This is Part 2 of a five-part guide to the causes and consequences of Brexit. Read Part 1 of The Great Brexit Robbery here.
This second part of The Great Brexit Robbery will explore the question of why the EU referendum happened: what were the main interests pushing for a referendum and furiously driving the electorate towards the exit door?
Depending on where you get your information, you may only have seen part of the story. Outside of the UK, in the USA, in Canada, and in Europe constitutional experts are saying that British democracy has been completely undermined by criminal and fraudulent activity, as well as foreign influence. Even a Westminster parliamentary committee has called for an enquiry.
But this has fallen on deaf ears in the government, and with good reason: several high ranking members of the government are implicated as well as big money Tory donors. They also know that most British people read the Sun, or the Express, or the Daily Mail, the media that helped deliver Brexit, and the editors of these have no interest in telling their readers they have been conned!
To help get us started, I have drawn a simple sketch and identified the five principal causes of Brexit. (How I miss my classroom and the stache of coloured board-markers I kept in a locked drawer!)
Shortly after the Second World War it was Sir Winston Churchill who called for a “united states of Europe” to cement the interests of western European countries economically and in defence against Russia (the Soviet Union as it was then). When the shape of the Common Market finally emerged in the 1950s Britain was not part of the project and it was more focused on dealing with the dissolution of its empire. It can be said that remains a strong factor in the “Little Englander” mentality that favoured the Leave campaign in 2016. The loss of Empire continues to irritate the greengrocers of Britain.
Entry into the European Economic Community on 1st January 1973 was more of a Conservative enthusiasm: even the Daily Mail was in favour! The EEC was seen as a “capitalists’ club” by many on the left (more about them later) and a significant number of the Tory faithful were also suspicious of Europe. Even at that stage the prime minister Edward Heath required the help of Labour rebels, and let us remember that official Labour policy was against joining the six nations of the EEC.
Listening to the excellent Radio 4 podcasts by Mark Mardell Brexit: a love story? is a nice lazy way to explore this history in 18-minute episodes, without doing any reading. There is a very moving moment in episode one where Ted Heath goes back to 10 Downing Street after the vote and plays the first of J.S. Bach’s preludes on his clavichord, described by one who was present as an expression of “a moment of fulfilment.”
Heath may have been at peace with this moment of accession to Europe, but it is here that the great rift opens up in the tectonics of the Tory Party. Many believed they had been mislead about how much sovreignty would be lost in what was a political project as well as an economic club. Those voices only grew in power as the years went by, first frustrating Margaret Thatcher – who was the prime mover for the single market – and then destroying John Major and David Cameron.
Now, in 2018 forty-five years later, the voices of the Eurosceptics are raised threateningly against another Tory prime minister, and they push her ever closer to the cliff of a no deal Brexit. (See part 1 for explanation of the different Brexit options.) But there is an added element here, which needs underlining, and that is the increased presence of right-wing extremists within the Conservatives and their brazen use of party politics to further their own individual and corporate greed. This follows a largely imported US model, and key individuals are indeed linked to the American ultra-right and funded by them. (Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group is funded by the shadowy Constitutional Research Council, the funding of which is completely opaque.)
In the first ever referendum held in the UK in 1975 the British public were asked a simple question: “Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?” The result was 67% “Yes”. Both parties were split in that campaign but the Labour party had more anti-European MPs than the Conservatives campaigning for a “No” vote. This largely changed in the 1980s when the party was led by Neil Kinnock who was in favour of greater European integration (unlike his son Stephen Kinnock MP who in 2018 is busy trying to destroy his father’s work!)
The anti-European streak in Corbyn’s Labour opposition (and in the major trade unions which carry a block vote for policy decisions) is still very significant and was evidenced in the recent Labour conference when the party’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer stood isolated as he promised the conference – to rapturous applause – that “Remain” would be an option in any future second referendum. Significantly, that was not in his pre-prepared speech as it would not have been approved.
When we look at the role of the Labour party in the 2016 referendum it is fair to say that even the Remainers in that campaign were half-hearted in persuading the voters of the advantages of staying in Europe. It simply wasn’t a stance that Labour people were used to taking and in some lengthy periods of Britain’s membership of the EU the Labour party has been more of a hindrance to integration than the Tories.
UKIP & post-2008 austerity
The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) had been around since the early 1990s and positioned itself as a right wing nationalist and eurosceptic party, but had little real support until it was headed by Nigel Farage – a one-time banker and businessman – from 2006. UKIP was always tainted with racism and xenophobia but managed to grow steadily despite critical reception from established parties.
