A very bright friend of mine cast his very, very cynical eye over the Brexit vote and, not surprisingly, came to quite different conclusions than the majority of the post-referendum comment. According to him, very little of any great significance will be changed. I give a brief summary of his views.
“Too many people view this vote as a revolt of the so-called underclasses against the domination of the elites. According to this narrative these underclasses felt very ‘hard-done-by’ because they saw the immigrants and the cosmopolitan people of London racing far ahead of them. Rather than make any effort to join the happy new world order they did the only thing they know how to do and threw the whole cart upside down. Worked in Paris in 1789. Should work in the UK in 2016. What these people forget is that sans culottes of 1789 enjoyed a very brief ‘victory’ before the elites re-established themselves. The exact same thing will happen here. This was much more a coup d'etat than a revolution.”
|Is Brexit a revolt by the modern sans culottes?|
“The usual doom-and-gloom commentators overlook the fact that the Leave movement was led by members of the very elite the underclasses thought they were overthrowing. It is very doubtful that those underclasses by themselves could have pulled off a Leave victory. No, it took the efforts of these highly educated, wealthy, mostly older members of the ruling establishment to accomplish that feat. What’s odd is that most of them have nothing against the hot button of immigration per se. Some of the immigrants, after all, provide very useful functions like serving a good gin-and-tonic at their golf clubs or maintaining their lush gardens. This section of the elite would never want to be associated with the near-racist rants of clowns like Nigel Farage.
“What does annoy them greatly is the urge by many European Union officials for an ever closer political union. They look back on Britain’s long political history and relative stability and shudder when they look across the Channel at the very confused political history and instability of many continental countries. ‘God forbid that ever comes our way!’
“For them, the EU is fine as a trading bloc, but no more. Their faces flush with indignation at every intrusion of EU courts into the long-established and respected British legal system. ‘Who the hell are those buggers to tell us when we can throw some bomb-throwing mullah into jail for the rest of his natural life? Or, better yet, hand him over to the Americans?!’
“This class of people enjoys going to the fine watering holes of the continent and going through the faster EU line at passport control. They enjoy loading up their cars and bringing home crates of fine French wines without the nuisance of duties. Many of them are multi-lingual and have homes in the garden spots of France, Italy, or Spain. It would be a major annoyance and inconvenience to them if these privileges were forfeited and they had to go through the longer wogs’ line at passport control.
“What the assorted pundits are also forgetting is that the long and tedious negotiations with the European Union over the its new relationship with the UK will be led by that very elite the underclass thought it was rejecting. Just look at them. Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, various columnists for the Daily Telegraph. All of them are card-carrying members of the British elite. The out-of-work coal miners in West Yorkshire won’t get within shouting distance of the negotiating table. Maybe they should. But they won’t.
|How clever are they?|
“The UK negotiating team will be dealing with like-minded people in the EU who are also nervous as hell about the right-wing mobs snapping at their heels. It is to everyone’s interest, even the bloody-minded Frogs, to get this thing settled with as little fuss and disruption as possible.
“My rough guess is that in the final agreement the UK will retain trading rights but will have to accept the EU principle of free movement of labor. London’s financial center may take a hit, but that would not bother Joe Blogs of Middle England. He never liked those ‘posh toffs’ with their fat bonuses anyway. The UK will not be subject to the EU legal system, and will not be part of the EU decision making process. It will also not be eligible for any EU subsidies for agriculture or clean energy. An interesting point is the UK’s role, if any at all, in a European defense system that is outside NATO. Also, will the French get testy and deny British companies any role in Airbus?”
“In short, there won’t be much in the new deal what will really please those members of tribal England who thought they had completely rejected the EU. The immigrants will still come, the EU will still impose some niggling little rules, and England’s football team will still fail to advance very far in international competition. The British elite really is quite good at negotiating, and the new deal won’t be terribly different from the old deal. The elite is even better at fudging the reality of any deal arrangement to make it seem something it is not. Plus ça change and all that.”
We can only hope that the self-styled members of this very British elite are half as clever as they think they are and can control the powerful tribal forces they have unleashed.