With Article 50 due to be triggered imminently, we might naturally ask ourselves again what it is that the ‘Brexit’ process is meant to lead us towards in the long-run.
‘Shock Doctrine’, Child Poverty, Ultra-Capitalism ‘On Steroids’ and the UK’s potential future as a corporate tax-haven are just part of the picture feared by some. And by the way, TTIP isn’t dead.
In assessing what the underlying motives for ‘Brexit’ might be, we will also need to look at it in the context of what is happening in the United States. And given the sheer amount of brainwashed misconception that appears to be proliferating in terms of both Brexit and Trump, we should also decode why it is that the trendy term “the liberal elite” is such a stroke of Machiavellian genius.
Irrespective of where you stand on Brexit or the EU – and I have always made it clear that I don’t have any loyalty to either camp, but am merely studying the information and trying to understand what is going on from as neutral a position as possible – it is always important to assess the motivations or intentions of whatever forces or alliances are controlling any given course of events.
So, some obvious questions.
For example, why was the Brexit push – at the political level – being conducted virtually exclusively by very wealthy people and almost entirely by right-wing figures (with the possible exception of Boris Johnson, who, as it happens, didn’t actually believe in Brexit)? Why are those controlling the Brexit process so single-mindedly determined to push ahead with it on the whim of only 37% of the electorate (and only a narrow 52% of those who voted – remember that Nigel Farage said on referendum day that if Remain had won by as little as 52% there should be a second referendum), even to the extent of openly trying to block parliament’s involvement?
This particularly applies to Theresa “Brexit means Brexit” May, who even wanted to resort to ‘royal prerogative’ and the power of the Queen to override parliament. They keep saying that it is because they “respect the will of the people”: since when did Establishment politicians and wealthy sponsors consider themselves bound by the “will of the people”?
I will come back to that phrase – “will of the people” – at the end and explain why I think it is being used so much.
The timing of this – as I pointed out previously – is probably no coincidence: with Brexit coinciding precisely with the election victory of the Trump campaign. The Trump victory, as previously argued here, was essentially – whatever else it might also have been – a coup by most ruthless of the the 1% billionaires and corporate interests. In a guest-post on this blog a few weeks ago, Dr Leon Tressell, expanded further on this theme (read it here: ‘Wolves of Wall Street in a Trumpster Paradise‘) in regard to the Trump campaign, Goldman-Sachs, the Koch brothers and the banksters.
It remains curious that both Brexit and the Trump/Goldman-Sachs victories occurred at the same time – with Trump also constantly likening his campaign to Brexit. On the foreign-policy front, as previously argued, a Britain rid of the EU seems set to re-align more squarely with the US/Israel axis and away from the ‘liberal’ governments that were attempting to block Israeli annexation of all remaining Palestinian land. But it is also set to be about a lot more than that.
And it looks suspiciously that, in effect, ‘Brexit’ might later be talked about in the same context as the deregulation of Wall Street.
It seems curious that Brexit politicians now are so single-minded about pursuing the departure from the EU at all costs, given that, several months ago, leaders from their own party were warning everyone of how disastrous it would be.
This brings to mind something referred to as ‘Disaster Capitalism’.
To start with, it helps to quote some passages from Howard Hotson, who, writing in the The Guardian shortly after the Brexit result, cites some of what Naomi Klein argued in the book The Shock Doctrine. In this instance, he isn’t talking about the global situation or any possible EU collapse, but specifically about how the UK could now move into a more ruthless, ultra-capitalist direction, which some regard as a return to Thatcherism. ‘…Disaster capitalism operates by delivering massive shocks to the system and then using the ensuing period of anarchy, fear and confusion to reassemble the pieces of what it has broken into a new configuration.’
He continued. ‘This is what was done in the aftermath of the financial crisis, and it is ultimately what is at stake in Brexit. The right wing of the Tory party has succeeded in throwing the UK’s affairs into complete confusion. The losses may be enormous: the preservation of the United Kingdom in its present form is far from certain. The winnings may, at first sight, seem modest: £350m a week will not be available to save the NHS; the free movement of labour will have to be conceded; and Britain will lose its place at the EU negotiating table. But the potential winnings for ruthless politicians are nevertheless enormous: the prize is the opportunity to rework an almost infinite range of detailed arrangements both inside and outside the UK, to redraw at breakneck speed the legal framework that will govern all aspects of our lives….’
He continues, ‘As Andy Beckett pointed out in the Guardian on Friday, within minutes of the BBC declaring victory for Brexit, the free-market thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) revealed the plan B that has otherwise remained hidden from view. “The weakness of the Labour party and the resolution of the EU question have created a unique political opportunity to drive through a wide-ranging revolution on a scale similar to that of the 1980s. This must include removing unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses, such as those related to climate directives and investment fund[s]”.’
