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Out of Brexit a new beginning?

One thing that strikes me about Brexit is how readily people entrenched in the in-out camps.  For either side, the reasons were 'obvious' - so obvious that neither side could see the point of view of the other.

One oddity is that the Left had more reason to vote leave and 'destroy' the European dream than had the right. Yet, on the whole, the liberal left was taken on the mantle of knights in shining armour to defend the EU.   It left Jeremy Corbyn on a limb - his instinct was to Leave.  But his party had become overwhelmingly pro-EU.

Once upon a time, it was mainly the Left who campaigned against British membership.  For Tony Benn, it was a question of sovereignty.  The left entrenched into an anti-EU position.  An 'ever closer union' based on capitalism was not for them the utopia they sought.

During the referendum, I campaigned to remain in the EU, but I always understood the arguments for leaving.  Remainers wonder what went wrong.

What went wrong was the European project.  We boasted of its success.  We hoisted up our flags of principles.  The case was put - The EU had brought peace and prosperity where once there had been war and economic failure - and to leave would bring about economic ruin.  The EU was a worthy project with laudable objectives.

But, arguably, the European project had failed the people.  It was a neoliberal dream - and the neoliberals turned against it.

This was brought into stark relief in the aftermath of the financial crash of 2008/9.  Governments moved heaven and earth to rescue the banks.  Of course, because if they had not the global system would have collapsed.  But they also turned on the poor and protected the wealthy.

The poorest and most vulnerable would pay for the 'bankers greed'.  Books had suddenly to be balanced, and the age of austerity was heralded.  Running deficits, which governments had done for decades became a political sin.  Balancing the books became the new objective.  Old objectives of creating full employment were abandoned.  At last, the right-wing got their chance to dig their teeth into the welfare system.  It was a systematic attack on the poor.  The poorest were to be blamed for their own poverty.

So, who lived the European dream?  Is it the 4 million across France living in poor housing conditions? Is it the 12.5 million Germans who are classified as poor?

Almost one in six people in Germany were assessed as living in poverty or other forms of social exclusion in 2019.   

Or perhaps the five million living in 'absolute' poverty in Italy.  Do they live the European dream?

Is it the hard-working people of our northern towns of Britain whose communities had been neglected for decades?  Too late, politicians in Westminster talked of the 'northern powerhouse'.

The cosy elite dug their trench and said their position on Europe was a matter of principle.  They told the poor that the UK had benefited from its four decades of EU membership.  They then had the crassness to tell the poorest that they would be worse off if we left the EU!

Brexit is a consequence of the inability of the EU to side with the people and in particular the most vulnerable.   That is why we have the oddity of so many of the most vulnerable voting to leave. What did they have to lose?

Where the left should have spoken up for them, they dithered and spoke of a dream - an unreality.  There lies the disengagement, and the feeling of betrayal.

All across Europe, it is the right-wing who are filling the political vacuum, as they stoke up the chaos, while the left is in disarray.

In the UK the poorest have been ignored or downright trodden on, and meanwhile, many more feel their concerns have also been ignored, as their towns and communities feel threatened.

Unless the left once again reconnects with them, then they will be powerless to influence events.  This is why the Labour Party in the UK needs leadership capable of regaining the trust that they can deliver.  That requires leadership to unite the party and reach out to voters.

If socialists simply vote for what they want to hear, then they will repeat the mistakes of the last decade.   The left needs a positive message and a clear set of policies to deliver, and not a wish list. It must now play its part in a future outside the EU.




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