FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!

The Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliot was wishing to get voters out for the cause, circulating a message that, “There is a very real chance that voters in London and Scotland will vote to keep us in the EU today despite the heartlands of the country voting to leave.”

The circulated email also sported a picture from a “leafy” part of London, with queues to boot. “If you don’t want people in London to force you and your family to stay in the EU please email and call all your friends and make sure they Vote Leave today!”

Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham, retorted in disgust that, “Vote Leave are ending this campaign as they began it – by seeking to divide our country not unite it, turning regions, nations and communities against one another.”

As the votes neared their final tally, Elliot found himself on the right side of history, keeping company with other Leave campaigners. Almost 52 percent had decided that the Leave campaign had made their case, while the Remain case limped in at 48.1 percent.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage was truly chipper, calling the referendum result, after expressing initial doubts, an assertion of independence. June 23, he confidently claimed, would “go down in our history as our independence day.”[1]

The entire Remain campaign was deservedly routed. From the 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron was caught by the populist surge both within his conservative party, and the pressure from UKIP to press for a renegotiation with the EU.

Having marketed himself as John Bull saving Britain from the clutches of continental bureaucracy, he looked out of sorts attempting to argue for a Remain campaign he only ever seemed half-hearted about. Such untidy minds constitute true punishment indeed.

That has been the nature of the entire debate from the start, with strong resonances from the continent about where the European Union fits in the debate. The EU is a spouse with visible defects that has resulted in a vote of divorce. Umunna’s point, along with those of the Remain campaign, was never well made, if, indeed, it was made at all.

When prosperity, wealth and peace might have been framed as both arguments and aspirations, the Remain team decided that mocking critics as bumpkins, village hicks and extremists was the way to go.

A sour taster of this came in the broader, nigh hysterical response to Keith Adams and his expressive pro-leave, near blind “93 year old mum”. Adams, on making a post of his mother’s intentions, was trolled with some rigour, with various accusations about being a liar, a “right wing racist brexiteer” and a fabricator. (“It can’t have happened because blind people vote using Braille.”)[2]

Umunna’s own Labour party came across as cool and indifferent to traditional blue collar constituents, with Jeremy Corbyn himself a long time sceptic of much of the EU program. Within its ranks, a populist reassessment has been demanded, taking into account traditional areas which the party has left behind.

While London, Scotland and Northern Ireland fronted up with numbers for Remain, the English shires and Wales went for Brexit. Traditional labour bastions such as Sunderland gave the Leave campaign a 22 percent margin of victory. Newcastle scraped in with Remain with a mere one percentage point.

All in all, this vote saw a return to the politics of anger and estrangement. It revealed two classes, “staring at each other across a political chasm.”[3] It is the message that Podemos is capitalising upon in Spain. Ditto that of those on the Right, such as Geer Wilders in the Netherlands.

Not all have the same view on how best to tackled the EU conundrum. Genuine concerns about centralised governance and intrusion have been muddled with a terror about refugees, immigrants and life style choices. A distinct spinelessness from Europe’s leaders on this point has not helped. Gone are the broader discussion about accountability and liberty.

A perfect illustration as to how problematic any challenge to the way the Union is governed came in the market chatter. It resembled all too closely the language of the portfolio prospectus, with its monthly updates on shocks and instabilities, rather than political questions of sovereignty. Forget discussions about reform, or the application of Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union. Such commentary was far more interested in the wounds that a democratic experiment had inflicted.

The Economist and Wall Street Journal noted with alarm how the pound had fallen to its lowest level relative to the US dollar since 1985. Futures and the S&P 500 fell by five percent. Stock markets in Asia were given a drubbing. All of this seemed academic as polls closed, with a sense that the Remain campaign would edge out the Brexiteers by a few good points. The position was totally reversed.

While there was much mythmaking and manufacture in the grounds for the Leave campaign, the sentiment was sensible enough. Not all should be dismissed as raw nativism and autarchic romance. Those on wanting Britain to stay did just that.

Notes

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36613238

[2] https://justablogwordpress.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/trolled/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/23/united-kingdom-two-nations-political-chasm-left

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

July 08, 2020
Laura Carlsen
Lopez Obrador’s Visit to Trump is a Betrayal of the U.S. and Mexican People
Melvin Goodman
Afghanistan: What is to be Done?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
The End of the American Newspaper
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Merits of Medicare for All Have Been Proven by This Pandemic
David Rosen
It’s Now Ghislaine Maxwell’s Turn
Nicolas J S Davies
Key U.S. Ally Indicted for Organ Trade Murder Scheme
Bob Lord
Welcome to Hectobillionaire Land
Laura Flanders
The Great American Lie
John Kendall Hawkins
Van Gogh’s Literary Influences
Marc Norton
Reopening vs. Lockdown is a False Dichotomy
Joel Schlosberg
“All the Credit He Gave Us:” Time to Drop Hamilton’s Economics
CounterPunch News Service
Tribes Defeat Trump Administration and NRA in 9th Circuit on Sacred Grizzly Bear Appeal
John Feffer
The US is Now the Global Public Health Emergency
Nick Licata
Three Books on the 2020 Presidential Election and Their Relevance to the Black Live Matter Protests
Elliot Sperber
The Breonna Taylor Bridge
July 07, 2020
Richard Eskow
The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House’s Military Spending Bill
Daniel Beaumont
Gimme Shelter: the Brief And Strange History of CHOP (AKA CHAZ)
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s War
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Racism May be Blatant, But the Culture He Defends Comes Out of the Civil War and Goes Well Beyond Racial Division
Andrew Stewart
Can We Compare the George Floyd Protests to the Vietnam War Protests? Maybe, But the Analogy is Imperfect
Walden Bello
The Racist Underpinnings of the American Way of War
Nyla Ali Khan
Fallacious Arguments Employed to Justify the Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Autonomy and Its Bifurcation
Don Fitz
A Statue of Hatuey
Dean Baker
Unemployment Benefits Should Depend on the Pandemic
Ramzy Baroud – Romana Rubeo
Will the ICC Investigation Bring Justice for Palestine?
Sam Pizzigati
Social Distancing for Mega-Million Fun and Profit
Dave Lindorff
Private: Why the High Dudgeon over Alleged Russian Bounties for Taliban Slaying of US Troops
George Wuerthner
Of Fire and Fish
Binoy Kampmark
Killing Koalas: the Promise of Extinction Down Under
Parth M.N.
Back to School in Rural India: Digital Divide to Digital Partition
Ed Sanders
The Burning of Newgate Prison: a Glyph
July 06, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Foreign Election Interference: Who is to Blame?
JoAnn Wypijewski
On Disposability and Rebellion: Insights From a Rank-and-File Insurgency
Marshall Auerback – Jan Frel
There’s a Hidden Economic Trendline That is Shattering the Global Trade System
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Just and Talented Government for Our Hazardous Age
Manuel García, Jr.
Biosphere Warming in Numbers
Ron Jacobs
Kidnapping Kids: As American as the Fourth of July
Tasha Jones
Pyramids. Plantations. Projects. Penitentiaries
Binoy Kampmark
Criminalising Journalism: Australia’s National Security Craze
Eve Ottenberg
Re-Organizing Labor
Mike Garrity
How We Stopped Trump From Trashing a Critical Montana Roadless Area in Grizzly Habitat
Nino Pagliccia
The Meaning of the 1811 Independence for Today’s Venezuela
Michael Galant
We Need a Global Green New Deal
Jill Richardson
Learning Not to Look Away
Marshall Sahlins
Donald Trump at 130,000 and Rising
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail