Tag: Brexit

Fantasy Island

Best Episodes of Fantasy Island | List of Top Fantasy ...

I haven’t written anything on this site for a while now.  It’s actually rather difficult to know what to write when confronted with the astonishing spectacle of national self-destruction that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Nowadays hardly a day passes without another  reminder that the UK has entered a new political dimension in which delusions of grandeur, magical thinking and ideological fantasy have replaced anything that we once thought had any connection to the real world.

These tendencies reach across the political spectrum.  You can find them in George Galloway, doing the full UKIP/Churchill thing on Arron Banks’s Westmonster website (sorry not linking to this) and reminding Europeans that WE saved them during WWII and that ‘If not for us not a single European politician would hold office anywhere unless as a Quisling collaborator of the German Reich.’  For the Churchillian war-child Galloway this means that ‘ when I hear a “Schnell” or an “Achtung” from the Junkers (sic) of this world I don’t consider it music in my ears.’

Let no one spoil this demagogic rant by telling Galloway that Jean-Claude Juncker comes from Luxembourg not Germany. He already knows that.  But for Galloway, anyone who has anything to do with the EU is close enough to Nazis to make no difference, and anyone who says otherwise, like Churchill’s opponents, belong to what he calls ‘the gang of appeasers and fifth columnists within the British elite.’

Such idiocy, as we have seen for some time now, is not confined to the fringes.  Take Boris Johnson’s latest fatuous suggestion comparing the border between  Northern Ireland and Ireland to a congestion zone between Westminster and Camden.  Never one to resist blowing his own trumpet, Johnson reminded Radio 4 listeners ‘ when I was mayor of London we anesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people traveling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks.’

Many people have pointed out that it may not be so easy to ‘anesthetically and invisibly’ bypass Irish history or a conflict that cost 3,000 lives.  It’s a bleak testament to the current state of things that such points even need to be made, or that a self-aggrandising buffoon like Johnson has any influence on anything at all.  But his continued presence in the corridors of power is a symptom of a detachment from reality that only seems to grow wider as the Brexit process slouches incoherently  towards political Neverland.

For eighteen months the May government has been asking for things it cannot have, promising things it cannot deliver, bluffing, posturing, and pursuing things that cannot be achieved, even as its own impact assessments predict that the country will be worse off in every single Brexit scenario.   Yet when civil servants point out the potential damage that the country is likely to inflict on itself, they are dismissed as traitors, quislings, closet Eurocrats or members of the ‘pro-European elite’.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality, wrote TS Eliot, and Brexiters cannot bear any reality at all that conflicts with their fantasy of a global buccaneering Britain, freed of EU red tape and the unwanted immigrants that the country depends on, able to smoke in pubs as we surge toward a brave new world that we now know will not be a ‘Mad Max-style’ dystopia.

In fact a country that allows its politics to be driven by ideological fantasies and straw man constructs is likely to find itself inhabiting a reality that is more dystopian than its opposite, and the right aren’t the only dreamers in Brexittown.  On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn once again demonstrated that the left is no less prone to magical thinking than the Rees-Mogg/Nadine Dorries crowd.

Corbyn’s speech was hailed by his fans as a ‘ bold Brexit vision’, because his fan base will never say anything different about anything he says.  But despite – or perhaps because of – its attempt to be everything to everyone, his speech was littered with little reminders of why His Majesty’s Opposition have presented very little opposition whatsoever to the Brexit process,  and has largely fallen over itself in its desire to wave it through.

There was a leftwing version of the ‘£350 million for the NHS’ pledge in Corbyn’s promise to ‘use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest.’  While insisting that there should be ‘no scapegoating of migrants’, Corbyn once again promised that ‘Our immigration system will change and freedom of movement will as a statement of fact end when we leave the European Union.’

So migrants won’t be scapegoated, but freedom of movement – one of the great progressive achievements of the European Union – will end  in order ‘ To stop employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions’.

When Corbyn last mentioned this ‘importation’, it was in relation to the construction industry, which has a skills shortage and where wages are actually rising.   But Corbyn clearly believes that immigration is a ‘bosses club’ ploy and in Brexit Britain believing is everything.   Corbyn won’t accept a ‘ deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others’ even though the EU has made it quite clear that it will not accept cherry-picking deals that allow the UK to continue to enjoy a privileged position without any obligations.   Then there is this:

‘There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down to earth and it’s in our hands. Brexit is what we make of it together, the priorities and choices we make in the negotiations.’

Not really.  Because whatever priorities and choices we decide upon, the UK is negotiating within a very limited set of parameters and is almost certain to find itself worse-off than it was before, no matter what is ultimately decided.  The tragedy is that neither the government nor the opposition want to admit this. Mesmerised by their own narrow party or personal interests, wide-eyed and prostrate before ‘the will of the people’, they offer fantasies and pipedreams and demand the impossible in an attempt to square circles that cannot be connected.

Sooner or later the consequences of this political cowardice and dereliction of duty will become impossible to ignore, and when that happens things may get even uglier than many of us imagine.  Because there are historic mistakes that cannot easily be undone, and Brexit is one of them.

For now, it seems, the millions of us who are unwilling passengers on this runaway train can merely sit while it heads towards the buffers, hostages to a political nightmare that we seem incapable of waking up from, shouting out warnings that those who are driving this process seem unable or unwilling to hear, and from the point of view of a writer – and a citizen – that is not a comfortable position to be in at all.

The above article was written by Matt Carr and originally published on his excellent blog, Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine at:

http://www.infernalmachine.co.uk/fantasy-island/

 

Theresa May’s Mansion House speeches: Is Putin an agent of the British state?

By Daniel Margrain

In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1959 film, North By Northwest, Cary Grant plays the part of an advertising executive who inadvertently gets caught up in a web of espionage after he is mistaken for “George Kaplan”, a fictional persona created by a government agency in order to thwart the nefarious activities of a spy, Phillip Vandamm (James Mason).

After reading the transcript of Theresa May’s recent Mansion House speech in which she alluded to the alleged nefarious activities of Vladimir Putin, one might reasonably conclude that real life imitates art and that the Russian leader is a creation of Britain’s secret services.

Hard power

Resplendent with cliches and insubstantial rhetorical flourishes low on substance, May’s projection of hard power harked back to the days of the British Empire in which, as George Galloway famously remarked, “the sun never set because God would never trust the English in the dark”.

May’s vision of a post-Brexit Britain in a globalized world, is marked by ‘humanitarian interventionism’ predicated on military pre-emption, or as one US administration official put it, “pre-emptive retaliation”. Such a foreign policy strategy is one in which the ‘responsibility to protect’ is informed by a notion of imperialist exceptionalism couched in the language of economic liberalism and free markets. This is regarded by the political establishment as the best way to counter (largely imaginary) military threats.

Last years Mansion House speech

Thus, in the tradition of Kipling, May emphasized that the historic role of Britain was to nurture ‘less enlightened’ societies by invoking in them the virtues of neoliberal ‘trickle-down’ economics. This sentiment echoes the substantive part of the Mansion House speech May made this time last year:

“Over our long history, this country has set the template for others to follow”, said May.

The PM continued:

“We demonstrate to the world that we can be the strongest global advocate for free markets and free trade.”

But as income inequality has continued to increase inexorably since last years Mansion House speech, the PM has been left to ponder as to whether ‘trickle-down’ is not really a case of ‘gushing-up’. Regardless, there is scant evidence she intends to do anything about it, preferring instead to regurgitate the requisite caveats:

“There have been downsides to globalisation in recent years, and that – in our zeal and enthusiasm to promote this agenda as the answer to all our ills – we have on occasion overlooked the impact on those closer to home who see these forces in a different light”, said the PM.

May added:

“If we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear – the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind.”

But rather than acknowledge that neoliberal ideology is the catalyst for growing inequality, May persists with the illusion that the rules-based international capitalist system on which it is based, represents the solution to the problem:

“Liberalism and globalisation…underpin the rules-based international system that is key to global prosperity and security and which I am clear we must protect and seek to strengthen,” claimed May.

White man’s burden

The alleged merits of a 19th century rules-based liberal system rooted in the Kipling-esque “white man’s burden” notion of modern international relations, was a topic May returned to during her November 13, 2017 speech:

“So as we reach out into the world and write this new chapter in our national history, the task of a global Britain is clear – to defend the rules based international order against irresponsible states that seek to erode it”, said May.

Clearly, the PM had one country in mind as one of the more significant of the worlds “irresponsible states” who she regards as potentially undermining neoliberalism’s global reach:

“The comprehensive new economic partnership we seek will underpin our shared commitment to open economies and free societies in the face of those who seek to undermine them. Chief among those today, of course, is Russia”, said May.

Ratcheting-up

Ratcheting-up Russia’s imaginary threat to Western civilization, May remarked:

“Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.”

This simplistic analysis conveniently overlooks the subversive actions of the US in the Ukraine and broader geopolitical and strategic contextual objectives of the Western-led alliance which meant that Putin was left with little option other than to incorporate Crimea in order to attempt to fend off an encroaching NATO.

Also, by limiting her critique to Europe, May ignored the attempts by Britain, France, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia among others, to destabilize Syria in addition to the US-led coalitions decades-long illegal wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of Iraq and Libya.

May stepped-up the anti-Russian line by reproducing unsubstantiated soundbites against the country. The PM falsely inferred that Russia’s supposed state-run media propaganda is unique to a country whose official enemies constantly use the rhetoric of war against it.

May’s anti-Russian tirade during the latter part of her speech culminated in what were clear threats against Putin – an arrogance akin to that of a 19th century imperial overseer. Seemingly eager to continue justifying the reinforcing of the British industrial-military complex, May added to the fear mongering rhetoric:

“The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise”, she said.

That it’s Britain and it’s NATO allies, not Russia, that represents the greatest potential threat to world peace, is unmentionable in mass corporate media parlance.

Weaponising information

Ironically, the Russian state broadcaster, RT, who Theresa May in her speech alluded seeks to “weaponise information…in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions”, revealed the collusion between the Western powers and ISIS. This was a fact that the BBC only began to belatedly acknowledge many years later.

So, as Patrick Henningsen astutely pointed out with an air of sarcasm, using May’s logic, the much maligned Vladimir Putin – who the PM effectively accused of ‘weaponising information’ – is presumably meddling in the BBC?

