Corporate media has successfully portrayed Brexit as an issue primarily about immigration and, taking it one step further, xenophobia or racism. This narrative has influenced many liberals in America – except for a few such as Green Party’s Jill Stein – to instinctively oppose Brexit. The truth is far more nuanced, with Brexit being a democratic uprising against an authoritarian and unaccountable European Union, excessive globalization, loss of jobs, reduction of wages and benefits, and destruction of British Middle Class.
Looking at the big picture, it’s not surprising that Brexit happened. EU is quite unpopular, as shown below.
There are now calls for at least 34 referendums across the EU, the topics ranging from refugee policy (that EU is forcing upon the nations) to entirely leaving the EU.
A quick look at the EU economy also shows that things aren’t so peachy. In the UK, 40% say they can’t save anything since their entire income is consumed by the basics, and 2.3 million British children (17%) are living in poverty. In southern countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, the youth unemployment is 40% or more. In France, there have been continuous protests called Nuit Debout (“all night”) – similar to Occupy Movement – for the last couple of months. Austerity – a nice word for plundering a country – has been the bitter medicine shoved down the throats all across Europe. Bottom line: the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 wrecked Europe and there has been no real recovery for most people since then. On top of these, add in terrorist attacks and the deluge of millions of refugees and migrants, you have the perfect storm of discontent.
Who Likes EU?
Of course, there is a big chunk of UK and Europe that like the concept of EU. Along with the political elites and oligarchs, these are the educated people with good jobs, workers in big corporations, bankers, or even small-business owners who are dependent on cheap labor. Young people are also in favor of EU since they have bought into the official narrative of EU as well as the fear-mongering of the media. People in smaller and poorer nations – Hungary, Poland, Romania etc. – also love the EU since it provides job opportunities for their people and gives them, as a nation, access to a strong currency.
What is EU?
It seems like a simple question, but surprisingly most Europeans can’t even describe the major institutions of EU and how they really work. You will be hard-pressed to find a European on the street who can identify the Presidents of the European Commission, the European Council, the Council of the European Union – very confusing names, for sure – and the European Parliament. You can safely assume that, except for the bureaucrats, not a single European has read the entire European Constitution and the mind-boggling treaties which keep amending it. If you have insomnia, you can read the 200+ pages of the EU Constitution passed by Lisbon Treaty in 2008.
The simple, naked truth is that EU is a Supra State, a modern Empire and a Neoliberal project that has been created out of 28 countries – including the UK. It also plans to add potentially 14 more countries! EU is much more than what TPP, TTIP and other corporate deals could ever accomplish. It’s a single market of 500 million people – potentially adding another 150 million – that is controlled by one private bank, the European Central Bank (ECB). Multi-national corporations can use a single lever in Brussels to control what and how the entire Europe consumes from cradle to birth – food, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and more. Once the European Army comes to fruition, it will be a bonanza for the military-industrial complex as well.
Many people have called the EU “The United States of Europe,” but this is wrong in many ways. To start with, the differences between European countries – language, culture, identity etc. – are incomparable to the differences between the individual states of the US. This is why when Greece is suffering horribly, most cannot simply move to Germany and find a new job. Also, the financial situation of each country is isolated enough that when it suffers, there is not much help from other European nations.
More importantly, the EU is inherently anti-democratic. Of all the EU institutions, the people get to vote for only one: the European Parliament. How ridiculous is that? Imagine if you could only vote for the US House of Representatives – this is the European Parliament; and the US Senators are political insiders sent by each state – this is the Council of EU; and the US President is actually a group of political hacks, one sent from each state – this is the EU Commission. There are also about 50,000 highly-paid, faceless bureaucrats – Eurocrats – who spend their days devising rules and regulations to control every aspect of an average person’s life (more on this later).
The unelected bodies are actually the most powerful ones in EU. The EU Commission is where legislation begins. The Parliament simply approves them or proposes amendments. And what is a day in EU Parliament like? Imagine a meeting with 751 people who speak 23 different languages. It’s the perfect place to take naps all day long.
Among the 50,000 or so Eurocrats, 10,000 make more money than the Prime Minister of UK! And their compensations, especially for the Ministers, are generous beyond belief, including $200,000 a year salary, income tax as low as 8%, $400 daily allowance for simply showing up at the Parliament for work, $60,000 a year allowance for computers/phones, $400,000 a year for staffing that can include family members, and a whole slew of subsidies for relocation, housing, children’s private schools, healthcare, entertainment etc. Put together, the wages and benefits add up to more than $1 million a year! There are even private shopping malls for the Eurocrats so they wouldn’t be forced to shop with the plebeians of Europe.
But their insular world is open to another class of elites – the lobbyists. There are more than 7000 registered lobbying groups for EU and a single corporation such as Volkswagen had 40 lobbyists working the Eurocrats to sneak in favored legislations and rules. The more the regulations, the better it is for big corporations since this kills competition from small business and mid-sized companies.
Thanks to this corruption via lobbying, EU has come up with preposterous regulations such as “bottled water cannot claim that it helps dehydration” (someone like Gatorade must be behind this one) or “prunes cannot be sold as having laxative effect” (one can imagine Big Pharma behind this one). With a great zeal to justify their lucrative jobs, they have come up with gargantuan documents on even simple items such as apples and eggs, with various classifications, precise weight measurements (a “large egg” must be more than 62 grams but less than 72 g, color specifications (a “red apple” must be at least 50% red) and on and on.
