Case Study Brexit
- "Why are disaster capitalists praying for a no deal Brexit?"
The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, caused by the IMF’s insistence that countries removed their capital controls, began with an attack by foreign speculators on Thailand’s baht. As currencies tanked and nations raised their interest rates, indebted companies went down like flies. Foreign corporations, particularly from the US, swept in and bought the most lucrative assets for a fraction of their value. Though the causes are different, it’s not hard to see something similar happening here. If it does, the City will clean up.
But this is not the end of it. What a no-deal Brexit might offer is the regulatory vacuum the Brextremists fantasise about. The public protections people have fought so hard for, that we obtained only through British membership of the EU – preventing water companies from pouring raw sewage into our rivers, power stations from spraying acid rain across the land, chemical companies from contaminating our food – are suddenly at risk.
In theory there are safeguards. The environment department has been frantically trying to fill the regulatory chasm. It has published more statutory instruments than any other ministry, and has drafted an Environment Bill, with plans for a watchdog to hold the government to account. But a series of massive questions remain, and none of them have easy answers.
The Environment Bill will not be put before parliament until after the Queen’s speech (probably in May). It won’t be passed until autumn, at the earliest. The green watchdog (the Office for Environmental Protection) will not materialise until 2021. During that time, there will be no body equivalent to the European Court of Justice to ensure that the government upholds the law. Instead, there will be a “holding arrangement”, with an undefined “mechanism” to receive reports of environmental lawbreaking, that the watchdog might be inclined to investigate when it eventually materializes.
Replacing just one of the EU’s environmental functions – registering new chemicals – requires, before March 29, a new IT system, new specialist evaluators, new monitoring and enforcement across several agencies and new government offices, filled with competent staff, to oversee the system, in the four nations of the UK. All this must happen while the government attends to scores of transformations on a similar scale. If the shops run out of food, hospitals can’t get medicine and the Good Friday Agreement falls apart, how much attention will it pay to breaches of environmental law?
Already, we are witnessing comprehensive regulatory collapse in the agencies, such as Natural England, charged with defending the living world, due to funding cuts. If they can’t do their job before we crash out, what chance do they have when the workload explodes, just as government budgets are likely to slump? The government’s nomination of Tony Juniper as Natural England’s new chair is a hopeful sign, though the general astonishment that an environmental regulator will be chaired by an environmental champion show just how bad things have become (since 2009, it has been run by people whose interests and attitudes were starkly at odds with their public duties). But the underlying problem Natural England faces will also hobble the green watchdog. Unlike the European Court of Justice, the Office for Environmental Protection will be funded and controlled by the government it seeks to hold to account.
Last week, the Guardian reported panic within government about the likely pileup of waste the UK currently exports to the EU, in the event of no deal. The combination of a rubbish crisis, administrative chaos and mass distraction could be horrible: expect widespread fly-tipping and pollution. So much for the extremists’ euphemism for no deal: “clean Brexit”.
The government’s commitment to upholding environmental standards relies to a remarkable extent on one man: the environment secretary, Michael Gove, who has so far doggedly resisted the demands of his fellow Leavers. Had any one of his grisly predecessors been in post – Owen Paterson, Liz Truss, Andrea Leadsom – we wouldn’t have even the theoretical protections Gove has commissioned. Boris Johnson has suggested that leaving the EU will allow us to dismantle green standards for electrical goods and environmental impact assessments. Iain Duncan Smith has pressed for the removal of the carbon floor price after Brexit, that has more or less stopped coal burning in the UK.
With Liam Fox in charge of trade policy, and the US demanding the destruction of food and environmental standards as the price of the trade deal he desperately seeks, nothing is safe. A joint trade review by the British and Indian governments contemplates reducing standards on pesticide residues in food and hormone-disrupting chemicals in toys. This must be heartening for Jacob Rees-Mogg (known in some circles as Re-smog), who has proposed that we might accept “emission standards from India”, one of the most polluted nations on earth. “We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here.”
There is no guarantee that Michael Gove, the unlikely champion of public protection, will stay in his post after Brexit. If we crash out of Europe, the dark money that helped to buy Brexit will strive to use this opportunity to tear down our regulations: this, after all, was the point of the exercise. The tantalizing prospect for the world’s pollutocrats is that the United Kingdom might become a giant export processing zone, exempt from the laws that govern other rich nations. It’s a huge potential prize, that could begin to reconfigure the global relationship between capital and governments. They will fight as hard and dirty to achieve it as they did to win the vote.
A combination of economic rupture, sudden shifts in ownership, an urgent desire to strike new trade deals and a possible regulatory abyss presents a golden opportunity for disaster capitalism. Our first task is to see it coming. Our second is to stop it.
This image was first published by the blog Spectator and then it was proposed by a multitude of other sources such as The Independent, de facto spreading over the Internet and serving the cause of the Leave campaign in the Brexit confrontation.
Details matter in both written and visual propaganda.