Another possibility is that he is a double agent, who like the Cary Grant character in North By Northwest, is unknowingly working for the British government. The third, and most likely possibility, is that Theresa May is a hypocrite and liar.

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A message to the people of Stoke & Copeland: Let’s propel Nuttall & the UKIP P*ss-taker’s into the dustbin of history

Paulnuttall.jpg

By Daniel Margrain

During his barnstorming speech at the last Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“If you believe, like me, it’s a scandal that here in Britain, in the sixth biggest economy in the world, 4 million children are in poverty, 6 million workers are paid less than the living wage. And if, like me, you believe we can do things far better, then help me build support for a genuine alternative that will invest in our future – a more prosperous future – in which the wealth we all create is shared more equally.”

Buoyed by both the electoral success of Trump, and the disorientation of large sections of the Left resulting largely from the growth in right-wing populism throughout Europe, Paul Nuttall will exploit these issues during this coming Thursday’s Stoke and Copeland by-election campaigns by cynically using the kind of socialist language of Corbyn above, in an attempt to steal the Labour vote.

Nuttall, who gained a fraction of the votes secured by Corbyn during their respective leadership campaigns, denies climate change and opposes abortion and gay marriage. He is also in favour of capital punishment, fox hunting, NHS privatization and lied when he claimed to have been “a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster.” The latest scandal emerged on February 18 when a UKIP canvasser was allegedly caught on CCTV urinating on the house of 73-year-old widow Marjorie Pinches, from Northwood in Stoke.

Rarely is the political-media establishment willing to discredit the kind of fascist cult UKIP represents, particularly when faced with the potential threat of a genuine socialist alternative. But to their credit, up until now, they have done a pretty good job of exposing Nuttall for the lying, homophobic, racist and xenophobic thug that he is.

Class consciousness

What would appear to be a growing class consciousness among a significant segment of the population is, I would contend, offset by a large minority of working class voters who are sympathetic to UKIPs right-wing message and who, too often, are persuaded to vote against their own interests. This would explain the reason why the UKIP vote among ordinary people during the forthcoming by-elections are unlikely to be insignificant.

As far back as the 1930s, Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci grasped that when confidence in the working class is high – like it was, for example, during the 1960s – people are less likely to be ‘brainwashed’ by the kind of extreme ruling class ideology represented by groups like UKIP than is the case when confidence in the class is relatively low, as it is now.

These kinds of contradictions help explain how the emergence of an opportunistic right-wing establishment tool like Nuttall is able to exploit the same political space as principled socialists. This is achieved by perpetuating the myth that the party Nuttall leads is in any way able to effectively represent the interests of an angry and disaffected working class, many of whom channel their anger and disaffection towards immigrants. Nuttall will hope to be able to channel this disillusionment at the ballot box in Stoke where anti-EU sentiment is high.

Unfortunately, some unprincipled and careerist Labour politicians like Rachel Reeves are also only too willing to pander to racists in order to grab their votes. For example, during an anti-immigration speech, she sought to ensure potential Labour voters that her party could be just as racist and reactionary as UKIP and the Tories. Similarly, a tweet by a long-standing Labour party member and Brexit-supporter, Scott Nelson, who I responded to in the wake of Nuttall’s victory (see below), illustrates that pandering to racist ideas is not the monopoly of right-wing and faux-left politicians.

Scott Nelson @SocialistVoice

“If Labour doesn’t take immigration seriously then UKIP will take control of the party’s heartlands in the north” 

Daniel Margrain Retweeted Scott Nelson

“No pandering to racists, sorry. If we lose votes, then so be it.”

People voted for Brexit for a multitude of reasons that include anti-establishment sentiments, the democracy argument, to give David Cameron a kick, naive wishful thinkingLexit and because they believed the brazen lies that the hard-right Vote Leave mob told them. However, it’s undeniable that a significant percentage of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit, did so because they bought into the racist immigration fear-mongering ideas of extreme-right groups like UKIP and Britain First.

Given the level of contradictory working class consciousness outlined above, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that many working class UKIP voters who oppose the socialist principles and values espoused by Corbyn, nevertheless favour issues like taxing the rich and renationalizing the railways.

Deflector shield

It’s this kind of contradiction that underpins the genius of a propaganda system that demonizes political figures the establishment regard as a threat to the status quo. The corporate mainstream media tend to bash socialists like Corbyn while promoting bigots like Farage by giving the latter a media outlet such as a mainstream radio talk show with which to espouse reactionary right-wing views, because his role is akin to that of a deflector shield whose purpose is to conceal the political establishments own ineptitude.

The inability of the media in highlighting, in any fundamental way, the tensions that exist between Theresa May, Boris Johnson and EU ministers over the Brexit debacle is a case in point. Johnson’s contention, for example, that the EUs position amounting to an automatic trade-off between access to the single market and free movement was “complete baloney”, is a total misreading of the Lisbon Treaty that nevertheless went largely unchallenged in the media.

In response to Johnson’s outburst, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in a rather sardonic fashion, If we need to do more, we’ll gladly send her Majesty’s foreign minister a copy of the Lisbon Treaty then he can read that there is a link between the single market and the four core principles in Europe.” The minister continued, “I can also say it in English, so if clarification is necessary, I can pay a visit and explain this to him in good English.”

