Brexit Xenophobia

A friend of mine told me last night that she was recently insulted for being a foreign migrant in the UK. As she had finished a phone conversation during which she had to spell her surname, the man next to her on the bus looked at her full of hate and said something rude suggesting she should go back to her own country.

Another friend of mine, who blindly supports Brexit, had told me few days before this happened, in a conversation about xenophobia and freedom of expression of migrants on the issue of the referendum, that if anyone receives ethnic abuse or violence, they must report it to the police.

This is wishful thinking, and quite frankly, naïve. Our police forces cannot deal effectively with this kind of low level, yet highly perverse and hurtful violence. They are overstretched and they would struggle to catch people like that man on the bus and get any kind of meaningful redress from him. Most people I know share this belief. In fact, I have heard of xenophobic behaviour in the past and I cannot recall one single instance in which ringing up the police was even suggested. To me, if things are getting to a point in which police intervention is needed to tackle xenophobia, yet victims do not feel that bringing the police in would help, it is clearly too late for the politicians and the State to tackle the issue effectively.

Of course, many of these xenophobic rude people must feel that they are just expressing their national anger resulting from the horrible effects of migration and membership of the EU. They replicate, in their own language and code, what the right-wing newspapers have been telling them for the last 20 years about migration and the EU. But the same is true of other Tory and UKIP xenophobes who, as members of the middle classes, have learnt to coach their nastiness towards migrants in a way that would not get them into any kind of trouble. No name calling, no swearing. And, of course, this xenophobia can take many other shapes. Do you remember the French Lady in Question Time last week who was shut down by a fervent audience when she said “well, we are all Brussels”. (She was trying to challenge the belief that there is an evil entity trying to control the UK personified in UK Brexit discourse as “Brussels”).

Are there Brexiters who are not xenophobes?

Of course there are, I know some nice normal people who want to leave the EU, but they should acknowledge that if it was not for all the “patriotic”, anti-EU and anti-migration propaganda of newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail over the years, UKIP and the Brexit campaign would not have prospered in terms of number of supporters and voters as much as they have. Perhaps that would give them a better understanding of what type of country they are promoting by supporting Brexit.

What about the Brexit right-wing elites, the ones behind all this, the ones who would never share a bus with the man who insulted my friend?

We must remind them that they have come this far in their political and business aspirations on the back of a rabidly xenophobic horse which their media have spurred. It is their responsibility, more than anyone else’s, to help us to put down the beast they have nurtured as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I don’t think these elites are up to the job. Besides, if Brexit wins, they will be too busy over the next ten years trying to desperately negotiate new business and trade deals, for themselves and/or for the country as a whole, to care about anything else, never mind social cohesion and peace.

Image credits: Hope not Hate

Remain. Stand for Democracy.

“Ah, thanks to the EU referendum we are going to see some democracy at last. In fact, we are recovering our democracy. We have had enough of the European Union”, said a Leave supporter to me last week.

What a misguided idea!

The EU is an organisation made up by National Governments. All the important EU laws, the EU Treaties, have to be passed by each one of the European Governments, including our own Government in the UK.

It is up to individual countries (the EU has no say on this) to decide how these European Treaties are approved internally, at the national level. In our case, it is our MPs in Westminster who have voted in favour of every single one of the EU treaties, often following tough negotiations, for the last 40 years. The Treaty of Maastricht, The Treaty of Nice, The Treaty of Lisbon were signed by a British Prime Minister following parliamentary debate in the UK.

In other countries like Ireland, for the approval of the EU treaties a popular referendum is required. In the UK, we trust, naively, the solidity and transparency of our national parliamentary system.

People who think that our lack of democracy in the UK comes from being part of the EU do not understand where the problem stems from. Someone said to me recently:

“We (the British) are the architects of democracy”.

I said to myself:

“I can’t see the architects of this fine building in need of serious refurbishment around. They must be dead by the age of the construction. This guy has not ever heard of Private Eye”.

We are at the heart of Europe. That is an economic, social, historical, cultural and political fact that we cannot hide under the carpet by detaching ourselves from the EU. We are no Switzerland or Norway. We are the second largest member of the Union. It is true that we need to build a better EU, but that only can be done from the inside, not by leaving.