Then someone came up with a wonderful idea of cutting electricity consumption and ordered that all new toasters, vacuum cleaners, kettles, hair dryers etc. must use 30% less energy. Of course, people who tried out the new toasters complained that they had to use them four times to brown the bread!
The stories are endless and seem to prove what Gorbachev said about EU: “EU is the old Soviet Union in western clothes.”
EU Really Hates the Peasants
EU is far from the concept of “of the people and by the people.” Over time, EU’s elites have clearly shown their disdain for referendums and Democracy. Here are some quick examples:
- Denmark rejected the notion of European Union in 1992. So it was forced to vote again after some superficial tweaks and renewed propaganda. And the referendum passed.
- When a new EU Constitution was proposed in 2004, the Belgian Prime Minister famously said, “If the answer is No, the vote will have to be done again, because it absolutely has to be Yes.”
- The Lisbon Treaty was a scam that was created after the EU Constitution was rejected by countries such as France and Netherlands in referendums in 2005. The elites decided to circumvent the people of Europe by getting the Constitution approved by a “treaty” that was approved and signed by politicians. Democracy be damned!
- Ireland was the only country that insisted on having a referendum on the new Lisbon Treaty. And it actually rejected the treaty in 2008. But lo and behold, it was made to vote again. Of course, it passed the next year.
- Afterward, the President of the EU Commission made it clear: “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.”
Thus the EU elites’ message is clear: Resistance is Futile.
ECB and EU Army
Central Banking is one area that very few people understand. The concept of a private organization – owned by a few banks – controlling the currency of entire nation(s) is accepted widely and questioned rarely. If you replace the European Central Bank (ECB) with a single individual and ask people, “Would you like this unelected person to have unfettered power and freedom to print money, set interest rates and distribute the money?” and the answer will be a unanimous NO! The ECB has printed trillions of dollars, created artificial bubbles and bursts, bailed out its favorite banks, sent interest rates into negative territory, forced privatization of vast assets in Greece and elsewhere, showered the Top 0.1% with unimaginable amount of wealth, and created huge inequality all over Europe.
Most people consider Greece as an isolated extreme incident, but Greece is just an experiment that will soon be repeated across Europe. The ECB is pushing Europe into ever increasing debt. As the chart shows below, every country has a higher debt-to-GDP ratio today than in 2007, before the Crash.
On a related note, many Europeans support EU since they are often told about generous EU funds that sponsor research, museums etc. There are also special logos placed in hospitals, buildings etc. that say “Funded by EU.” This is a pitiful propaganda, since it’s like your boss using your credit card to buy you a Christmas gift and expecting you to be grateful.
Wars and Banking are like “fish and chips.” Once the EU Army is funded by mandatory spending from each nation, it will join forces with the US to continue the perpetual wars all over the world – possibly with Russia and even China. It’s not unthinkable given NATO’s saber-rattling with war games and deployment of missile defense shields in Romania and Poland. In a newly released document that came out after the Brexit referendum clearly states their plan to “exert influence” in Central Asia and Africa.
Immigration for US and Europe is like food – it’s not just a question of whether it is needed; the question is how much and what type? In general, immigration brings down wages since a) it creates more competition and b) most immigrants (in Europe/USA) these days come from poorer countries and are happy to work for less than the prevailing wages. This is true for pretty much all jobs, from computer programmers to manual laborers.
Between 1993 and 2014, the foreign-born population in the UK more than doubled from 3.8 million to around 8.3 million.
Of course, there were more blue collar immigrants than college-educated immigrants pouring into England during that time. For example, in the last 10 years, more than 800,000 Polish workers have gone to the UK. Mainstream media is usually reluctant to talk about the truth for the fear of fueling racism, but once in a while, there will be an article about the detrimental effect of immigration on blue collar workers. Looking at the big picture, the working class of England were dealt triple blows of economic devastation through outsourcing of jobs, excessive immigration and austerity.
There are also social problems with immigration that are more acutely felt in poorer areas of England than in London. For example, as shown in this CNN video, in some areas where the people are predominantly Muslim immigrants, religious extremists try to establish “Sharia Zones” and harass British people for drinking or wearing skirts. With so much immigration in such a short amount of time, there has not been enough time for assimilation. According to recent poll of Muslims in the UK, 1/4th prefer Sharia Law over English Law, 1/3rd support polygamy and half want to criminalize homosexuality. In addition to all these problems, add recent terrorist attacks and the arrival of millions of refugees in Europe, one can see why people are very afraid and angry.
Brexit is a sign of crisis in capitalism and a clear indication of the failure of Neoliberalism. Brexit is the harbinger of the enormous resistance to the ambitious globalization projects of the New World Order elites.
The progressive left must take the lead on this resistance movement, or else it will be hijacked by the extreme right, as it is happening all over Europe. Trump can very well win this election with the support of blue-collar Democrats.
Progressives must fight for the working class and the lower middle class struggling to make ends meet. Immigration is not an ideology – it’s math and economics. Rather than castigating the working class as racists or bigots, progressives must seek out rational and pragmatic solutions on controlled immigration and trade deals. The Left must also vigorously speak out against Obama’s wars in Syria and Libya which have created millions of refugees. Bombing someone and then sheltering them is not an act of compassion.
As for the United Kingdom, it will be wise to stick to the referendum and leave the unaccountable, undemocratic and over-regulated EU that is flirting with imperial goals. Shaken but not stirred after Brexit, Great Britain will be just fine.