Johnson’s assertion that the UK should already have triggered Article 50, was subsequently contradicted by May, while the three ministers tasked at extricating the UK from the EU are too busy fighting among themselves. Moreover, Johnson has spent a great deal of his time flying around Europe apologizing to everybody he has insulted. And yet, the media only tend to report on the lack of unity within the Labour ranks with regards to Brexit. Meanwhile, EU leaders continue to harden their stance against the Tories saying that they intend to rule out any cherry-picking in relation to the ability of Britain to access the single market.

Lowest common denominator

By demonizing Corbyn on the one hand, and with their disproportionate coverage of right-wing parties like the Tories and UKIP on the other, the media fail to bring real power to account. There can only be one reason why they have barely mentioned any of the tensions within the ruling class that have arisen over the Brexit debacle, and that’s because they regard Corbyn as the lightening rod for abuse and bad publicity.

The election of Paul Nuttall as leader of UKIP, whose image is more worker and street fighter than cheeky-chappy banker and financier, will not only serve as another establishment deflector shield, but is also intended to split the working class Labour vote by appealing to the lowest of common denominators. Like a journeyman who travels on a road without end in the anticipation that beyond the rainbow lies salvation, Nuttall’s race to the bottom is in reality, a race on a road to nowhere. I am hoping that come the vote on Thursday, the good people of Stoke and Copeland will see sense, and help propel UKIP to the dustbin of history where they belong.

COPYRIGHT

All original material created for this site is ©Daniel Margrain. Posts may be shared, provided full attribution is given to Daniel Margrain and Road To Somewhere Else along with a link back to this site. Using any of my writing for a commercial purpose is not permitted without my express permission. Excerpts and links, including paraphrasing, may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Daniel Margrain and Road To Somewhere Else with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Unless otherwise credited, all content is the site author’s. The right of Daniel Margrain to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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A second referendum?: The Tories continue to fiddle while Britain stumbles into the abyss

By Daniel Margrain

Last Wednesday afternoon I took the Eurostar from a grey and dismal London to a sunny Paris. I decided that I would try to ignore the news while I was away. However, by Friday, temptation got the better of me. While sitting at a restaurant table in the small picturesque Parisian commuter-belt town town of St Germaine en Laye enjoying my lunch, I asked the waiter if he knew what the result of the EU referendum was. He expressed his shock at the decision of the British public to renounce their membership of the 28 member club. “That’s it”, he said, “the European project is dead”. I asked him whether he thought that this was a good thing or a bad thing? “It’s a bad day for Europe”, he exclaimed. “I’m not sure the project can continue to be run effectively with Britain gone but your heart was never really in it anyway”, he continued.

He claimed that Britain had already negotiated for itself numerous concessions and any more would have effectively made the Federalist vision for Europe he was in favour of, a redundant concept. The British position he said was selfish in as much as the government appeared reluctant to use its economic muscle as leverage in order to help improve the living standards of the working classes within poorer nations of the EU which, according to him, was the ethos at the heart of the project. In other words, for the poorer nations to gain something, and for the European project to work, as he saw it, it was necessary for richer nations like Britain, to concede some financial ground at the expense of the poorer nations.

He blamed David Cameron for triggering “an unnecessary referendum based upon unfair criticism of the EU and many years of misinformation about how it actually works”, which in turn was perpetuated by some of the most right-wing media in the whole of Europe. He also claimed that vast swaths of working class people were further disorientated by some political commentators and politician’s on the left of the spectrum who he said, “ought to have known better” than, for example, to effectively blame immigrant workers for allegedly undercutting British workers. All of this, he claimed, had eventually – from a Brexit perspective – “bore fruit”.

It was difficult for me to disagree with any of this. The news that the British people had decided to leave the EU appeared to have been as much of a shock to him as it was to me. The statistics show that the demographic of those who voted to leave were mainly the elderly age group and those who voted to remain were from the younger age group. However, the elderly will not be around for long compared to the young. It therefore, follows, the former will experience the consequence of a decision that they made to a far lesser degree than the latter who didn’t.

It does seem strange that an ageing population who were allowed to vote but statistically are less able to make an informed decision with regards to issues that have long-term ramifications, are considered to be a better judge for what is best for the country than people who are, say, 16 or 17 years old but are prevented from voting on something that will effect them to a far greater degree and for far longer. For this and other reasons, it makes sense why younger people might be furious with older people. The latter, for example, have overseen the ruination of the environment that includes the spreading of poisons throughout the atmosphere, sea and soil. They have also overseen climate change, the ruination of entire economies and been at the forefront of the shift in wealth from the many to the few, which will mean that the generation to come will not only be poorer than the preceding one, but will die sooner.

In short, the older generation have run the world for their own selfish short-term gain. The younger generation are suffering, and will continue to suffer, the consequences wrought by a post-war generation that were virtually guaranteed socioeconomic protections that will be denied to their young counterparts. This includes the concept of a job for life, free higher education and gold-plated, index-linked pensions that the elderly have taken for granted. Relatively speaking, the post war-generation have never had it so good, although one will be hard pressed to draw such a conclusion from the mainstream media. And to top it all, by disproportionately voting to leave, the older generation have now given a future to the young that they specifically do not want – problems that will be further compounded by the imminent growth in automation and increasing global competition.