And what about our sovereignty?

In order to have a better national democracy and a more effective control of our UK affairs the first thing we need to do is to vote for Remain and don’t distract our attention with painful and economically uncertain renegotiations of trade treaties, which could take many years, and huge internal changes to our EU laws, which frankly, are there for a reason (protecting the environment, consumers, workers…) and do not prevent us from improving our national democracy at all.

This EU referendum is not part of a plan to improve the way the UK political system works. The Tories and UKIP, promoters of this plebiscite, have no intention to hold any more referendums on other matters. If anything, sadly, this “democratic” referendum experience may put people off direct democracy, and democracy altoghether.

Bear in mind that it is very difficult to make an informed and rational decision in complex issues such as leaving the EU in such a short period of time. One thing is voting for your MP, who you can meet and like or dislike. Another is being asked to make a one-off, one-in-a-life-time decision which would test anyone’s combined critical understanding of History, Economics, Politics, Business, Human Geography and Law, all in a UK, European and international context.

The vast majority of people in this country are not used to research, debate and decide anything political. We are only expected to vote every 5 years in the General Elections. Only a tiny minority of people are actively involved in political campaigning and debate. The percentages of participation in the General Elections are not impressive. Around 40% of people don’t bother. In the case of local elections and the referendum on proportional representation (2011) the levels of engagement are simply a shame in our UK political system (around 25% vote in local elections). We live, like in most other Western countries, in a very “laid back democracy”.

For those who believe in democracy, here is our priority:

We must tackle apathy, our democratic institutions need to connect with people, we need to build a better democratic fabric in society, with more direct democracy on issues we can and should have a say like education, jobs, health or transport. Let people take more responsibility on more manageable, tangible, local and national, matters.

Interestingly, progressive popular empowerment is the only way to have UK Governments that have the strength, legitimacy and honesty to defend our interests in Brussels, within the EU, in coordination with other democratic governments and movements of other EU countries.

The last thing we need is a ToryKIP Government, fired up by Brexit, that runs away from the top tables in the World and turns its back on their own people and on the rest of our allies and friends in Europe.

Democracy in the UK is possible, Another Europe is Possible, but only if we vote Remain.

If you love this country and its people, as I do, (not necessarily its political system), don’t vote Leave.

Brexit Titanic Now Boarding

This is a response to the article published in the Telegraph on 24 February 2016 by Gerard Lyons, economic advisor of Boris Johnson, entitled “The EU is like the Titanic, and we need to jump off before it sinks“. The extracts of the text of Dr Lyons are in italics.

The European Union is like the Titanic. Imagine being in Southampton harbour the day the Titanic set sail. Its size gave the impression of invincibility: safe and secure. It wasn’t. Despite receiving warnings of impending danger it didn’t change course, hit trouble and sank.

Because it is huge, some in the UK feel we would be safer and economically stronger in the EU. This is wrong. We now have the opportunity to jump ship to safety. An opportunity we are never likely to have again. Not a leap into the dark, but for those able to look ahead, a move to safety.

It is true that the EU is complex and needs deep reforms for it to be more democratic and effective, but let us ask ourselves this question: who are about to board on a very proud and apparently seaworthy vessel, full of enthusiasm and self-belief, in search for better seas away from the European mainland? The Brexiters.

I love metaphors, but only when they are used with care and wisdom. The Titanic was a British RMS ship.

In so far as the substance of these claims by Lyons, I would say that the EU is home to countries like Germany or Finland where the standards of living are higher than in the UK and whose enterprises in a number of key sectors are better equipped, technologically and financially, than their UK’s counterparts. They have to work under the same EU regulations than us, but they know how to deal with them.

These include returning sovereignty and having a meaningful immigration target that can be met.

On EU matters, sovereignty is shared. By being part of the EU we extend our sovereign powers to the rest of the Union. It is called influence and co-responsibility. EU Treaties are approved by national governments and parliaments, including ours. There is not a single piece of legislation in the EU that does not stem, originally, from a British-backed rule.

