False Unities: Brexit in the New Year


The pile of detritus in Tooting had been growing ahead of the New Year’s Eve gatherings. The pubs were initiating their usual trick of closure and charging for tickets in the hope of getting some ruddy cash ahead of 2017. In parts of London, an air of dark pessimism lingered like a cold fog. Ominously, bad weather threatened Heathrow at points with grounded flights and cancellations.

With the celebratory fireworks in London, the city’s mayor had come out with the rather feeble remark that the city was ‘open’. (For what? Business, or perhaps defiantly open in the face of another round of renewed security threats.)

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, was even less convincing. Another year would usher in the crude realities of a Brexit negotiation process her servants are ill-prepared for. It is a point she wishes to keep from discussion in Parliament. The Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn has even accused May of being an autocrat akin to Henry VIII. If so, she is at best a confused one.

Across the various departments, and in the interest of austerity, the Brexit section charged with engineering Britain’s departure from the European Union has been rapacious and unrepentant in its demands.

The minister overseeing that side of government business, David Davis, has not impressed his European counterparts with either his negotiating stance, or management. German MEP Manfred Weber, chairman of the centre-right European People’s Party, wondered whether Davis and May were even on the same, confused page.

In November, Weber tut tutted any idea that Britain could stay in the single market and continue to ‘have very close cooperation in legal issues.’ Brexit, after all, meant Brexit, necessitating a pruning ‘back on our relationships.’

May has entertained the British public with a vast array of inanities to soften the effects of Europe’s threatening hammer. She has proposals, so he claim, for a ‘truly global Britain’, a poor assertion suggesting that it was not global to begin with. Her new year message was a patchwork of similar comments in an effort to claim that Britons were not as divided as thought.

‘If 2016 was the year you voted for that change, this is the year we start to make it happen.’ The referendum, however, had ‘laid bare some further divisions in our country.’ The June referendum had been ‘divisive at times. I know, of course, that not everyone shared the same point of view or voted in the same way. But I know too that, as we face the opportunities ahead of us, our shared interests and ambitions can bring us together.’

Before the European negotiators, she has promised ample visions of jam and richness, claiming that ‘the right deal’ will be forthcoming for all – including the shell shocked remainers. ‘This is the year we need to pull down these barriers that hold people back, securing a better deal at home for ordinary, working people.’

The ‘ordinary working people’ as a concept is, at best, a rickety one. In the European zone, citizens have been crossing borders, inhabiting and enriching various economies with their subsidizing industrious presence. Germany has two million Poles; France 650,000 Portuguese, and Spain over a million Romanians.

What made the British case before Brexit odd was how Europeans were made an object of swamping terror, a shift of sorts from traditional targets of racial opprobrium (Africa, the subcontinent, the Caribbean).

This was fed by the customary manipulation of the working class vote, ever vulnerable to concepts of loss and privation in a changing economy. The British problem here is a broader one of internal organisation of a lopsided labour market rather than external one of uncontrollable borders.

Britain, after all, has shortages in health workers, not to mention areas that require such personnel as painters, carpenters, electricians and plumbers. That is not a point being made by the Davis-May team.

What The Independent envisaged was a gloomy attack on Britain’s estranged working classes if discrimination against European citizens was to go ahead. ‘That massive blow to the material economy would be far more damaging to Britain’s working class than allowing Lithuanians to pull leeks from Lincolnshire fields in freezing weather.’

As for broader sentiments of unity, very little of that liquor is available for consumption, especially with May behind the bar. ‘This is the year’, suggested William Keegan rather grumpily in The Guardian, ‘when our politicians and the so-called “people” – all 28 percent of the population who voted to leave the European Union – will reap what they have sown.’

So, as the booze inflicted headaches wear off this morning, Britain remains fractured and disillusioned, marked by a government of enormous confusion and inconsistencies. As this continues, the biggest barker in favour Brexit, Nigel Farage, continues to draw an EU salary. A most compromised political attack dog, if ever there was one.

More articles by:

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

April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
Nomi Prins 
Wall Street Wins, Again: Bailouts in the Time of Coronavirus
Dean Baker
Getting to Medicare-for-All, Eventually
Dave Lindorff
Neither Pandemic Nor Economic Collapse is Going to Be a Short-Lived Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
Capitalism in America Has Dropped the Mask: Its Face is Cruel and Selfish
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 7 Pro-Contagion Reversals Increase the Coronavirus Toll
David Swanson
A Department of Actual Defense in a Time of Coronavirus
Ellen Brown
Was the Fed Just Nationalized?
Jeff Birkenstein
Postcards From Trump
Nick Licata
Authoritarian Leaders Rejected the Danger of a COVID-19 Pandemic Because It Challenged Their Image
Kathy Kelly
“He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else”
Graham Peebles
Change Love and the Need for Unity
Kim C. Domenico
Can We Transform Fear to Strength In A Time of Pandemic?
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Files Lawsuit to Stop Logging and Burning Project in Rocky Mountain Front Inventoried Roadless Area
Stephen Cooper
“The Soul Syndicate members dem, dem are all icons”: an Interview with Tony Chin
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
Kathleen Wallace
The Highly Contagious Idea
Kenneth Good
The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators.
Andrew Levine
Democracy in America: Sorry, But You Can’t Get There from Here.
Ramzy Baroud
Tunisia Leads the Way: New Report Exposes Israel’s False Democracy
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the State-of-Emergency Pandemic
Matthew Stevenson
Will Trump Cancel the Election? Will the Democrats Dump Joe?
Ron Jacobs
Seattle—Anti-Capitalist Hotbed
Michael T. Klare
Avenger Planet: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Mother Nature’s Response to Human Transgression?
Jack Rasmus
COVID-19 and the Forgotten Working Class
Werner Lange
The Madness of More Nukes and Less Rights in Pandemic Times
J.P. Linstroth
Why a Race is Not a Virus and a Virus is Not a Race
John Feffer
We Need a Coronavirus Truce
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”: the Ultimate Floating Signifier
Victor Grossman
Corona and What Then?
Katie Fite
Permanent Pandemic on Public Lands: Welfare Sheep Ranchers and Their Enablers Hold the West’s Bighorns Hostage
Patrick Bond
Covid-19 Attacks the Down-and-Out in Ultra-Unequal South Africa
Eve Ottenberg
Capitalism vs. Humanity
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 2: Panic On the Streets of Tehran
Jonas Ecke
Would Dying for the Economy Help Anybody?