What is also bizarre is that countries and regions like London, Scotland and Gibralter wanted to stay in the EU within a context in which some of the most deprived parts of England and Wales were intent on leaving. In Boston, in North East England, for example, 75.6 per cent voted to leave the EU. Paradoxically, given that Brexit means that no more EU funds will be forthcoming to these deprived regions, it’s the poorest who will be most adversely affected as a result of this decision to leave. Consequently, it would appear that the poorest have been persuaded to make the decision to leave for the worse reasons, predicated largely on lies. These lies included the amount of money they were told the government spends on the EU and what amount, by contrast, it spends domestically.

The leave campaign also understated the positives of continued membership in terms of the amount of funds Britain receives from the EU as well as insisting that by leaving the British people would have the prospect of being surrounded by fewer foreigners. On all these points, and more, the public were lied to by the leave campaign. In terms of the second of these issues, for example, UKIPs Nigel Farage has already back-tracked in relation to his assertion that the £350 million a week that he wrongly claimed was spent on the EU would, instead, be spent on the NHS. The more likely scenario is the correct £161 million net figure will be used to pay for more tax cuts for the rich. Apparently leave have deleted their promises from their website. This is a useful aide-memoire.

Almost a week has passed since the referendum result was announced and the Conservative government under PM David Cameron is in disarray. With the PM still not having made any definitive legal commitment to leave, the political consequences for the remaining 27 members is far from certain. With Britain’s new status outside the EU yet to be legally formalized, its legal sequestration remains uncertain. For all those who thought that the Brexit vote would have meant a hasty political decision to leave based on a legal determination, might need to think again. As I said in my previous post, in legal terms, the referendum is advisory not mandatory. What happens next is a matter of politics, not law – a determination that’s dependent upon whether the government decides to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Even though I supported the remain camp, I respect the democratic decision the British people made when they voted to leave. Any decision to either seriously delay invoking Article 50, or any attempt at backtracking on the referendum result would, in my view, be totally unacceptable. Nevertheless, delaying the democratic decision of the majority is what the government appears to be intent on doing. Seemingly, this will involve the implementation of a possible second referendum. The government intends to respond to calls for it within the next few days. This will likely take the form of a debate in parliament following the signing of a government petition by four million people to that affect.

In many other democracies throughout the world, four million signatures would guarantee a vote on the issue. But in Britain, a similar amount of signatures only guarantees that the government will consider talking about the possibility of a vote. The governments petition committee is currently considering the protest following a meeting they held yesterday (June 28). The petition entitled EU Referendum Rules Triggering A Second EU Referendum, reads:

“We the undersigned call upon HM government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60 per cent based on a turnout less than 75 per cent, there should be another referendum.”

Will the government give in to the demands set by the petition and thereby allow a second referendum to take place?

The wider issue seems to be that unless the government can find a way of presenting simple solutions to a complex set of problems, people on the whole will not understand them. However, the problem is there are no simple solutions to such complex problems. Ultimately, David Cameron will go down in history as the man who set in motion the chaos and uncertainty that will almost certainly ensue in the coming days, weeks, months and possibly years.

Because Cameron attempted to assert his authority over the Tory party, he assumed that by offering the people a referendum and winning it, would cement this authority and garner the UKIP vote as a consequence. But by losing, he has bolstered the xenophobic fringe within the UKIP and Tory parties, unleashed the potential for a rise in racist attacks and hastened the rush for Scotland to break from the UK. But perhaps most significantly of all, is that a final decision to leave, will prompt the 60 per cent of companies outside the EU who have their EU HQs in the UK and who trade with the EU, to re-locate elsewhere. If you headed a company that was based outside the EU but was big enough to have a EU HQs and you selected to be in a country that is now potentially going to be outside the EU, what would you do?

It’s a no brainer. You would have to up-sticks and move to the EU. Having an EU HQs in a country that is no longer in the EU, makes about as much sense as having a US HQs in London. So in the event of Britain definitively leaving the EU both politically and legally, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost. This is a bare minimum of the chaos that is likely to occur set against a backdrop of increasing resentment, suspicion, xenophobia and racism. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride ahead.

A victory for Brexit is unlikely to change anything in the near future

By Daniel Margrain

 

For all those who thought that a Brexit vote in Thursday’s (June 23) highly anticipated and drawn -out referendum campaign will result in closure, might need to think again. In legal terms, the referendum is advisory rather than mandatory. What happens next is a matter of politics, not law – a determination that’s dependent upon whether the government decides to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

To put it another way, the government doesn’t necessarily have to pay attention to what the British public says. What will happen on Thursday is that we, the British electorate, will effectively be advising and giving our opinion which doesn’t make the decision to leave, if that is indeed the outcome, necessarily legal. If we vote in a way that Osborne and Cameron disagree with, the government will almost certainly reconsider the result, particularly if the outcome is close.

Say, hypothetically, the turnout is 50 per cent and 51 per cent of that 50 per cent voted to leave, it would mean that 25.5 per cent of the electorate would have made the decision to leave which would adversely impact on the remaining 74.5 per cent. In other words, if something similar to this hypothetical situation did arise it would not, the government could argue, be indicative of a mandate to leave. Given how close the result is predicted to be, the vote tomorrow is unlikely to be the end of the matter, but merely the beginning of a long and drawn out process that will likely continue until the electorate arrives at a decision that Cameron and Osborne regard as acceptable.