Immigration is the result from British firms not being able to find sufficient workers to fill in positions. Immigration is fuelled by the stupidity of our establishment, the functioning of the markets and the inability of successive UK Governments to get things right on a number of policy areas. Here are three sectors, not the only ones, where immigration is a necessity for the UK:

1) Health: The lack of Government investment in training doctors and nurses is the direct result of Britain being a “low tax” country for invisible entities of all types.

2) Services: The wages of UK working classes in relation to the cost of living are very low. A waitressing job in London is only suitable for people who don´t have a family to look after and are “happy” to survive in shared low quality accommodation.

3) Education: The stress of school teachers, widely reported by Unions, and the failure of our system, is motivated by a managerial approach to Education, by an excessive workload and by a plethora of rules and protocols that do not allow the professionals to get on with the jobs of educating young people. These rules do not come from the EU, but from the department that Mr Gove, another Brexiter, was running until not so long, and from previous governments, to be fair on him. Regulatory diarrhea (from the Spanish “diarrea legislativa”, used by the Spanish liberals to mock over-regulation) is also a UK home grown disease.  Teachers from abroad are in high demand as UK teachers are increasingly dismayed and not many young people pursue a career in education.

So, will there be an army of UK public servants telling UK employers how many people from abroad they can hire in each case, in each type of business, in each city? Is this the idea of a free-enterprise Britain? How many regulations, quotas and forms will this generate? Will they be second class workers, with less rights for similar positions?

We can focus attention on what is needed for small firms and for ordinary workers across the whole country. Outside the EU we can position the UK to be outward looking.

No way. You cannot trust the Tories on this. Ordinary workers in the Northern and Central countries in the EU are better off than their UK counterparts. If it was not for the European regulations, UK workers would be even worse than now in terms of social rights.

Leaving the EU will come with transition costs. While the UK public may want quick wins, the most important thing will be stability, a road map for the future and a clear strategic vision. Just as a new government may require one or two full terms to implement its manifesto […]

Brexit will be an economic shock. We encounter such events throughout our own lives, when we move house or change jobs. Unless planned for they can be disruptive. That doesn’t mean growth will contract or jobs will be lost, but investment plans may temporarily be put on hold.

Well, at least the author of the article is honest on this, but does he have a figure for the transaction costs? Are we going to pay it pro-rata, or would there be job losses resulting from these costs? Is he offering himself to give up his job as economic advisor of Boris Johnson so that we can cover them?

One way to picture this growth is the letter “V”, or better still, a tick – a short fall in growth followed by a much larger rise. Pre- and post-referendum would resemble the downward stroke of the V. A rebound would follow later.

A Churchillian slip there with the “V”. Perhaps it is a V of another kind what we would get. This is all speculation. Hot wheels on thin ice.

The first stage will be an agreement on our terms of exit. We could invoke Article 50 that triggers a two-year process. Or, depending upon the politics, engage in a major renegotiation. As we are the EU’s biggest export market, economic incentives suggest they will negotiate sensibly and agree a deal on goods and new guidelines on movement of people. However, the EU has not acted sensibly in recent years and they might not do so in any exit negotiations. This fear of a tough negotiation should not be a reason to vote to remain in the EU, but highlights the difficult near-term path ahead. But many countries outside the EU trade with it, we would be another, and one with a very competitive service sector. This renegotiation period also allows time to put in place other necessary Brexit measures. One is a timetable to repatriate powers.

Well, on paper it looks great. It is like one of these rehearsed moves in football. Or like the famous run of the minies out of the Italian vaults with the gold, with the “self-preservation society” song in the background”. Now, the politics of these negotiations are not so cinematographic. This article by Dr Lyons in the Telegraph is being read by thousands of people abroad, including negotiators from other EU countries, so this is no slick cunning secret plan any more, I am afraid.

