Sunday, July 24, 2016

Brexit and the English working class

Marginal Revolution links to John Lanchester's unfailingly-erudite essay on what Brexit tells us of the state of England.

Here is how it ends:
" An early sign of policy direction was George Osborne’s announcement that he wanted to cut corporation tax to 15 per cent to show that post-Brexit Britain is ‘open for business’. Osborne has gone; the policy probably hasn’t.

"The business press has been full of speculation that the government will backtrack on its plans to crack down on non-domiciled tax status for ultra-wealthy foreigners. The need for revenues makes it important not to drive non-doms out of the country, one City lawyer told the FT. ‘We need a friendly regime.’ There will be plenty more where that came from.

None of this is what working-class voters had in mind when they opted for Leave. If it’s combined with the policy every business interest in the UK wants – the Norwegian option, in which we contribute to the EU and accept free movement of labour, i.e. immigration, as part of the price – it will be a profound betrayal of much of the Leave vote.

"If we do anything else, we will be inflicting severe economic damage on ourselves, and following a policy which most of the electorate (48 per cent Remain, plus economically liberal Leavers) think is wrong. So the likeliest outcome, I’d have thought, is a betrayal of the white working class. They should be used to it by now."
While Lanchester's observations are spot on and his diagnosis has the ring of truth, his remedies are vitiated by familiar self-deceptions.

  • Lanchester's EU is the one conceived through the lens of its own liberal self-conception ('Europa!') rather than the brutal reality of an institutionally-flimsy carapace concealing a shaky set of strategic alliances between the major continental powers and their hangers-on;

  • Lanchester blindly accepts the comforting trope that all immigration is equal when rated for social capital. In truth, if you replace some millions of unborn northern Europeans by an equivalent number of middle-easterners, you do not get a revitalised northern European society; you get an internal middle-eastern colony.

The soon-to-be-betrayed working class had already figured this out, in their non-intellectualized observation of the world we live in, and voted accordingly.

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