In the future, I imagine, historians will spend long hours and thousands of pages debating the exact events leading up to and following the 23rd of June 2016, so let me set something down for the record. The only reason we’re in this mess is David Cameron’s incompetence and colossal sense of entitlement. It’s an undeniable fact that Cameron’s rationale for holding a referendum on EU Membership wasn’t based on principle, but was in fact a gamble to quieten the noisy far right elements of the Tory party, whom he was incapable of controlling. Much has been written about Corbyn’s inability to lead Labour, but if there’s a bright side to that it’s that the result has merely been a decline in the polls, rather than the wholesale decimation of the state…
Cameron’s dispute with the Eurosceptic right of his party dates back long before his formal entry into politics. Since I believe in knowing your enemy (not in the biblical sense), I recently read through several books on the recent history of the Tory Party. All agreed that the feud between Cameron and Boris Johnson dated back to their days at Oxford, and perhaps even before then. This feud has resulted in the current state of affairs. This rather terrified me. Many years ago, I worked in a bar frequented by Cambridge University students. I worked there because I was broke, and trying to complete a degree at the wrong University with the wrong people. My patrons were often from the homogenous blob of recalcitrant Toryism that flourishes at Oxbridge. I recall, while pulling pints, overhearing conversations among the political types, who, even at the tender age of nineteen or so, were already forming alliances, making contacts, sparking feuds. For that kind of person, Cambridge wasn’t a place to study as a place to prepare for establishment life. It does not surprise me that many of those smooth faced boys are now working for Tory MPs and think tanks. It terrifies me to think that I was witnesses eerily similar encounters to those between Cameron and Johnson, thirty years before, where perhaps in similarly scuzzy student pubs, they planted the seeds for Brexit.
But I digress. Let me make my position clear. There is nothing good about Brexit. I am no diehard fan of the EU (I spent a large part of Summer 2015 in Greece, witnessing the appalling cruelty of EU mandated austerity on that nation), but my qualms aside, I was very much a remain and reform person. Not that that really matters now, since I’m apparently a Remoaner, unpatriotic, and highly undemocratic for voicing my stance. Let’s briefly take a moment to remind ourselves that the Leave vote was only a majority of those who voted, not the electorate itself. And that the Brexiteers seems remarkably antagonistic towards the structures of a democratic state when they feel like it.
To my mind, Brexit poses two threats, and they both concern Capital. Firstly, the threat of financial capital. The pound is currently a mess, there are large areas of the country which will lose significant EU funds, and I’m very curious to see what happened to that bus with its promise of £350 million per week for the NHS. I presume it is hidden away in the same lock up as the EdStone. This economic nightmare bothers me, but I’m somewhat used to it all now. Even if the economy managed to magically fix itself in post Brexit Britain, I very much doubt much would ever trickle down from the top, or that much would change about the UK’s staggering economic inequality. What concerns me more is the other form of Capital, the form that cannot be quantified with spreadsheets, and that is the Capital that has now been given to racist, bigoted Little Englanders.
In so many ways, Brexit was not about the EU, or appropriately shaped bananas or the NHS. It was about racism. It was about xenophobia. It was the logical end point of a generation who have been taught to “other” immigrants and refugees for decades. I’m not just talking about Nigel Farage and his appalling “Breaking Point” poster; the official leave campaign engaged in their fair share of xenophobia. In short, what this meant was that Brexit was, and continues to be, a huge thumbs up to racist and racially discriminatory ideas. No wonder, then, that racial hate crime has risen by 100% since Brexit. But quite apart from this sobering fact, Brexit seems to have changed the parameters of what it is acceptable for politicians to say and do with regards to foreign powers. Which previous British government would have the gall to threaten, however vaguely, war in Europe, barely a week after beginning the formal process of leaving the EU? What other point in recent history would see a supposedly respectable paper, gleefully declaring that the Royal Navy could “cripple” Spain? A friend of mine recently suggested that Theresa May was trying to emulate Thatcher to the extent that she wanted her own Falklands War. I disagree. At the point, our unelected Prime Minister seems more intent on being Sir Francis Drake…
The goalposts have shifted, seemingly irrevocably. Parameters have changed. We were told we would Remain in the EU. We did not. We were told that Hillary Clinton would be sworn into the White House in January of this year. She was not. The order of things, no matter how fragile, seems to be falling apart at the seams. And Brexit, and Brexiteers need to shoulder their fair share of blame for this. I somehow doubt they will. God help us all.
(Image courtesy of: https://extranewsfeed.com/50-dumb-fuck-reasons-for-leaving-the-eu-66a40c72c1da)