Also, after so much disrespect shown to EU governments, after so much British supremacist claims about democracy and self-reliance from people like Janet Daley, or so many unfortunate statements like the one by Boris Johnson, who said in his Brexit article of 22 February in the Telegraph that “We have spent 500 years trying to stop continental European powers uniting against us”, does anyone think we can have a normal friendly negotiation on Brexit? It will be harsh. The outrage in the continent about the arrogance of Brexiters is growing. Try to see it from their point of view: Cameron goes to Brussels to meet 27 heads of government. He shows a half-baked shopping list of reforms aimed at appeasing the right-wing media, rather than improving the working of the Union. His vision of the EU membership is purely economicist. He insists on slashing workers rights. Then, on his return to London, half of the country, full of pride, wants to leave, ignoring what the EU means in terms of cooperation, inter-cultural understanding, solidarity and friendship and belittling the efforts that those other governments of those countries have made to allow the UK to get some of its demands, in the way of a especial status, in a complex scenario.

Between 2013-14, Whitehall produced 32 detailed reports on the competences that the UK has transferred to Brussels in different areas. This provides a basis from which to work.

Whitehall? They love regulations as much as the EU Commission. 32 reports! The transferral of powers will be simply a change on the header of the documents from the EU. Rules are necessary, unfortunately. Any exports to the EU, even if we are totally out of the EU, will have to comply with the consumer protection standards and safety rules of the EU. Repatriation of powers is a copy and paste job of EU law.

Another is to how better spend our EU contribution. This should go towards funding our public services properly. We also need to identify areas where EU funding may be withdrawn, such as scientific research, on students and the arts, and ensure this is covered fully with some of our previous EU contribution earmarked for these.

One of the beauties of the EU research funding schemes for universities is that they emphasise cross-border collaboration between different institutions. That type of research is highly valuable because a diverse pool of expertise can be shared at European level. Synergies. Economies of scale. By having UK only research funding, we would be killing another hen of golden eggs. We would end up cooking ourselves in our gravy, freshly prepared in the kitchens of the Titanic, of course (we shall have no stock cubes).

We have a great opportunity to make trade deals that boost exports, but first we would need to rebuild the skill set to do so. Inside the EU our demands are only one of 28 when it comes to trade. Outside, we would have to replicate existing deals, and learn from the likes of South Korea and Singapore, and make trade deals that play to our strengths, that are iterative and are with the fast-growing regions of the world.

Again, this is hot air. It sounds very good, but we have to understand that the success of any trade deals between the UK and other countries is also determined by the deals that those countries have already with our competitors. Brexit means that the list of our rivals will include the EU itself, and everyone else, for that matter. What we need is more influence in the EU to ensure our interests are respected there. But for that to happen, we need to be a serious partner.

With Brexit we have the opportunity to safeguard workers’ rights, ultimately determined by Parliament and by UK voters, not bureaucrats in Brussels. It is not possible to protect workers’ rights with mass migration.

This is the most cynical claim one can imagine. The tendency of the UK Governments since the 1980 has been to stop employment laws from the EU, depriving British workers of rights. Blaming mass migration for the lack of willingness by UK Governments to protect UK workers’ rights is tantamount to racism. It is like saying, “we would give you better rights if we did not have to give those same rights to the foreigner workers in the UK too”.

But low migration does not mean no migration. An excellent Civitas report last December by Cambridge Professor Bob Rowthorn showed mass migration suppresses low-skilled workers’ wages, and adds to pressure on housing and public services. The gains go to the migrants and to the employers. We need to control the scale and ensure we let in only the skilled migrants we need.

As I said before, workers with all types of skill-sets come here insofar as they are actually needed. If there were no jobs, they would not come. Are you going to force employers not to take the best person for the job?

We should not kid ourselves that the City of London is somehow safe in the EU when we did not achieve a veto to protect it from greater control by the eurozone and from decisions of the European Court of Justice. Leaving creates initial challenges over passporting of financial services, and possible loss of euro clearing, but I am optimistic. London is so much more competitive than any other financial centre in Europe, with its concentration of skills, knowledge and expertise. Also, more regulation is being set at an international level, which is important as London’s competition is global.

Well, parts of the City are starting to brexit Brexit. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is again negotiating a merge with the main German Stock exchange to become one single entity. With the Germanisation of the LSE, as the German partner would have 52% of the shares of the new company, an important British institution will protect itself from Brexit. They are clever. I am sure they have great economic advisors. Will there be other companies, or institutions or people allowed to opt-out Brexit without having to physically leave? I don’t think so.

The vision is to be a globally competitive economy, based on low taxes for firms to succeed, leveraging off our universities and talent, and founded on rising productivity through increased investment, infrastructure and innovation.

Low taxes? For whom? I can see no chance for working people to prosper in a low-tax Brexit. How will investment in education, in infrastructure or in research and innovation be paid for? Those are essential ingredients for increased productivity. Ask the Germans.

Brexit is a neo-victorian, romantic, unrealistic, ill-informed, overconfident outburst of the wrong type of patriotism that has been brewed for a number of years by irresponsible media. Call it off. Let us concentrate our energy and our patriotism in building together a better Britain as part of a better Europe where working people do not see themselves forced to migrate or rely on tax credits to meet ends, a Europe with fruitful and responsible trade focused on innovation, sustainability and quality of life, more democratic European institutions accountable to the European people. This would deliver long-term stability for Britain and the continent. I would be happy to join that romantic, yet safe enterprise. No life jackets required.

Anochece que no es poco en Brexit

Day 2 in the Brexit House. Los medios y los televidentes hemos disfrutado de lo lindo. Seguro que los políticos no tanto.

 

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Boris Johnson, alcalde conservador de Londres, se ha convertido en todo un símbolo del brexismo. La naturalidad exultante de sus ademanes de niño rico travieso que se ha comido la caja de bombones a veces juega a su favor, a veces en su contra. Hoy las cámaras de todos los telediarios le han encontrado a Boris su lado rebelde: A la entrada de Westminster, los periodistas le atosigaban mientras él respondía con chascarrillos. Con su anorak, su bici, su mochila y su gorro del Metro de Londres, Boris se perfilaba tras las lentes mojadas de las cámaras que lo perseguían como un personaje atormentado. Sus tribulaciones: haber roto aún más su partido, enfrentarse a su amigo de la juventud David Cameron, ser acusado de egocéntrico que usa su postura poppulista para promoverse como sucesor de Cameron y haber contribuido al batacazo de la libra esterlina, que hoy alcanzó su mínimo de los últimos 7 años frente al dólar.

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Ya los asientos del Parlamento, desde un rincón del gallinero, rodeado de caras expectantes, lanzó su única pregunta al Primer Ministro, su amigo David Cameron, sobre la soberanía británica.

 

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En los labios del adolescente enfadado Boris se leyó muy claramente la palabra “rubbish” (basura) tras escuchar la respuesta.

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David Cameron ha sido la antítesis de Boris Johnson: nítido, bien peinado, elocuente, preparado para esta gran ocasión de Estado y hasta sarcástico, en su justa medida. Normalmente gris y sin filo, el Primer Ministro se crece ante la dificultad y puede brillar en su oratoria cuando realmente hace falta.

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También ha estado muy bien el líder de la Oposición, el laborista Jeremy Corbyn, que ha recordado que lo importante de Europa no es el acuerdo alcanzado por David Cameron, sino su potencial como espacio de cooperación y comercio. Ha reconocido la necesidad de mejorar la Unión, para que este al servicio de la gente. A pesar de la grosería de un diputado conservador que lo ha interrumpido, Corbyn ha estado a la altura de Cameron y ha demostrado sentido de Estado sin abandonar sus principios socialistas. Todo un ejemplo en Europa.

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Por último, la entrevista del genial Jon Snow, de Channel 4, en las afueras del Parlamento, a la Secretaria de Estado de Empresas, Anna Soubry, y a Nigel Farage, el polémico líder del partido brexista y anti-inmigración UKIP. Un cínico desaprensivo disfrazado de tío majo. Se me antojaba un duelo entre iguales, pero Soubry le ha dado un repaso bastante completo a Nigel Farage, cuyo machismo simpaticón de terciopelo no le funciona con mujeres hábiles. Soubry, con una astucia cautivadora, ha sabido plantear muy bien la entrevista y  ha dejado a Farage sin argumentos, hasta el punto de forzarlo a decir que ni siquiera quería para Gran Bretaña un estatus de Estado asociado con la UE como el que tienen Noruega y Suiza, que forman parte del Área Económica Europea. “Entonces ¿con quién estaremos aliados en Europa?”, preguntaba la Secretaria de Estado. “Con nadie. Nosotros solos. Independientes”, respondía Farage humillado. La mirada de Soubry merecería un párrafo aparte.

