James Wilson assesses the outcome of Brexit. Dr James Wilson is an ex-combatant of the Irish Troubles, and an occasional consultant to Expac North. He worked in corporate counsel/PR in the City of London until 2005.
It is clearly emerging that the Leave camp in the UK Referendum had no detailed plan of what the UK’s economic position would look like outside the EU. Indeed I would go a step further and argue that many of the Conservative campaigners (including Boris) did not expect or indeed relish winning the vote. They would have been happy for the Remain camp to win and secured their credentials as Euro-sceptics in much the same way as SDLP types occasionally revisit their aspirations as republicans (small r) to a 32 county united Ireland.
In an earlier article I mentioned how voters in traditional Labour heartlands were unhappy with the European Union. As a socialist they reflected my own disquiet with the transition I had witnessed in the EU. Back in the last century, the European Commission under Jacques Delore was at the forefront of championing workers' rights in the face of Thatcherism, but this sense of advocacy terminated abruptly with the end of the Cold War.
Peter Drucker in this thought provoking thesis (Post Capitalist Society,1993), argues convincingly that every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Thus we passed from medieval to Renaissance, and between 1776 and 1809 via the Enlightenment we entered the modern age. In 1989 we began the transition into post-modernity.
For academics such as Fukuyama however, with the end of the Cold War, capitalist democracy had not only defeated communism but every socialist brand of ideology. Post modernity he wrote was the age where neo liberal economics would serve the platform for the “final form of human government” in political multi national unions. (End of History and the Last Man, 1992).
And so this became the vision of the EU. Open economic competition wouldn’t lead to conflict, it would replace it. Tariffs would go, and all the means of production would move across borders as required. This meant re-educating our people. Youth were taught to stop being citizens and become consumers. Internationalism and solidarity was replaced with a sexy cosmopolitism.
You can see it in the arrogance of the privileged millennium babes as they preach from their Glastonbury pulpit. A hectoring abuse of the 4 million working poor who have spoiled their binge in the hedonistic politics of lifestyle at Club EU. They have been oblivious to the need for EU reform, and now the party may be over. Shame. Do a concert for your local foodbank.
And the ‘new’ capitalism worked – for a while. Or at least that was the illusion. Money moved in and out of the Celtic Tiger Ireland at the speed of a mouse click. The lives of working people were shaped by the boom-bust cycle that is the heart beat of rampant neo-liberalism. With a lingering emphasis on the bust. And this week the EU Commission endorsed Irish water charges. (RTE,22/06/16).
Brexit is indeed more about Europe than Britain (Matt O’Brien, Washington Post, 29 June). At the heart of the financial EU is the City [of London]. In its glass and steel towers the midnight oil is burning as strategies are sought to cancel the wishes of the referendum and put the excreta back in the horse. There is just too much investment at stake if the services of the city were to be denied the multinationals. On Friday 24th the German, French, Spanish and Italian stock markets dropped 6.8, 8.0, 12.4 and 12.5 respectfully. By contrast the London stock “only” dropped 3.2%.
With the rich corporate pickings of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty in the offing, it is essential London and its rebellious non metropolitan baggage lands are retained in the union. The answer is seen to lie in the fact that the UK is essentially a pre-enlightenment monarchy. There is no written constitution, and with Parliament ultimately sovereign that’s where the final decision to leave or remain will be taken.
Article 50 is well and truly parked and between the autumn of 2016 and the spring of 2017, a General Election will be called. There is the small matter of the Fixed Term Act (2011) but also opinion that it can be circumvented by these very special circumstances. Corporate donations to pro-EU candidates/parties accompanied by the mother of all PR campaigns would pack Westminster with “Remainers with a mandate”. The peasants' revolt/referendum of 2016 will be quietly forgotten….
Or will it? The EU has had its boat well and truly rocked. It is time re-educate the working class on their birthright of citizenship. To use the shockwaves of potential change in the EU, UK and Ireland as an agent for radicalisation. To get out of tribal silos and rediscover internationalism with fellow British and European workers. (What about a rally in Belfast to show solidarity with the French against El Khomri employment bill? Pro EU campaigners welcome).
Veteran republican socialist Tommy McKearney highlighted the potential thus; ‘the world is in the process of change. The point is to influence what is happening’ (McKearney, 2011). Or as they say in Tyrone, that’s a breaking ball.