It's not often I quote Nigel Farage but, in relation to Brexit, he is absolutely correct.
Nearly a decade on from the UK's decision to leave the European Union the ramifications and recriminations continue, with many people not willing to understand why their fellow countrymen voted the way they did. As the authors of this book contest:
. . . the political earthquake that Brexit caused in Britain has exposed the advanced decay and structural weakness of its old political order . . . Understanding the reasons for Brexit and the unanswered political questions that it has raised therefore remains of the utmost importance . . . Many of the old ways in which the British people once sought to control our nation-state in the days before it became an EU member-state are gone, degraded by the very existence of member-statehood. The process of leaving the EU has only served to prove the exhaustion of British politics. The demand for national sovereignty that the electorate made in 2016 therefore poses tasks that, for the most part, still lie ahead of us. Brexit was a necessary condition of real national sovereignty, but it was not sufficient to restore it.
This was proven by the Conservative Party's hollow attempts at rebranding Britain as one nation (despite the rampant destruction Thatcherism did to the state institutions) and the Labour Party collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions (socialism in the EU). As a result, a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild a country has now been squandered by political entities who loathe democracy and hate being held accountable for their actions, creating a deeper division between the voters and the ones (supposedly) in power.
Authored by members of The Full Brexit, it's a relief to see such a left wing pro-Brexit tome emerge (especially considering that so much commentary on this particular topic is from a right wing perspective). What’s even more welcoming is that the authors make a point of examining various angles that are not as well understood as some would claim, such as the set-up of the EU, how the introduction of quangos led to a more “outsourced” government” and how several claims populated by Leavers and Remainers are nothing more than half-understood myths. Crucially, it also attempts to offer a solution to the current impasse.
The most illuminating segment deals with the aftermath of Brexit, where anyone who voted in favour of it was demonised as a racist/fascist/little Englander/blahblahblah. Looking at the statistics, the authors calmly point out that the supposed spike in "hate crimes" did not happen and that, while immigration was certainly a factor, very few had any animosity towards immigrants, especially when the fact that towns with high minority populations voted for Brexit. When considered with the importance of sovereignty and identity, a crucial point is made: minorities were voting for a chance to reclaim sovereignty while being both “white knighted” (for supposedly being victims) and lumped in with the supposed “little Englanders.”
An example of how the issue of race can be discarded when not needed.
Unsurprisingly, the writers hold nothing but contempt for the Tories, depicting how Thatcherism dismantled the system established under the post-war consensus and replaced it with EEC integration, leading to the rise of various quangos which have removed national sovereignty and frustrated democracy. In terms of the Corbyn-led Labour Party, the authors are scathing of how Corbyn (a Eurosceptic) was convinced to meekly campaign for a Remain vote and then gave into pressure to support a second referendum (despite most of Labour's most vulnerable constituencies being Brexit areas) as well as how various Labour MP's, when given the ultimate opportunity to seriously derail Brexit, merely opted to leave it in the hands of Teresa May.
All mouth and no trousers.
Although the writers do their best to articulate a direction for Britain to go in (such as encouraging a united Ireland), it ultimately relies on far-fetched notions of British politicians developing a healthy respect for democracy, accountability and sovereignty. Considering Rishi Sunak recently backtracked on removing 4000 EU laws from British legislation, it's obvious this won't be happening any time soon. Also, they are slightly dismissive of Scottish independence, seeing support for it as disillusionment for the UK Parliamentary system as opposed to a genuine desire for independence.
As a conversation starter, it is second to none. It critically examines both sides of the debate and finds them not only responsible for the rot, but also for abandoning voters by fobbing off the problem to someone else (Brexiteers: quangos. Remainers: Teresa May) instead of respecting and serving the electorate. However, as a left wing solution to the problems currently facing Britain, it states the obvious but is lacking in how that can be implemented.
Nigel Farage should have been paying attention.
Philip Cunliffe, George Hoare, Lee Jones, Peter Ramsay, 2023, Taking Control: Sovereignty and Democracy After Brexit. Polity Books. ISBN-13: 978-1509553204
🕮 Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist and author of A Vortex Of Securocrats.
One to chase Christopher.ReplyDelete
I think if there is an argument to be made for leaving the EU is has to be a Left one.
But if it is not the EU it will be some other international institution. The evolution of the world has made it that way.
There is no glaring reason as to why nations should remain in existence forever given that they have not been here forever.
Nation states can be useful for the practical purpose of governing but I am with Pepe Mujica on the ultimate desirability of a global government.
one of the great missed opportunities of the last ten years was the Left not embracing the notion of a Lexit, as they had the moral authority to make the case (as opposed to Thatcherites like Farage). If they had, who knows what could have happened.
I'm just not sure what would have been achieved. Seems to me a bit like socialism in one country and that didn't work too well. To me it is worthwhile only if it is part of a wider European phenomenon. If not, it is much too easily isolated.Delete
I think it would have allowed for a Labour government (possibly led by Corbyn) to be voted in and to start weighing the economy in favour of workers.
But what could a Corbyn government have done? Would it have been able to stick to its promises and more than the Tories have? If the national economy functions in the context of an international economy what space exists for a go it alone Lexit? Might it not be drawn to something as authoritarian as BRICS? I share your preference but can't see how to make it possible.Delete
obviously I'm indulging in wishful thinking as Brexit exposed Britain as a decaying society. However, studies have shown that, while Britain is worse off now than it has been in years, that can be traced to the spending during the pandemic and the second lockdown. Without the pandemic, who knows where Britain would be, financially speaking?
Also, bear in mind that the vaccine roll out in Britain was quicker than in the EU due to EU regulations.
many of us do a bit of wishful thinking, but with or without the pandemic I doubt for the most part many other than the Tory right felt Brexit was going to produce a positive. Even then the Tory right lied about it and sold it on false promises.Delete
In today's world the trend is increasingly towards pooling of sovereignty. But we tend to be in a pool with sharks.
I still aspire to a world government. More wishful thinking!
On every possible metric, Brexit has been a disaster. It was after the "longest suicide note in history" in the form of the 1983 Labour General Election manifesto in which withdrawal from the then EEC was proposed that the British Left moved sensibly to grasp the benefits of workers rights and consumer and environmental protection within the EU as a countervailing force to the rampant Thatcherism of the time. The EU, like all governmental and representative institutions, is not perfect but it is a free association of liberal democracies. Lexiteerism is protectionist, "socialism in one country" isolationist political illiteracy.ReplyDelete
"It was after the "longest suicide note in history" in the form of the 1983 Labour General Election manifesto in which withdrawal from the then EEC was proposed that the British Left moved sensibly to grasp the benefits of workers rights and consumer and environmental protection within the EU as a countervailing force to the rampant Thatcherism of the time."ReplyDelete
Not true, this shift didn't happen until after the miners strike, where the EU played no part in defending workers rights. Plus, the vast majority of workers rights in Britain were won through trade unions, not the EU.
Workers rights are invariably won through trade unions. Even under the very restrictive Industrial Relations Act in this part of the world victories in the WRC or Labour Court are won by trade union reps.ReplyDelete
But the EU has codified protections that working people will not want to give up in return for promises from the Left.