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Y es que la principal baza de los Unionistas, o “Remainers” (de “remain”, quedarse), es que la salida abriría un periodo de dos años de gran incertidumbre tras el cual se consumaría la separación y que nadie en absoluto puede predecir con un mínimo de rigor lo que sucedería con las exportaciones británicas, con la copiosa inversión exterior que recibe y en general con su situación geopolítica. Es muy triste que se tenga que polarizar la campaña entre los dos bandos conservadores: el de los nacionalistas románticos desinformados, que se creen que Gran Bretaña es la Hija de la Polla Roja y que serán de nuevo un imperio, como dice la canción de los Nikkis, y los pragmáticos civilizados que apelan a la incertidumbre económica para que nada, o muy poco, cambie en política. Hace falta ilusión por Europa, por una nueva Europa.

En fin, afortunadamente no es Brexit todo lo que reluce, más bien al contrario.

Boris’ Brexit

Boris Johnson joins Brexit. Most commentators attribute his decision to the need to assert himself in the race for the leadership of the Tory party against the Chancellor George Osborne, but nobody has reflected yet upon the true economic and political significance of Boris Johnson’s move. As the major of the city that harbours the biggest financial centre in the world, and a declared supporter of its financial industry, it would be have been inconceivable for him, and irresponsible, not to have, at least, gauged the mood amongst the leaders of the City’s institutions before making his mind up. Can anybody imagine a conservative major of London standing against the City of London?

In my view, Johnson’s support for Brexit needs to be interpreted in the light of one of the deals achieved last weekend by David Cameron in Brussels: The British Government will be able to object, and delay, the implementation of measures by Eurozone Governments on Monetary Union matters that affect the rest of members of the Union, but will have no right to veto them.

The ability to block Eurozone integration is something that the financial industry had defended for years and the British Government has tried its best to achieve. The Eurozone, as it has become evident following the Great Recession, requires a revamping of its institutional architecture and a more effective, and far more democratic, governance. There are a number of ideas, more or less developed as specific proposals, that could help the Eurozone to address the political and functional shortcomings of the Monetary Union, bringing prosperity and jobs to the Euro countries and, by extension, to the EU as a whole, including Britain. However, some of these ideas might reduce the ability of many London financial institutions to continue working in the way they have done since the European Monetary Union started. Additionally, the City could be affected by any agreement within the Eurozone that touches, directly or indirectly, upon the question of debt (our public and private debt, which is immense. Remember that in our new world order, money is just debt and debt is a powerful political tool. If you need proof of it, watch 4 Horsemen, Boom, Bust, Boom or read the latest work of any alternative economist).

So, in what way could many operators of the City of London benefit from Brexit? Britain’s departure would make the European Union far more unstable and force everybody to rethink their priorities; the question of regulating the activities of the institutions who brought about financial chaos in 2008 will be left in the back burner. Brexit would certainly bring monetary instability for the euro, and the pound, that many will be already betting for and benefiting from. The turmoil caused by the shock of a victory of the No Campaign would prevent the still immature Monetary Union to advance in the direction it needs.

One may argue that Brexit may be detrimental for the city (no capital) of London, but that would not be so much the case for its financial operators. Severing the links with the EU will no doubt force London-based institutions to redeploy parts of their operations in the continent before Brexit is consummated legally, but with state of art technology and the best paid lawyers, it would be easy to minimise the cost of any relocation. At the end of the day, money, as opposed to people, does not have any national feelings.

Meanwhile, it appears that the big industrial corporations of the U.K. are showing their desire for Britain to remain in the EU. Up to 80 of the FTSE100 companies are reported to support Britain’s membership of the EU. For them, the benefits of sharing a common market and being part of a greater economic entity in today’s world are indisputable. For them, migration has brought about the labour they needed to and migrants are seen as an asset, as they are net contributors to the economy who generate more taxation and more consumption. For them, there is no evidence whatsoever that Brexit would generate more investment and more trade to the country. It is a big gamble. The EU “regulations” that so many people complain about would have to be complied with anyway if these corporations want to continue selling good and services to the continent. And, personally, I think Britain, as much as I love it, is one of the most regulating societies in the world. Leaving the EU would not liberate us from suffocating rules, nor make the rules better, believe me. Look at any other aspect of our life and society (Education is a good example) and tell me hand in heart if we don’t have too many rules, protocols, reports, procedures and measurements of our own creation that have nothing to do with the EU.