As the Financial Times puts it:

What happens next in the event of a vote to leave…. will come down to what is politically expedient and practicable. The UK government could seek to ignore such a vote; to explain it away and characterise it in terms that it has no credibility or binding effect (low turnout may be such an excuse). Or they could say it is now a matter for parliament, and then endeavour to win the parliamentary vote. Or ministers could try to re-negotiate another deal and put that to another referendum. There is, after all, a tradition of EU member states repeating referendums on EU-related matters until voters eventually vote the “right” way.

What matters in law is when and whether the government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is the significant “red button”. Once the Article 50 process is commenced then Brexit does become a matter of law, and quite an urgent one. It would appear this process is (and is intended to be) irreversible and irrevocable once it starts. But invoking Article 50 is a legally distinct step from the referendum result — it is not an obligation.

There are three points of interest here in respect of any withdrawal from the EU by the UK.

First, it is a matter for a member state’s “own constitutional requirements” as to how it decides to withdraw. The manner is not prescribed: so it can be a referendum, or a parliamentary vote, or some other means. In the UK, it would seem that some form of parliamentary approval would be required — perhaps a motion or resolution rather than a statute. The position, however, is not clear and the UK government has so far been coy about being specific.

Second, the crucial act is the notification by the member state under Article 50(2). That is the event which commences the formal process, which is then intended to be effected by negotiation and agreement. There is no (express) provision for a member state to withdraw from the process or revoke the notification. Once the notification is given, the member state and the EU are stuck with it.

And third, there is a hard deadline of two years. This is what gives real force to Article 50. The alternative would be the prospect of a never ending story of rounds of discussions and negotiations. Once notification is given, then the member state is out in two years, unless this period is extended by unanimous agreement. It is possible that such unanimity may be forthcoming – but this would be outside of the power of the member state. Once the button is pushed, the countdown cannot just be switched off by a member state saying it has changed its mind, or by claiming that the Article 50 notification was just a negotiation tactic all along. That will not wash.

This said, what is created by international agreement can be undone by international agreement. Practical politicians in Brussels may come up with some muddling fudge which holds off the two year deadline. Or there could be some new treaty amendment. These conveniences cannot, however, be counted on. The assumption must be that once the Article 50 notification is given, the UK will be out of the EU in two years or less.

What happens between a Leave vote and any Article 50 notification will be driven by politics. The conventional wisdom is that, of course, a vote for Brexit would have to be respected. (This is the same conventional wisdom which told us that, of course, Jeremy Corbyn would not be elected Labour leader and that, of course, Donald Trump would not be the Republican nominee.) To not do so would be “unthinkable” and “political suicide” and so on.

And if there is a parliamentary vote before any Article 50 notification then there is the potential irony of those seeking to defend parliamentary sovereignty demanding that an extra-parliamentary referendum be treated as binding. But it must be right that the final decision is made by parliament, regardless of what the supposed defenders of parliamentary sovereignty say.

What is certain is that if there is an Article 50 notification then there will be immense legal work to be done. Over 40 years of law-making — tens of thousands of legal instruments — will have to be unpicked and either placed on some fresh basis or discarded with thought as to the consequences. The UK government has depended since 1972 — indeed it has over-depended — on it being easy to implement law derived from the EU. The task of repeal and replacement will take years to complete, if it is ever completed. Even if the key legislation — especially the European Communities Act 1972 — is repealed there will have to be holding and saving legislation for at least a political generation.

A vote for Brexit will not be determinative of whether the UK will leave the EU. That potential outcome comes down to the political decisions which then follow before the Article 50 notification. The policy of the government (if not of all of its ministers) is to remain in the EU. The UK government may thereby seek to put off the Article 50 notification, regardless of political pressure and conventional wisdom.

There may already be plans in place to slow things down and to put off any substantive decision until after summer. In turn, those supporting Brexit cannot simply celebrate a vote for leave as a job done — for them the real political work begins in getting the government to make the Article 50 notification as soon as possible with no further preconditions.

On the day after a vote for Brexit, the UK will still be a member state of the EU. All the legislation which gives effect to EU law will still be in place. Nothing as a matter of law changes in any way just because of a vote to Leave. What will make all the legal difference is not a decision to leave by UK voters in a non-binding advisory vote, but the decision of the prime minister on making any Article 50 notification.

And what the prime minister will do politically after a referendum vote for Brexit is, at the moment, as unknown as the result of the referendum itself.

English football hooliganism: the UK political establishment’s trade-off

By Daniel Margrain

A teargas grenade explodes near an England fan ahead of England's EURO 2016 match in Marseille, France
Violence erupts on the streets of Marseille CREDIT: REUTERS

Almost 18 years ago to the day, the English national football team beat Tunisia 2-0 in the opening game of their World Cup campaign in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille in the south of France. For many, the victory was overshadowed by the violence off the pitch that preceded it. For the last three days running, football hooliganism in Marseille involving England fans has once again dominated the media headlines. Reuters journalist Mitch Phillips described the influx of the first wave of 70,000 England fans on the French port city:

“….the fans wasted no time establishing a foothold in Vieux Port to start three days of drinking and singing ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2016 match against Russia. Noisy and boisterous, bare-chested and full of lager and bravado, they draped the flags around the Queen Victoria “British pub” and roared out their songs of defiance in the time-honored manner of “England Away”, just as they had in the same port-side bars 18 years ago.”