In this image, for example: the only countries that are named directly on the map are Syria and Iraq, and this is clearly stated in order to convey the following message: “if we do not stop migrants from the Middle East currently based in Turkey to come to our country, this might cause a severe security problem because there might be terrorists among them, since Iraq and Syria are next-door, immediate neighbours of Turkey”.
The map clearly advocates for the Leave side because it is addressing the immigration issue in a biased way. How? What enables us to recognise this image as part of a wider propaganda strategy?
Consider how the graphics and the way this map is presented is in line with the purpose the author wants to achieve.
- How does the image and its presentation reflect the ideology of the authors?
- What is the proportion of unmodified fact and modified focus in the image?
EXERCISE TO TRY
Consider a headline that might accompany this image, in line with the purpose of the author.
Consider a headline that could accompany this image, in line with the opposite message to the purpose of the author.
For those of you interested in looking deeper into this extremely effective propaganda campaign, here's a link to the original complete article: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/files/2016/06/Ref-address1.pdf
(in order to retrieve the document and find the source that first posted it, a reverse research with the image search tool “TinEye” has been made)
All infographics, images, headlines, editorials and soundbites must be interrogated with the following questions:
- Who made this message?
- Who is it for?
- Do you like it? Why/why not?
- Why is/isn’t it effective?
- What techniques are used to persuade us to their viewpoint?
- Are the claims made in the message true? False? Partly true and partly false?
The "Brexit bus" is a very well-known example coming directly from a party campaign, the one carried out by UKIP in order to convince British voters to choose for the Leave side.
It must be pointed out that the ad insists on an element that is perceived as a basic need for people, such as a more efficient and a more affordable health system. It thus leverage on emotions and inner fears, such as the one of being left (or heaving your loved ones being left) without appropriate care in case of illness, incident or when the old age approaches.
This is a long-term campaign with real world effectiveness.
The aim is to generate fear, insecurity and dismay. A concrete threat is looming over the reader: millions of migrants are on the doorstep of Europe and they need to be stopped. The only way to do that, it is implied, is for the UK to put a cap on immigration by stepping out of the European Union.
What kind of effect do you think this kind of propaganda has on society?
BREXIT EXIT DAY
Boris Johnson and his Brexiteer organ grinders have two goals: Exit Day and a Parliamentary majority. They go hand in hand. Winning a majority in the House of Commons will hand the new government absolute control over when and how Exit Day happens. It is only the hung parliament and Conservative Party in-fighting that’s prevented Exit Day from happening already. If Boris Johnson wins the election on December 12th, any expectation of a moderate, progressive resolution to Brexit and the UK’s future becomes, overnight, a busted flush.
EXIT DAY is enshrined in British and European law as the Brexit rubicon. It is a specific day, whatever the eventual date. On EXIT DAY everything changes. Brexit happens. Future agreements, borders, customs, withdrawal legislation details, political promises: whatever these may or may not become, EXIT DAY stands as a distinct, legally unambiguous end-point.
On EXIT DAY all legal regulation of Parliamentary authoritarian excess ends. Any government with a safe majority in the House of Commons will have free-reign to do as it pleases. Be assured, an ambitious servant of the big capital like Boris Johnson will use this mandate to the fullest possible extent. He’ll govern with the twin aims of bolstering his position (future elections included) and forcing through an extreme legislative agenda. Deregulation will begin immediately, sweeping away pesky safety standards and social protections, removing all pretence of regulatory restrictions on what can and can’t be sliced up for capital exploitation.
There objective will be to change the British regulatory infrastructure. This will result in no safety net, no fundamental human rights, no independent centres of legal authority capable of limiting extreme partisan policy. Everything is up for grabs: public finances, the NHS, pension funds, national debt, utilities, infrastructure, schools, colleges, media, police, prisons, justice and the courts. The United Kingdom will become a de facto commodity, a smorgasbord of multi-trillion dollar opportunities for capital exploitation.
Everyone below the line of financial independence will become cannon fodder; not only those at the bottom – the zero hours contracts, the pensioners, the legally ambiguous migrant poor – but the traditional ‘working class’ labour force, the industrious ‘lower middle class’ and up into the liberal ‘professional’ middle classes. All those demographics whose day to day life is tied to the UK by reason of money, property, family, roots, hope and fortitude, will face a future at the mercy of a rapacious, deregulated authority outside their control.
Government, in thrall to the crony capitalist cabal, is a profit-first policy maker. The electoral system in the United Kingdom invests its executive with dangerous but – in effect – direct and unfettered legislative power. Britain is a populous high-GDP country with a fairly affluent, passive citizenry. Bank bailout and austerity have shown the entrenched big capital interests how easily the ‘people’ can be worked, taxed and abused.
There was a short period of anxiety, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis but no consequences were visited on those behind it. Billions were handed over from the government treasuries and, ultimately, all the costs were borne entirely by the people.
If anything the bail outs were a profitable exchange for the investors as the public footed the bill. Small wonder the crony capitalist class quickly regained its self-confidence. Austerity can fade away now; not because the government has balanced its finances but because big capital has a far bigger opportunity in the crosshairs: the institutional bleeding of tens of millions of helpless British cash cows with nowhere to go and – perhaps soon – nowhere left to hide.
