the name. Brexit is being perceived in the same way, the idea being that "dumb people shouldn't be allowed to vote. Or old people. Or people who disagree with the Remain faction." Brexit McBrexitface it is, then.

The authoritarians are beating their breasts

On Twitter, people are noticing a trend towards outright disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with the Remain faction. I voted Remain but I'm disgusted with some of the attitudes I'm seeing here. For better or worse this is the will of the People McPeopleface. I disagree, but I accept it. That neither socialists nor capitalists could make the case for Remain to the voters because they weren't bothered to take concerns over immigration seriously is their failure, not the voters'.
In my experience, socialism and capitalism are mirror images of each other and they both exist to perpetuate themselves. They're not in the least bit interested in meeting people's needs. That they can't or won't accept this truth is the reason why they fail to capture the public imagination.

I'll let Mr. Jeremy Clarkson have the last word:

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