Shortly after the fans had gathered in large numbers in the bars and pubs of the city on Thursday (June 9), scenes of drunken mayhem followed that involved pitched battles, the throwing of bottles and chairs and the chanting of racist abuse. This was preceded by crude displays of jingoism that included the singing of the words “f**k off Europe, we’re all voting out” and “sit down if you hate the French”. The incitement of this kind of hatred in a foreign country is bound up with the notion that these kinds of thugs perceive themselves as superior to their hosts. This in turn forms part of a wider imperialist narrative of entitlement, ownership and control. As one sports writer put it:

“The members of this anti-social faction do not visit a foreign city: they occupy it. They erase the local culture and try to turn the place they are in into a satellite of their own English town or city.”

This view neatly encapsulates why the kind of hooliganism experienced in Marseille cannot be divorced from a wider historical context. Since the mid 20th century, Britain in general – but particularly England – has existed in a post-empire historical setting. The question is, why does hooliganism and loutish behaviour appear to be more of an English trait compared to other nationalities? It seems to me that England, more than many other European societies, finds it difficult to cast off its imperial legacy. When groups of English men gather together in a foreign country there seems to be a reluctance among a large swath of them to relinquish the notion of the concept of empire.

This mentality appears to be underscored by an entrenched nationalism as evidenced by the repeated singing of the national anthem during games, an emphasis on the notion that ‘Britannia rules the waves’ and that football hooligans carry the mantle of this imperial and colonial legacy, ostensibly on behalf of their ruling class overseers. There seems, in other words, to be something deeply embedded within the mindset of English football fans when they gather collectively that transcends the simplistic argument that their hooliganism is an expression of nothing more than drunken and pathologically-driven related violence and thuggery.

This transcendence, I would argue, corresponds to the kind of historical, social and cultural setting described that enables it. Secondly, sport doesn’t exist in a political vacuum. One can see this, for example, in the chants at both club and international level and the England-Germany rivalry which constantly mobilizes ideas about the Second World War. The third broader point is that national sports are a forum and reservoir for jingoistic sentiment in general. What happens is that banal forms of nationalism and jingoistic group-think mentality – expressed through violence and an adherence to political-inspired chanting – is cynically co-opted and reinforced by national states and governments for wider sinister political objectives.

Take the current political climate as an example. The right-wing Brexit elements within the EU debate often echo the xenophobic anti-German and anti-European sentiments of many of those who chanted the anti-French rhetoric outlined above. Football hooliganism is not just an illustration of a few ‘bad eggs’ as is so often depicted in the media, but represents a far wider problem. The reality, in other words, is that football tends to be a vehicle for deep-seated expressions and outpourings of nationalistic narcissism and patriotism.

This is dangerous in another way in as much as these linkages provide a ready pool which governments can then use in order to justify even more sinister foreign policy purposes such as foreign invasions and occupations. The question is though, are the majority of football hooligans aware of the historical and anthropological background described, or is it simply that English men these days don’t generally go to war or fight as part of an organized army but have a lot of testosterone-based pent up aggression that needs to be expelled?

I would contend that it’s not necessary for individuals to be conscious of the notion of post-empire and the loss of colonial possessions – what dissident French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan termed jouissance – in order for them to experience excess indicative of societal breakdown achieved as part of a shared group. There are certain settings or locations in which the establishment deem it unacceptable to reach jouissance – mainly within the political sphere. This sphere has increasingly become limited because of the potential threat it poses to the existing class structure that this implies. Instead, jouissance is channeled as a displacement activity at football matches, pubs, nightclubs and bars.

Paradoxically, it’s precisely these kinds of violent outpourings or expulsions of visceral energy that enables civilized society to function. If the collective outward violent expression of mainly young men were to be severely suppressed, football hooligans and others would almost certainly turn their energy inwards which would be even more dangerous as far as its impact on civilized society is concerned. This is because any suppression of ‘orgasmic’ violence would be more radically destabilizing in terms of the potential for the derailment of the functioning of wider society. In other words, any major repression of the ability of hooligans to vent their anger might instead be turned against their bosses and, perhaps more widely, the owners of the means of production itself.

This is, of course, not in any way an attempt to justify the kinds of hooliganism witnessed in Marseille, but to recognize that in a wider symbolic and societal setting, such violence is arguably necessary. Englishmen abroad with their smart phones and apps, set against a context of Cultural Marxism, is an unholy, potent and potentially perilous mix for the establishment to negotiate. Nevertheless, it’s a trade-off that the said establishment is willing, albeit reluctantly, to endure in order that the current political status-quo be maintained.

The EU referendum: the case for ‘staying in’

By Daniel Margrain

David Cameron’s (failed) attempts at diplomatic arm twisting of European leaders’ was made with a view to appeasing right wing Europhobe factions in order to strengthen the pro-EU position within his party and, by extension, satisfy others outside such as the Henry Jackson Society who lobby it. Any EU concessions offered to Cameron on economic or social policy in return for continued EU membership would undermine whatever vestiges of power the EU has in terms of protecting ordinary people from the rapaciousness of corporations.