All the government needs to do, to set in motion the big capital coda, is carry out a comprehensive deregulation. The first and most important part of this plan is to cut the United Kingdom off from the European Union. This happens on EXIT DAY and it can’t be walked back.
In the blink of an eye, this lot gets repealed: European Communities Act 1972, European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002, European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003, European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, European Union Act 2011, European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Act 2012, European Union (Approvals) Act 2013, European Union (Approvals) Act 2014, Serious Crime Act 2015, sections 82 and 88(5)(c), European Union (Finance) Act 2015, European Union (Approvals) Act 2015… and all the subordinate and associated legislation.
And changes: Finance Act 1973, Interpretation Act 1978, European Economic Area Act 1993, Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, Human Rights Act 1998, Scotland Act 1998, Northern Ireland Act 1998, Government of Wales Act 2006, Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015.
Make no mistake, Britain (and its component nations) won’t collapse after EXIT DAY, but the government will be – in effect – a dictatorship. It won’t need to push its authority into the public sphere immediately, though it will be tempted to flex its muscles, to underline what unopposed is going to mean for the country. This will be a way to make sure the media spin is properly in line with directives from above. What’s more, institutions built up over decades using tax-revenues from generations of hard-working men and women, like the National Health Service, are vast propositions ripe for organised government sanctioned plunder. Carving up one of the world’s biggest economies will take years. There’s no modern precedent.
It’s the EXIT DAY that enables unregulated government by an elected totalitarian executive able to make law over 65 million citizens without fear of contravening supranational human rights. EXIT DAY leaves government free to legislate away protections of all kind, safe from EU oversight. EXIT DAY raises the drawbridge between the United Kingdom and Europe. EXIT DAY is the breach in the wall separating the unregulated forces of hungry capital from the public sphere (civic goods and services, private citizen rights) millions rely on for their health and daily quality of life.
The UK will never recover what’ll start bleeding away in earnest once EXIT DAY happens. That will be the day its membership of the European Union terminates, de facto de jure de profundis. Forty five years of agreement, compromise, mutual benefit and legal protection become repealed, instantly. It beggars belief there are some in the English working class planning a celebration their loss of freedom!
Whichever way a democracy votes, however much one may cry out against being guided by misguided, manipulated self-interest, it’s nonetheless making a choice. That choice may have been conditioned by complicit media, ramping up prejudice and vanity to scapegoat anyone presuming to warn the public, but it’d be a cop out not to face the reality. No gun, no police baton, no fear of authoritarian violence will be forcing the general public to place their vote for a servant of the vested interests on December 12th. Britain’s electorate is free; and this includes being free to vote for an act of unparalleled self-harm.
If the British electorate vote the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson into power, it’ll be hard to argue against the new Tory orthodoxy. After all, the UK has been through a decade of austerity under this self-same party. It’s endured years of Brexit shenanigans. We’ve witnessed firsthand an unapologetic executive disdain for the legislature. The Supreme Court has had to censure the unrepentant government for illegal abuses of the constitution. There is near-universal certainty Brexit will cause economic hardship.
Tory victory can only come if the people most hurt by austerity, Brexit and broken public services choose somehow to forget their lived reality and vote once again for the political class responsible for their plight.
What’s more, Britain has a long history of Conservative governments – most far less extreme than Boris Johnson and his crony capitalist cabal – taking a wrecking ball to the working-class communities across the country. Margaret Thatcher’s war against the mineworkers is just one of many cases in point.
Conservatives have always advocated the interests of corporate business over public services. Their policies, even before Brexit, came from a vision parsed exclusively by a cartel of elite historical wealth in alliance with new money actors essential for keeping the deeply entrenched but segregated establishment de rigeur with the voting cannon fodder. This cosmopolitan money class has always disdained the lower orders as authors of their own self-sabotaging destiny. Conservatism in the United Kingdom has mirrored these beliefs for a century.
Big capital ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality cherry picks the upwardly mobile exceptions from the mass of lumpen proletariat, allowing the ‘best’ to class migrate, leaving the ‘rest’ to fester in their unspeakably awful world. One might almost share their belief that the lower classes were born to live degraded lives, given their widespread acceptance of their lot.
What better demonstration of this cynical Darwinian principle than millions of freeborn untermensch turkeys voting for Christmas in the form of successive Tory governments? Who’s to say it isn’t “right” for the country, if that’s the outcome December 2019? Hardcore Conservatives will explain a victory as the self-evident proof of the ways real people function in the real world What’s certainly self-evident at this point is it’s a real world the right-wing disaster capitalists have a vested interest in making a fait accompli.
EXIT DAY will be the end of the Act one way or another. Parliamentary majority will define what comes after. The crony capitalist cabal in control of government or purity socialists trying to fight the tide of greed and austerity by sheer main force of their blundering but conceited altruism? The former is worse, by far. The latter is no blueprint for long-term success and the UK has a history of rejecting parties running on unapologetic left-wing ideology. Whatever happens, it won’t be pretty.