“From resistance fighters to lawyers, the founding fathers were a diverse group of people who held the same ideals: a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe” (1).
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Also, as discussed in an earlier post, even such a longstanding critic of the EU as Jeremy Corbyn chose to campaign to remain in it, despite its faults. I’ll repeat the reasons he offered for his conversion:
- benefits for workers – jobs, pay, employment rights, investment, health and safety, freedom of movement
- consumer rights, protecting consumers from rip-off charges
- rights for disabled people
- cooperation on environmental issues (climate change, beaches, and air pollution), cyber-crime and terrorism, and the refugee problem.
Another benefit, it is argued, would be the ease of trade for businesses within the Single Market and Customs Union.
Given these policies, it would be reasonable to describe the EU as “compassionate conservativism” or perhaps “compassionate capitalism” which, in my worldview, is a desirable objective of centre politics.
So, two interesting, related questions are:
1) Is this real, or is it just an appearance? I have heard a stockbroker on the radio call the phrase “sentimental capitalism” an oxymoron, so why do we have an overtly capitalist, free market system trying to be so sympathetic to worker’s rights? Is the EU genuinely altruistic, or are we being brainwashed, and sucked into something unpleasant, with the policies above being used as bribes, to draw us in?
2) Does the EU really benefit everybody, or is it just the business community and the rich?
Addressing the first question, it is worth noting that conspiracy theorists see the European Union as part of a global project of One World Government (a New World Order), the ultimate goal of which is a totalitarian system (something along the lines of George Orwell’s 1984). I do not propose to discuss that idea here – there is plenty of material available on the internet for anyone not familiar with the idea. However, one does not have to go that far to want to reject the EU; it is enough to note its opposition to democracy and national sovereignty, and the lies that it tells (as outlined in my previous post), which suggest that it, at the very least, has tendencies in that direction. Furthermore, even if its motives are honourable, it is still trying to achieve them by the wrong means (that will be the focus of my next article).
Turning now to the second question, as a generalisation, it was the working class who voted Leave, and this seemed to be the decisive factor in swinging the vote. If the EU really benefits workers in the way that Jeremy Corbyn suggested, surely they would have voted to remain. So why did they do it? The philosopher Roger Scruton has offered a persuasive analysis (2), which I’ll summarise here.
He said that prosperity has increased for many, but not for all, and sometimes entire lives have been blighted, turned upside down. He mentioned cheap imports, and low cost migrant workers as contributory factors. At the time of the referendum, the long history of neglect (Brexit) voters had suffered was largely ignored. (There was therefore an indifference towards the working class, the version of capitalism we are more familiar with in leftish critiques.) The referendum gave them, rather than anonymous bureaucrats, a voice. Metropolitan élites would happily discard such people, in the way that the Labour party, in the discussions over the referendum, seemed happy to discard the indigenous working class, and to speak for the liberal middle-class residents of Islington rather than the struggling factory workers of our northern cities. He said that we must work to include these people, and this was not done by the EU. Instead of taking all this into account, and trying to do something about it, Remainers chose instead to insult Leave voters, saying that their rejection of the EU could only be irrational : “Weak-minded and prejudiced, the ignorant masses rejected the guidance of their more rational rulers, and embraced folly and delusion”.
Let’s have a look at the figure of Gina Miller. She came to public attention following the referendum when she won a court case against the British government over its authority to implement Brexit without approval from Parliament. She had said that the Brexit vote made her feel physically sick, although one report even said that she was physically sick as she tried to take in what the UK had voted for (3).
According to an article by John Chapman in the Daily Express, she is an investment fund manager who lives a gilded millionaire lifestyle, having co-founded the investment firm SCM Private, which has a reported £100million in its portfolios. She is married to a millionaire financier known as “Mr Hedge Fund”. She leads a life of privilege, and home for her is a £7million townhouse in Chelsea, west London (4).
She would seem to be exactly the sort of person Roger Scruton was talking about. Why wouldn’t a millionaire businesswoman want to remain in the European Union? Why exactly did she feel physically sick? Was it through empathy with European workers given what they might lose, or was it the thought that perhaps her business might not be quite so successful?
The great thing about democracy is that the vote of an unemployed working class person counts the same as that of a privileged millionairess.
Update July 8th 2018:
It seems as though my suspicions were correct! Private Eye magazine (5) reports the following: “A foot-in-mouth moment for hedge fund manager Gina Miller as she addressed the ‘People’s Vote’ march against Brexit in Parliament Square last Saturday. Squinting at her text, the investor thundered: ‘It’s about our shares!’ to a baffled audience and an awkward silence, before correcting herself: ‘Er, shared future.’ ”
Quite a Freudian slip!
(2) BBC Radio 4, Point of View, July 13th 2016
(4) https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/728603/Gina-Miller-bid-scupper-EU-vote-Brexit-physically-sick (5) issue 1473, 29/6 – 12/7/2018, p6