I am sure plenty of noble ideological and political reasons will be provided by Johnson justifying his stance in no time (today at 10.00 am in the Telegraph, apparently). Well-known anti-EU conservative discourse is widely available in the shelves of Tesco and other major suppliers in all colours and sizes. It is not that Boris does not have the capacity to elaborate his own narrative, but why bothering reinventing the wheel if the pre-packed patriotic democratic neo-romantic stuff is as good as any? Besides, loads of effort has been put in producing the arguments for Brexit by many politicians and commentators, including himself, over the years. Embracing the collective work, using the words and emotions that best resound in our hearts would bring Boris closer to the common man and woman and facilitate his harmonious contribution to the campaign.

However, no matter how appealing his arguments may appear to be, the decision of Boris Johnson to support Brexit reveals the widening gap between the real economy, the one that produces goods and services, which supports overwhelmingly EU membership, and the financial elites, who have decided to rock the boat, using the British people and sectors of the media as a proxy, in order to maintain and improve their position of dominance over States, industries and people across Europe.

Brexit: La división de la derecha

Hoy se ha anunciado la fecha del referéndum en el que los británicos deben decidir si Gran Bretaña abandona la UE o si permanece en ella, bajo las nuevas condiciones que el Primer Ministro conservador David Cameron ha conseguido extraerles al resto de Estados miembros. Será el 23 de junio de 2016.

Destacados miembros del Partido Conservador se han alineado en las dos campañas antagonistas, la del Sí y la del No, las cuales están a su vez divididas en diversas facciones.

Por un lado, dos pesos pesados del Partido Conservador, Michael Gove e Ian Duncan Smith, están desde ayer galvanizando a los numerosísimos militantes y cargos conservadores que reclaman la Brexit (Salida de Gran Bretaña de la UE). El poderoso grupo mediático de Rupert Murdoch y periódicos como el Daily Telegraph no sólo apoyan la Brexit, sino que han contribuido durante años a crear y difundir toda suerte de mitos sobre la UE que han calado profundamente en una gran parte de la sociedad. Los rebeldes conservadores compartirán campaña con el otro partido de la derecha, UKIP, que fue creado precisamente como respuesta anti-europea y anti-inmigración a la tibieza de los conservadores euro-pragmáticos.

Mientras tanto, David Cameron y su Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, defienden el Sí huyendo instintivamente de aventuras geopolíticas arriesgadas. Recuérdese que hasta Obama va a apoyar la permanencia del país en la UE y que una parte importante de las grandes empresas británicas, hasta un 80% según el Financial Times, va a hacer lo mismo.

El alcalde de Londres, el conservador Boris Johnson, se ha decantado públicamente esta tarde por la Brexit. Su decisión es tremendamente importante no sólo por el gran respeto del que goza en todo su partido y entre parte del público. El pronunciamiento de Johnson nos da una idea de la brecha abierta en la clase empresarial británica en torno a la cuestión europea. Como alcalde de la City of London, mayor centro financiero del mundo, es indudable que Johnson cuenta con el visto bueno de las “instituciones financieras” privadas. La escisión de la clase financiera con respecto a la élite industrial se hace cada vez más patente.

