This John Harris article, Brexit is a class betrayal. So why is Labour colluding in it?, is a persuasive argument about Labour strategy and why it should support a #PeoplesVote. But it doesn’t do much to support its headline claim – that Brexit is a class issue. (I know, the headlines are written by the editors, not the commentators.)
I think the claim is right: Brexit is a class issue. I’ll try to explain why.
The spectacle of millionaire toffs and spivs inciting popular hatred against “elites” – which Harris mentions but doesn’t analyse – is an obvious example of misdirection from the ruling class.
I know this is a bit late, but it’s worth following up on.
In a previous post, I pondered whether David Cameron’s tub-thumping over the EU’s bill for £1.7bn extra in UK payments was a very clever conspiracy to boost his image as a statesman, or a very stupid tantrum which played into his opponents’ hands.
The answer would be revealed when the UK either paid, or didn’t pay, the bill. And, as it turned out, we payed:
As I said at the time, this could have been played as a triumph: our extra payments were due to better economic performance. Like a recalculation by HMRC which tells you that you owe extra income tax because you earned more than expected, it was annoying, but a consequence of being better off.
Instead, Cameron and Osborne’s handling of the issue was typical of their clueless approach, and has helped to get us where we are now: with Vote Leave ahead in the polls and in control of the debate, looking likely to win the referendum on 23rd June.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a sinister trade deal currently being negotiated in secret between the EU and the US, is finally starting to get some wider press and recognition.
Last week, a rebel group of Conservative MPs threatened to derail the Queen’s Speech if the government didn’t include a promise to introduce legislation to protect the NHS from the consequences of TTIP; Labour joined in, the government acquiesced, and the amendment was included.
Aside from making you wonder just how rapaciously capitalist a trade deal has to be for a group of Tory backbenchers to oppose it, the NHS-TTIP protection bill should raise two big questions in anyone’s mind:
- If the NHS will only be protected by special legislation, what other institutions of value aren’t going to be protected, and what will happen to them?
- If TTIP is such a threat that we need to have laws protecting us from it, why are we considering the deal at all?
The aim of the deal is to reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator – between Europe and the USA – and give companies the unaccountable legal power to dictate national policies. Whether you’re a Brexiter or not, if you’re concerned about the loss of sovereignty, TTIP should be starting to worry you now.
So the EU has presented the UK with an additional bill of £1.7 billion, and David Cameron is kicking off and saying we’re not going to pay.
My first reaction was ultra-cynical. The Conservatives are faced with the threat of another by-election against UKIP in a couple of weeks. Perhaps the whole thing had been orchestrated in cahoots with the EU as an elaborate charade. Here’s how it works in Cameron’s favour: the EU pretends to be owed £1.7bn, Cameron makes a big stand and refuses to pay, the EU backs down from its fictitious demand and Cameron struts around like he’s proved he can defeat them. Wobbly Eurosceptic voters decide he’s the real anti-EU statesman and stick with the Tories instead of haemorrhaging to UKIP.