Also, in terms of immigration policy, any concessions to Cameron by the other EU member states would play into the hands of neoconservatives and other far right figures like Douglas Murray, associate director of the Henry Jackson Society and the openly racist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), co-founder and former spokesman and leader of the fascist English Defence League (EDL). These figures, and similar within mainstream media circles like Melanie Phillips and Nick Cohen, deliberately conflate immigration with Islamist terrorism in order to pander to the prejudices among aspects of the electorate which Cameron responds to in kind. The implications, we are told, are clear: for as long as the country is part of the EU, “the swamping” of the indigenous British population by alien migrants from the other EU countries cannot be halted.

Unfortunately, this is the neoliberal context that is the dominant narrative shaping the British EU membership referendum campaign terrain. Politically, this is being marked out by the right wing eurosceptic Tories and by their outriders in the UK Independence Party (UKIP). The British electorate has been told in increasingly strident terms that British “national sovereignty” is at stake without informing them what the alternative to national sovereignty could potentially entail.

Everything that has been positive about the EU over the years appears to be in retreat while everything negative seems to be accelerating. Already the EU has ceded a great deal to corporations at the expense of people and this is a process that seems to be ongoing. It’s simply wrong and immoral, for example, that subsidies for the richest landowners in Europe continue to increase apace. It’s also wrong and immoral for the EU to have attempted to negotiate with the United States in secret the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which effectively represents the undemocratic transfer of power from parliaments to corporations.

Another unwelcome consequence of the direction the EU is moving in, is the way the most powerful countries within it, most notably Germany, have used their economic leverage to weaken the democratic will of the less powerful such as Greece and Portugal. There are many more compelling reasons – including environmental and ecological ones – that can be justifiably argued as to why Britain should pull out of the EU.and why it is not functioning in the way that many on the left think it should. But are these arguments sufficient enough reason for the UK to abandon the project altogether?

Campaigning for the broadest possible opposition to neoliberal EU austerity policies as well as a different, socialist Europe, seem to me to be perfectly compatible with voting in favour of continued EU membership. As John Palmer argued:

“Socialists will want to use the debate about Britain and the European Union to build the widest possible campaign to force a break with the prevailing austerity policies of the euro-area powers. They will want to defend parties on the left—such as Syriza in Greece and possibly Podemos in Spain later this year—from further strong-arm policies designed to undermine their democratic credentials. If the socialists, including Syriza and Podemos are to succeed in radically changing the direction of European Union policy, the left will need to develop much more integrated, supranational forms of political organisation at the European level. This will require profound changes to the almost exclusively national framework in which such parties have traditionally thought and acted. Big capital, for its part, ­certainly understands this.”

For the tide to shift in favour of a different kind of Europe requires a corresponding shift in the relations of political power throughout the countries of Europe that are sympathetic to the ideals of Podemos and Corbynism, both of which are gaining traction in Spain and Britain respectively. This will, in practical terms, mean that the left will have to win arguments on key issues such as the protection of EU social legislation and human rights. This is most likely to be achieved as the result of an organized Europe-wide movement in favour of the kind of workers’ rights and protections’ that the neoconservatives want to opt out of. There can be no doubt that if Britain leaves the EU many European regulations restricting working hours and other employment and social reforms will be scrapped.

The left will also have to argue against the attempts of the anti-EU right to roll back the powers of both the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) and—more urgently—of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Tory establishment has objected to some of the humane rulings of the ECHR that, in particular, includes the protection of the human rights of immigrants at risk of being deported by the UK. The ECHR is itself outside the remit of the European Union. But the ECJ is bound by the overarching decisions of the ECHR when ruling on matters of specifically EU law. The Tories want a “British” convention on human rights to replace the European convention which if achieved, would further seriously undermine civil liberties and human rights in Britain.

Much of the Tory austerity drive has to do with the systemic and structural limitations associated with state power at the national level. The dual concepts of national sovereignty and the “pooling of sovereignty” are incongruous. The latter implies greater European integration and federalization which is the visionary concept of the EU envisaged by the former president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors. This is no bad thing. Pooling sovereignty that benefits a greater number of people than would otherwise be the case represents a move in the right direction. It seems to me that we need greater European integration, not less.

But this point of view is saddled by the argument – no matter how unfounded it is – that the case for greater European integration is undermined by the lackluster performance of the Euro. In truth, the national schadenfruede that exemplified the British government’s reaction to the problems associated with a currency union viz a vie the Euro was a red-herring. The problem is not currency union, but the lack of any fiscal union. The one is not feasible without the other. The economic argument for the alleged failure of the EU as an economic project, therefore, can not be made on the basis of the relative weakness of the Euro, but rather on the lack of any implementation of a fiscal union.

Despite it’s many faults, I principally view the European Union as an historically progressive project that can, through effective political organization within the EU, be re-orientated to benefit the many as opposed to the few. Any political derailment of the unification and integration process would likely lead to the ‘Balkanization’ of Europe. This would increase the risks to humanity in terms of conflict and war in the nuclear age which is arguably greater now than during any other epoch in history. On balance, the only rational and principled way for progressives on the left to vote in the forthcoming referendum is Yes to stay in.

 

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