‘A week later,’ Hotson noted in his post-Brexit Guardian piece, ‘and this possibility is no longer merely theoretical.’
Also noted was the speed with which the post-Cameron Tory leaders have wanted to push ahead with a Hard Brexit, despite a divided parliament and a divided nation and despite some of them having themselves been pro-Remain just weeks earlier. ‘One of the most startling aspects of the Brexit debate is the rapidity with which the Conservatives have set it behind them. The referendum was manifestly won on the basis of misinformation, and puts the UK in an extremely dangerous situation… Yet among the candidates to succeed Cameron, even former remainers are now voting leave. “Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May stated on joining the race on Thursday. “There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum.” All the bloodshed in the Tory leadership contest masks an underlying consensus: they are all determined to block every exit from Brexit.’
The question is why. That’s not how the political establishment usually operates. It’s certainly not how democratic political systems usually operate. Is it really all for the sake of honoring the “will of the people”? And only 37% of “the people”, at that?
The likelihood is that an anti-EU vote that was, for a lot of people, driven by an aversion to an apparently undemocratic EU, is actually the genius sleight of hand that allows for a swift march towards mass deregulation and ultra-capitalism controlled by a Conservative government that will now be much more slanted towards its right-wing than it was in the Cameron era.
And everyone who decided that foreigners and migrants – rather than government policies – were the cause of all their problems might eventually have to come to terms with the fact what they’ve chosen is what some predicted would be an inevitable return to Thatcherism.
None of this would be entirely surprising: it is, after all, a programme being pursued by the right-wing of the Conservative Party (including UKIP, which is the right-right-wing of the Conservative Party). Regardless of the pros or cons of leaving the EU or remaining in the EU, the general consensus of what Brexit might amount to is starting to emerge – and it is very difficult not to see it as something that goes curiously hand-in-hand with what happened in the US in November; particularly as, sticking with the ‘return to Thatcherism’ meme, the US now has a president that Republicans kept telling us could be a “new Reagan”.
In fact, some of the main figures populating the Trump administration are people who make Ronald Reagan look like an old softy.
Though not as bad as some of the Trump figures, many of the major Leave campaigners were highly questionable figures themselves (ranging from hardcore right-wingers and pleb-haters like Ian Duncan Smith and wealthy aristocrats like Jacob Rees-Mogg – pictured below with Farage – to Israeli-funded playboys like Liam Fox and corporate tycoons like Rupert Murdoch), while Nigel Farage is an ex-banker and broker who also operated an off-shore tax-haven to avoid contributing thousands in tax to help the services in the country he supposedly loves so much.
These aren’t people who typically care a great deal about the plight of “the people”; they are typically people, however, who know how easy it is to whip the plebs up into a nationalistic, tribalistic frenzy over foreigners, ‘sovereignty’ and the flag, in order to harness those forces in the service of other agendas.
Elites have played this strategy throughout history; the Romans were masters at it and it is probably actually the oldest trick in the book.
The plain fact is – and people should always realise this – that the referendum would never have been offered to us unless some section of the Establishment would have something to gain from it going a certain way. The genius maneuver, however, from both the traditional right-wing press and the newer ‘alt-right’ media has been to brainwash vast amounts of people into adopting the buzz-phrase “the liberal elite” in order to trick particularly gullible people into forgetting all about the conservative elite – which is the true ‘elite’ as it is the older and original elite.
This applies both to the UK and the United States – and to every other country too. But, bafflingly, so many of those being zealously caught up in the ‘we’re defeating the new world order’ psy-op are extraordinarily of the belief that their salvation lies with the Old Elites – in order to protect them from the newer, so-called ‘liberal elite’.
In other words, this great ‘revolt’ against ‘globalism’ and the NWO consists of worshiping and trusting the traditional elite that has been there for centuries – and vilifying and trying to defeat the newer ‘liberal elite’ that has been there for about five minutes.
It is very clever – even if a very old strategy. And the Trump/Goldman-Sachs/Breitbart campaign in America played essentially the same strategy. In their case, it was even easier, because the Democrats had decided to suppress the popular candidate – Bernie Sanders – in order to prop-up an actual ‘liberal elite’ candidate in the form of the corrupt and hugely unpopular Hillary Clinton.
But all of this, far from being the ‘anti establishment’ maneuver that so many people think it is, is actually likely to be mere sleight-of-hand: simply jettisoning one perceived establishment for the sake of the other, older establishment.
