Tory Hell: Brexit is Not the Will of the People, It’s a Symptom of Britain’s Democratic Deficit
By T. J. Coles | Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Tuesday, Nov 14, 2017
Prime Minister May famously lost her majority in the 2017 snap General Election, which she’d previously said would not be called in the first place. May propped up the Tory government by making a billion-pound deal with the far-right Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. The Tories won 43% of the vote share and the defeated Labour Party won 40%, meaning that we have a government on the basis of a three percent margin in the popular vote.
May herself initially came to power as an unelected Prime Minister, as had New Labour’s Gordon Brown and the Tory’s David Cameron, after the latter also failed to get a majority in the 2010 General Election and formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
For many years, the supposedly pro-EU Cameron had been working with the Eurosceptic faction of the Tory Party (call it the Nigel Lawson faction) to distance the UK from Brussels on a range of issues. Then-Home Secretary May, for instance, led a round of opt-outs from EU legislation on issues relating to Britain’s borders and criminal justice system. The Treasury, meanwhile, sought ways of limiting Brussels’ influence over the operational freedoms of City of London-based financial institutions.
In other words, there was an internal push away from the EU long before the public Referendum in 2016.
As I and others have documented, wealthy so-called free marketeers, especially in the hedge fund sector, quietly worked behind the scenes to unhook Britain from EU regulation in an effort to pursue markets abroad. Brexit is a complicated social, economic and ideological issue, so it is not surprising that arguments can be made against this position. There were plenty of hedge funds and indeed the majority of UK businesses firmly in the Remain camp.
However, the evidence shows that men like Peter Cruddas, Crispin Odey, Michael Hintze, and Peter Hargreaves financed the Leave campaign and did so in order to make money, initially from the chaos of market instability, but in the longer term seek investments outside the regulatory shackles of the EU, especially after Brussels adopted its Alternative Investment Funds Managers Directives.
Adding to these revelations is the Guardian article exposing the actions of billionaire hedge fund manipulator Robert Mercer and his hired UK-based Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly sought to manipulate via social media the psychology of Leave voters by playing on their fears and insecurities. Both parties deny this and emphasise they’ve done nothing illegal.
Brexit highlights the UK’s democratic deficit for at least these reasons:
1) Ordinary working Britons who have been hit hard by neoliberalism over the last 40 years, especially since the Crash of ’08 and ongoing Tory-led austerity are not educated via the media about the workings of economic deregulation and the positive correlation to their declining living standards. A significant percentage, including of young people, though not a majority, blame easy targets, depending on the issue.
2) Ordinary working Britons were also not told that the dominant financial institutions operating in the UK were becoming increasingly Eurosceptic in light of the EU’s tightening of regulations. Had they been informed, they might have realised that the kind of Brexit being pursued is in the interests of the mega-wealthy, not the nationalistic poor.
3) They were not told that certain economically right-wing agitators in the Tory government wanted to leave the EU a) for their own interests and in the interests of the financial sector and b) not in the interests of ordinary working Britons.
4) With few exceptions, no one was told that the big financial players were working hard behind the scenes to generate support for an anti-EU Referendum.
5) The simple yes-no, in-out dialectic of the Brexit option did not take into account the complexities of the European Union, such as the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, the rights of nationals living in the EU, the pros and cons of what will come after Brexit in terms of migration flows from non-EU countries (a big issue for Leave voters, especially both older and less integrated ones), job opportunities, and economic stability.
6) It was not made clear to voters that due to Britain’s record number of opt-outs, the EU has virtually no authority over UK economic and fiscal sovereignty anyway, be it keeping the pound, rejecting the European Central Bank’s policies, or accepting EU competition rules. The privatisation of the Royal Mail by Liberal Vince Cable (a former Shell oil chief economist) is a case in point: Europe did not threaten Britain into privatising the Royal Mail. Rather, it was EU, post-Maastricht regulation that enabled its privatisation under the strictures of EU regulation.
7) Lies were told to the public on both the Leave and Remain sides about the consequences of voting one way or the other.
8) As well being separated from both the true purpose of Brexit (profit-making, not ‘sovereignty’) and shaping the details of the final proposal, Britons have been excluded from the negotiating process. The Tory Party is now so much a front for the City of London Corporation (particularly Mayfair) that its membership has halved since 2010, leading members (like the head of the Bow Group) have been suspended for raising the issue of member alienation within the party, and the average member is 71 years old. Theresa May has kept the details of the City’s plan for Britain post-Brexit a secret from most of her own cabinet and has entered negotiations with such arrogance that Britain’s diplomatic alienation from Brussels is assured.
9) Meanwhile, EU nationals living in the UK have been unlawfully treated like bargaining chips on the advice of Sir Ivan Rogers, despite the fact that most Britons agree that their right to remain in the UK, especially if individuals have lived here for more than five years, should be assured.
10) Brexit is not the will of the British people, as the government likes to repeat. Brexit is taking place in light of all of the above, despite the fact that a majority of Britons want to Remain part of the EU. The reason the Leave campaign won is because many Remainers never bothered to come out and vote, believing Remain to be a forgone conclusion. Just 37% of all eligible British voters voted to Leave.
11) There are plenty of issues that are the will of the British people (or at least pluralities and majorities), including among Tory voters: getting private interests out of the NHS, nationalising the energy, water and transport companies, not going to war unless the UK is invaded, and de-escalating current wars. Yet because these issues do not coincide with the interests of elites like those mentioned above, they are not considered the will of the British people. The Daily Mail screams ‘Enemies of the people’, when judges point out the unconstitutionality of triggering Article 50 without a Commons vote. But it and other papers remain silent when Parliament regularly votes for laws which most people oppose—in fact, in many cases, the media support and enable such laws.
12) The economic and social costs of Brexit remain hidden from the people by the government, which refuses even under FOIA requests to release their commissioned studies.
13) Despite being now unpopular and losing the very majority she sought to increase, which was the supposed reason for holding the GE 2017, PM May has refused to stand down and is allegedly negotiating the Brexit that a minority of Britons wanted (37%) without democratic oversight or input.
In conclusion, Brexit is happening because a) mega-wealthy people want it to happen, b) left-leaning intellectuals and progressive activists are not doing nearly enough to educate working and retired people about the true causes of their decline in living standards, c) huge areas of the UK remain ethnically segregated and give rise to xenophobia, d) older people have a much bigger vote share than younger ones (and older people tend to support Brexit), and, most important of all, e) ordinary Britons are and have always been excluded from real democracy; that is to say in generating, shaping, negotiating, and compromising on policy, both foreign and domestic.
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