¿Y por qué a los poderes financieros les interesa apoyar la Brexit en estos momentos? David Cameron no ha conseguido en sus negociaciones del fin de semana pasado el derecho a veto de los países de fuera de la Eurozona a las decisiones que se tomen en el núcleo duro de la Unión Monetaria. Eso tiene implicaciones para el sector financiero británico. Tarde o temprano el Euro necesitará una arquitectura política e institucional más firme. Inevitablemente se ejercerán competencias en materias que afectarán a la primacía de Londres como centro financiero en la UE (y que le darían a Frankfurt, su rival continental, el señoreaje que demanda). Además, los intereses de los operadores londinenses, que en realidad carecen de nacionalidad, estarían también en juego si hubiera algún tipo de acuerdo en torno a la deuda entre los países de la Eurozona, lo cual sería posible también sin contar con Gran Bretaña. Por eso, una parte de la City of London, después de muchos años de ambigüedad silente, confirma ahora su órdago secesionista. La reformulación de la gobernanza del Euro aún no ha madurado, la salida de Gran Bretaña provocaría un gran choque que paralizaría la Unión y generaría incertidumbre en torno al euro y a la libra. Debilitar a los Estados es la estrategia de una deudocracia cuyos intereses se alejan cada vez más de los de la economía real.

La única conclusión esperanzadora de todo esto es la constatación, una vez más, de que el “Establishment” o clase dominante de un país no es un bloque homogéneo que actúa siempre con un propósito común. La izquierda en Europa debe aprender a entender y usar estas divisiones.

Another Europe is Possible

I enjoyed yesterday our Left Unity meeting in York with Sam Fowles, from Another Europe is Possible, a new movement supporting Britain’s membership of the EU. I would like to express my enthusiasm for this initiative and share my most immediate reflections on the question of the forthcoming EU referendum in Britain:

Britain Stronger in Europe, the main pro-EU lobbying group, has designed an excellent product of political marketing that will convince many of the most conservative voters that Britain’s membership of the EU is a good thing. It touches upon 4 very relevant selling points for those voters in a very effective way.

However, despite the current advantage of the Yes in the surveys, their success is far from guaranteed. The Yes campaign may be persuasive but I think it is not motivating a sufficient number of people to actually set foot in the polling station. The emotional appeal of the different camps of the Yes campaign is not strong enough yet. There is not a brighter future to conquer by voting Yes, because we have been there already for four decades. There are no negative representations of Brexit as a looming reality for which we are utterly unprepared. No references to members of the establishment who would benefit from it. No antagonism. No enemy of the Nation. No anger. The passion, the dreams and the flags are still in the No side.

This lack of fire in the belly may be even worse amongst left-wing voters as they realise they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Their options are

a) To vote No, leave the EU and embark upon a very dodgy geopolitical adventure with Captain Murdoch, and Liu-Tenants Duncan Smith and Farage.

b) To vote Yes (boosting Cameron’s reputation as a State man) and endorse constitutionally an allegedly reformed EU that marginalises migrant workers and does not deal with the inherent democratic and social deficit of the EU and its members States. The outcome of an affirmative vote would be given some kind of “constitutional” value in the UK, as one-in-a-life time decision, preempting Britain’s involvement in any of the deep changes that the EU really needs.

c) To stay at home.

So how should the British Left go about supporting Britain’s membership and getting voters to actually turn up to the polling stations?

The British Left should defend UK membership as a crucial opportunity to contribute to the construction of a Europe of the People, as opposed to a Europe of the Corporations. Most of the economic, environmental, democratic and social challenges that we face in Britain cannot be tackled in isolation. They require, at least, European solutions because we live in a common physical space in which money, businesses, air and clouds will move with relative ease, whether we are part of the EU or not. No matter the colour of its Government, Britain would struggle outside the European Union to guarantee a prosperous future for its people because we would be set against the rest of Europe geopolitically and economically.

Additionally, the British Left has to engage far more actively and visibly at home and abroad with the political movements that demand, heroically, the democratisation of the EU and our economies, notably the anti-austerity movement and the pan-European radical democracy movement “Plan B for Europe”:

In relation to the latter, attention has to be paid to the specificity of Britain:

  1. The continental demands for a substantially more democratic Europe has a strong focus on the institutional architecture of the Single Currency, which we are not part of. The Plan B has its own dynamics, timing and agendas, as well as a combination of different national flavours and contexts.
  2. Britain will have a referendum soon and the Plan B discourse, highly critical with the EU institutions, may well backfire and detract support for the Yes vote amongst all types of voters.

Therefore any collaboration with the Plan B before the referendum must be carefully planned for it to be effective. The emphasis, in my view, has to be on radical democracy, generous activism, international unity, and our history of pan-European resistance to oppression and totalitarianism.