And – before I start getting the same hate-mail as before for questioning Brexit – let me make it clear that I am not saying the EU is great or that Brexit is necessarily wrong. And, of course, the EU itself is dominated (and undermined) by its own ‘elites’ too – I’m simply saying that portraying Brexit as being an act ‘against the elites’ is a nonsense.
Again, on the theme of ‘disaster capitalism’, a grim picture is also painted of what post-Brexit Britain might look like. ‘Many thought that the near meltdown of the global financial system would prompt a comprehensive rethink of the principles underlying global capitalism. Instead, it was exploited to de-fund social welfare provision on a grand scale, prompting much of the anger wrongly vented against migrants during the referendum… George Osborne has now proposed to cut corporation tax from 20% to below 15%, to staunch the haemorrhage of investment. During coming months and years, the unfolding crisis will provide countless pretexts for similar emergency measure that benefit business and roll back the state. So there will be no vote in parliament, no second referendum, no fresh elections: just the most massive legislative programme in history within the current parliament, in which the Tories command an absolute majority based on 37% of the votes cast in the last general election. So much for taking back democratic control.’
In fact, it is feared by many – and hoped by others – that departure from the EU is poised to turn the UK into a corporate ‘tax haven’.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has essentially said this himself; and, in fairness to him, he doesn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about it.
‘Theresa May is ready to turn the UK into a low-tax, low-regulation haven after Brexit, her spokesperson confirmed today,’ the Business Insider recently reported.
A recent article by Cambridge lecturer Jeremy Green worries that the ‘tax haven model’ will actually threaten or jeapordise the UK’s social model. ‘The threat of a tax haven model would be an adoption of the “race to the bottom” approach to globalisation. This strategy views cutting tax rates, regulation and often labour rights, as the surest means to attract internationally mobile capital… This would put pressure on EU members to similarly lower their tax rates or provide other business-friendly incentives in order to remain competitive. And this would jeopardise their commitment to the existing social model, which balances economic growth with high living standards and working conditions for all… Opting for this strategy would also signal the UK’s disregard for global inequality. It would be defining its position in the world as a home for the assets of wealthy corporations and individuals that seek to avoid taxation.’
While the Brexit government seems likely to pursue policies kinder to bankers and corporations than to social services or workers’ rights, the new US administration – populated by Goldman-Sachs people and Wall Street wolves – is openly poised to go down the same path, as it is dominated by billionaires with a generally dim view (according to their own statements) of banking regulations, welfare, social housing, affordable health care, and environmental regulations.
The previous Conservative (Coalition) government – from 2010 to 2015 – was itself widely attacked for its relentless, merciless welfare cuts and its perceived abandonment of the most vulnerable sections of society (leading to, among other things, an apparent epidemic of suicides that were directly related to the cuts). But a ‘Brexit’ Tory party, now further to the right of the spectrum, could be setting itself up to go even further.
Days ago, it was reported that Theresa May’s welfare cuts ‘will help push almost one million more children into relative poverty by 2022 and two thirds of those affected will live in working households’; this being according to the latest projections from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Astonishingly, the PM recently claimed the Conservatives were the “party of the workers” (not dissimilar, perhaps, to Trump selling his campaign as the fight-back of the working-class) – which, even by ‘post-fact’ standards, was a pretty stunning statement.
Ironically, the opposition leader – Jeremy Corbyn – is, from all evidence – and regardless of whether he is polished enough or media-savvy enough to win an election (which he probably isn’t) – the one legitimately concerned with workers’ rights (a theme he has been centered on ever since becoming Labour Party leader), but most of the media and the political establishment – egged on by the anti-Corbyn Israeli lobbies – is too busy trying to discredit or undermine him, meaning that Theresa May and the current Tory Brexit government (Snooper’s Charter and all) is getting a free pass.
The IFS projects that the number of children in relative poverty will rise by 900,000 to 5.1 million by 2021-22.
Again, a similar strategy by the Old Elite in the United States is running precisely parallel to the Brexit scenario. As Noam Chomsky wrote shortly after the presidential election; ‘The Republicans have moved so far toward a dedication to the wealthy and the corporate sector that they cannot hope to get votes on their actual programs, and have turned to mobilizing sectors of the population that have always been there, but not as an organized coalitional political force: evangelicals, nativists, racists and the victims of the forms of globalization designed to set working people around the world in competition with one another while protecting the privileged and undermining the legal and other measures that provided working people with some protection, and with ways to influence decision-making in the closely linked public and private sectors, notably with effective labor unions.’
Even red herrings that were previously being thrown into the mix as symptoms of the evils of Globalisation have in fact been completely skewed in people’s minds. TTIP, for example, was being cited by some as a globalist (and therefore EU) conspiracy: when, in fact, much of the opposition to TTIP was coming from Europe.
