By Toby Peacock
In the summer of 2016 the only progressive credential needed was voting remain. The racists of UKIP and the old Tory bigots were lining up to vote leave so the only option must be to accept the EU, despite its flaws, and vote to stay in. After all, perhaps after a narrow remain vote Britain will be able to forge a campaign to reform the EU from within?
Fast forward two years, the racists and the bigots won. Our country has gone to the dogs. The gleaming light of the EU is getting further from us as we hurtle deeper into the darkness. The campaign though is not yet over, there is still a valiant group willing to fight for the EU and to stop Brexit in its tracks and take Britain back to those days before the referendum when things weren’t ruined and we all lived in harmony. Right?
Well, not quite, because although those now supporting a “people’s vote” may like to pretend Britain collapsed in the early hours of the 24th June 2016, for many people in Britain their communities had collapsed already. Either in the 1980s under Thatcher or more recently following the 2008 recession. The opportunity to vote leave was the chance to create some meaningful change and to shift our country in a new direction.
Despite your opinions on the referendum campaign, or how you voted, now that Brexit is quite obviously happening it is worth taking some time to look at the playing field and all of the players. The working-class vote in Britain was to leave, “62 per cent of those with income of less than £20,000” voted that way. Whereas, quelle surprise, it was the well-to-do middle classes who emphatically supported the EU, for those earning over £60,000 just 35 per cent supported Britain withdrawing. So, when you see discussions of voters being fooled, not understanding or that we should ignore the first referendum result, remember that this is being put forward predominantly by a financially well-off group who – although purporting to be progressive – show all the signs of sneering indignation towards the decision made by their intellectual, cultural and financial inferiors.
The faux-progressive liberal ‘left’ is politically homeless, but only through fault of their own. Now fully wedded to the European project through their total disdain for Brexit, they’re unable to properly argue for anything other than the status-quo. However, it is evident across Europe that the general public is not content with the status-quo any longer.
Hardcore anti-brexit sentiment, summed up by campaigns like #FBPE on twitter, has tied itself too closely to the EU, ignoring that many on the left voted remain while holding their noses. They were not enamoured by the EU’s treatment of the Greeks, or the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, nor the endless freedoms for big business.
These ‘New Europeans’ now blame Brexit for anything and everything while they let capitalism and the Conservative government off the hook. They accept the slogan of neoliberalism ‘There Is No Alternative’ when a company shuts down and jobs are lost, they say Brexit is the cause, ignoring the possibility that the government could intervene in any way to protect jobs from the whims of the continental single market. But the real kicker for the anti-brexit campaign is that they’re incapable of addressing any of the issues that actually led to people voting leave.
The anti-brexit liberal intelligentsia has few answers for the communities destroyed by de-industrialisation, whose high-streets are now rammed with bookies, charity shops and big brand coffee places – but little else. This is the economics of liberalism: the small, local-run shop is crushed by the multi-national conglomerate because your local green grocer cannot buy and sell on the same scale that Tesco can. Of course, even this simple (and I admit simple) example is overlooked by the anti-brexit brigade in quest of cheap flights to the south of France and the ease of access to European Au Pairs. That is because neoliberalism suits the well off, and the EU referendum has made them realise that for all their progressive pretensions, the economic arguments bite.
We can see that deep down it all comes to economic ideology and not a pursuit of genuine progressive values. #FBPE and the People’s Vote campaigns are awash with attacks on Corbyn and his socialist Labour Party yet we see next to nothing aimed at May and her Conservative Government, who are actually carrying out Brexit. Much support has also been given to the ‘compassionate conservatives’ Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke, who, despite allowing the Conservative government to continue unhindered by not resigning the whip, are somehow true heroes, fighting to prevent the country destroying itself. But because they are anti-brexit we must ignore the work they have been doing to destroy the country when voting through other tory policies.
These liberal progressives see the EU as something it is not. Their view is that the European Union is there to protect us from the great evils of this world, that it is a beacon of hope in a world of Trump, Tories and the far-right. This image is not accurate. The EU does nothing to protect us from the populist far-right sweeping to power, and if we look to the continent we actually see a situation far worse than ours here in Britain as we wait to leave. The EU’s lack of democracy and watering down of individual national cultures by weakening the nation state has empowered the far-right, who now have a strong political presence in almost every EU member state. As well as this rise, the centre-left social democrats are collapsing. Voters are moving away from liberal social-democracy judging it as failed, yet the anti-brexit movement in Britain strives for this liberal social-democracy, which in Europe is dying. They are destined for failure. The EU is the hill the faux-progressive liberal left has chosen to die on and, by the looks of it, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
“Toby Peacock is a Young Labour activist, originally from Hull, about to graduate from Goldsmiths University in Political Science, with a focus on the impacts of immigration.”