Britain’s Brexit crisis is rooted in history and the best future is with Europe

Contributed by Joe Montero

The United kingdom’s Brexit mess cannot be merely passed off as the fault of an incompetent Prime Minister. Whoever was heading the government was always going to be in trouble over it. Perhaps she has not done the best job of it. This does not deny that Theresa May is also a prisoner of circumstances.

The Brexit crisis is deeply embedded in the history of empire, deep seated class attitudes, and distrust of the Continent, especially the relationship with Germany and France. And there is the present economic interest of sections of big business. Together, these are what has given rise to passions over whether to get out or stay in.

Traditional opposition has hinged on two facts.

Within the ruling circles controlling of the economy and politics, a significant section of the old school tie brigade, dreams of returning to the days of the empire where the Sun never set.

The other, is that many British working people have long believed that the European union is not set up to work for their interests, but for the benefit of the financial and industrial barons of the continent and the dictates of Brussels. 

Countering this is the pro-European Union side which hinges on these facts.

A section within the circles controlling the economy and politics that has been benefiting from trade with Europe and wants to maintain it.

In real life, closer ties with Europe has provided some benefits, like jobs and ease of travel. It has contributed to making Britain a more cosmopolitan society. The impact has been greatest on the younger generation, which is more favourably disposed to Europe and carries much less of the baggage of the past.

Division is serious, enough o ensure that up to now, the United Kingdom has maintained a one foot in and one foot out relationship with the European Union. This is best seen in the failure to trade in the Pound for the Euro.

What began to change the situation towards Brexit, is the economic and political decline of Great Britain at home and as a world power, the loss of important industries at home, and the rise of Europe.

Saddled with debt to the United States, which has also become a major investor in the British economy, the united Kingdom began to shift into the American sphere of influence, dragging in a major part of the old school tie brigade. A reflection of this was seen within the ranks of government and the political elite. It reached its peak during the Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair years.

The standout example of the connection between British and American big business interests is Rupert Murdock. He has used his media empire as the propaganda arm of the pro Brexit forces.

At its most basic level, Brexit has not really been about British sovereignty. It has been about whether to be tied to Europe and the United States.

UKIP supporters and others draping the flag and demanding out, have been hoodwinked into believing that Brexit is the means to bring back the glory days. The re-emergence of the United Kingdom as a global superpower, will build the economy, provide jobs and give them back their country, they have been told.

The conservative Party has been divided. The largest part of the old school tie brigade is connected to it.

At the same time, a significant part of its big business base has been benefiting from being with the European Union. So much so, that the Confederation of British Industry has in the past taken a pubic pro-European Union position, and more recently, pushed for a soft Brexit, rather than a a hard one. The peak business body for some time been considering withdrawing support from the Conservative Party.

No wonder the Conservatives can’t find unity.

It explains why there have been drawn out negotiations to put together a softer Brexit deal and why so many conservative members of parliament crossed the floor to vote the package down.

The subsequent no confidence motion put by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not get up of course. It was never going to. Too many of those who crossed the floor do not want to sacrifice their personal political careers at an election they are not going to win. They and Theresa May hope they have won enough time to find a way to turn the situation around.

May has appealed to her Northern Ireland coalition partners and Scotland, both of which are pro-European Union, to work with her. She has appealed to the Labour Party and unions to do the same, hoping to build a consensus for a soft Brexit. She is insisting that the only other option is a hard Brexit.

Brexit is also a problem for Labour. There is a strong tendency against the European Union. And there has been the rise of those who see that the European Union offers better protection of jobs and conditions, as well as other social and environmental measures.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is walking a tightrope. On the books, the party is now timidly pro Europe, while at the same time taking care not to turn away those in the support base who see it differently. Thus, Labour comes out looking inconsistent and lacking fire in the belly on this issue.

All other things aside. Being in the American sphere of influence threatens more extreme neoliberalism and greater inequality. This cannot be ignored.

Polls suggest that if a new referendum is held, there would be a majority vote to stay in the European Union, and it may be that a new poll is ultimately unavoidable.

Remaining in the European Union does have its down side. It is under the control of the most powerful states within it, and within this, a narrow economic and political elite.

Despite this, it remains that being in the European Union is the best option for Great Britain. There are still some basic protections.

More important in the longer run, is that the road to a better future lies in joining a larger community that fights together, to remove the grip of those presently in control and replace this with democratic control, which is far more extensive than what exists now.

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