It is particularly interesting that a number of both experts and activists were warning for weeks prior to the referendum that TTIP would be much MORE likely to come to Britain in the event of a Brexit than if the UK had remained in the European Union. There was already a great deal of opposition to TTIP in the EU (particularly in both Germany and France), both among politicians and moreover the general public, and it was by no means clear whether TTIP would get the green light in Europe.
It was also, more or less exclusively, alliances of Left-leaning groups and activists that were primarily opposing TTIP, with relative silence on the matter from the Right. As blogger Kitty S Jones argued in June, ‘The TTIP deal was supposed to be signed by now – but together, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group and Europe’s people have seriously stalled things. Would it really be possible to stop such a move if we couldn’t link up with campaigners across Europe? If being in the EU has brought us TTIP, it has also brought us the means to stop it. Labour MEPs fought hard to secure support within the EU to get the toxic Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause removed from the TTIP at the negotiating table last year.’
This point about the value of Britain remaining at the EU table and of progressives in the UK being able to join forces with progressives elsewhere in Europe (to fight not only TTIP, but to force key reforms in the EU in general – essentially the argument that was being made by Jeremy Corbyn at the time) is essentially the position that was taken by economist and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and others, who took the view that a weakening or collapse of the EU was destined to lead to Far-Right takeovers and a return to fascism (he didn’t mean fascism in Britain, but in parts of Europe).
Far from opposing TTIP, Nick Dearden rightly pointed out in April last year that ‘the British government has done everything possible to push the most extreme version of TTIP, just as they’ve fought against pretty much every financial regulation, from bankers bonuses to a financial transaction tax. While Germany and France were concerned about TTIP’s corporate court system – which allows foreign business to sue governments for “unfair” laws like putting cigarettes in plain packets – the UK secretly wrote to the European commission president demanding he retain it.‘
Dearden continued, ‘Every scenario for Brexit is premised on extreme free trade agreements coupled with looser regulation to make us more competitive. “Outcompeting” the EU through lower standards is the strategy. There’s every reason to think that Brexit will turn the UK into a paradise for free market capitalism: a TTIP on steroids.’
It was also being argued that it was Britain’s ultra-capitalist ambitions that were causing problems for Europe. Further back, in 2013, the British TUC even described Britain as “exporting their anti-worker position into Europe and it is spreading like a bad outbreak of gastric flu”.
TTIP, by the way, appears not to be dead and buried, as some think it is: it has simply undergone a name-change and now appears to be the ‘Trade In Services Agreement’ (TISA), regarded as being worse than TTIP and more secretive.
The point here is not necessarily that Brexit is a bad idea in principle: or that there aren’t good reasons to leave the EU (and about as many fair reasons to stay in too). The point is to ask why specifically is Britain leaving the EU?
What purposes does it serve? In whose interests is it? If the above analyses hold true, it may be that the lower-grade rank-and-file of Leave voters – specifically the ones who wanted “Polish vermin” out and wanted to send navy ships to “torpedo refugee boats” – simply had their basest passions and prejudices manipulated and harnessed by special interests and forces that were only really interested in their own, private agendas.
That precise same dynamic could be true of the Trump campaign in the US – which, it may turn out, was a mirror of Brexit; and with both being heavily propagandised for by both the corporate right-wing press and also the alt-right media (the latter in particular going to great lengths to paint both as some ‘great victory’ of the ‘common people’ against the ‘new world order’ – seriously, anyone who is still going around with the words “liberal elite” on their lips should be wearing a dunce’s hat).
The best part is that any negative impact of Brexit on the population – such as any potential recession, austerity, job losses, etc, or just massive welfare cuts or a rapid diminishing of workers’ rights – can now be fully blamed on the voters themselves, because they chose the Brexit: and were warned over and over again by most mainstream or establishment politicians and experts that it would be a bad idea.
This, I would suggest, is why the Brexit government is constantly using that phrase – “the will of the people”; it is designed to free the actual politicians and the sponsors involved from any sense of responsibility for what Brexit leads to and to make it clear that it was “the will of the people” that they were merely honoring.
It’s very clever; and, if true, then the rank-and-file Brexit enthusiasts who keep shouting “the will of the people!” are actually operating against their own best interests.
But it wouldn’t be the first time.
Related: ‘Brexit, the Right-Wing Media & the Will of the People‘, ‘Trump’s White House In-Waiting: Corporate Strike Back & the Coup of the 1%‘, ‘Dr Leon Tressell – Wolves of Wall Street in a Trumpster Paradise‘…