UKIP was largely a party for older working class white Britons and it was no surprise that it drew from the same voter base as former unsuccessful fascist organisations (National Front, British Movement, etc. which came out of the same stable as Oswald Mosely’s old British Union of Fascists in the 1930s). These organisations all thrived on the post-imperial frustrations of white lower middle class and working class people who could no longer express their unbridled racism and misplaced sense of entitlement by dominating economically weaker tropical countries. How much worse for these unintelligent and unadaptable people to be subject to rules they perceived to be drawn up by the French and the Germans, who – encouraged by the worst excesses of the tabloid press – they now saw as the new wogs.
I do not aim to cause offence by using that term but reference it deliberately to underline the ignorance of a certain racist mindset where skin prejudice morphs into an absurd hatred for Europeans. As a teacher in Canterbury I once heard a teenage girl pupil refer to a particular grocery shop “run by wogs“. I corrected her and said it was a Polish delicatessen. She replied, “Yeah, those sort of wogs.”
The above example of tabloid prejudice against Europe is an oft-quoted classic of the genre from 1990. French EU finance chief Jacques Delors had been seeking further financial integration of member states. The article called Delors “the Froggie Common Market chief” (The rhyme also relies on a mispronunciation of his name.)
Together with the mad racism of some sections of British society, UKIP relied on people’s anger about falling living standards. Since the financial crash of 2008 and the introduction of austerity policies involving frozen pay together with cuts to services, lack of investment in health and social care, the support for UKIP grew to a point where it threatened the voter base of the Conservatives. As is usual in this kind of situation, the Conservatives had to try and move towards the policies of UKIP in order to retain their voters and in the 2015 general election, the prime minister David Cameron promised a referendum on Europe in order to persuade the voters to support his party rather than UKIP. So the growth of UKIP and the disillusionment of many people with austerity – which was falsely blamed on European banking practices – were key factors.
The 2016 referendum campaign was also an opportunity for UKIP to whip up anti-European feelings among white blue collar voters, who were traditionally Labour supporters, by targetting EU migrants to the UK – particularly from eastern Europe (Polish and Romanians etc.) – who had increasingly found work opportunities in the UK due to freedom of movement and travel made possible by low cost airlines.
After years of austerity, it was easy for UKIP to channel white working class resentment into large-scale xenophobia and varying degrees of outright racism which would yield a rich harvest of Leave EU votes.
Lord Ashcroft, Belize and Tate & Lyle
In the above factors militating for a Leave vote we examined mainly political issues and those emotions remaining from the loss of empire in the postwar years. But now let’s turn to the influences of a little-known British ex-colonial territory on the 2016 EU referendum.
If you get your information from the mainstream British media, the chances are you have never spotted this one. Although the Guardian has covered quite a lot of the background, it is usually hidden away on the inside pages. If you were a tabloid reading Leave voter, you’ve never heard anything about it.
Let’s start with the 71 year-old Lord Ashcroft who was most recently photographed for the newspapers being welcomed to the 2018 Conservative party conference in Birmingham, where he was fêted by the good and the great of the party. Michael Ashcroft is a billionaire resident for tax purposes in Belize and he is the single biggest donor to the Conservative party. Once the ambassador of Belize to the UN, he runs an offshore trust based in Bermuda and the so-called Paradise Papers leaked in 2017 showed that between 2000 and 2010 he netted 150 million pounds and does not need to pay a penny in UK tax although during that same period he sat in the House of Lords making the laws for taxpaying British citizens. (He has now “retired” from the Lords, probably because the contradictions became unsustainable.) The whole story of his tax avoidance can be read here.
So that is the man who funds the Tory party which has implemented the harshest period of austerity for the poorest in the UK during the past years. His donations to the party amount to millions of pounds. So we might suppose that some of his unpaid taxes might pay for a few nurses or indeed several cancer wards? I suppose like many of the super rich, he simply thinks tax is for the “little people.” But it doesn’t end there: Lord Ashcroft is one of the prime movers behind The Great Brexit Robbery for the simple reason that getting out of the European Union will serve the greed of rich irresponsible people like him. How does that work?
Ashcroft’s connections with Belize are significant. It was in July 2015, during “a hard night drinking” with Ashcroft in San Pedro, Belize, that Nigel Farage and Arron Banks, along with Ashcroft’s fellow Belizean businessman Andy Wigmore, “resolved to start preparing immediately for the referendum campaign”. (Source: Molly Scott Cato)
We shall be looking in much more detail in Part 3 at some of the above people in connection with criminal activity in the referendum which has been exposed but not addressed by the authorities, including an well-proven Russian connection. However, to complete this section please read this linked article (January 2017 / updated June 2018) which shows the exact connection between key persons in Belize and Tate & Lyle sugar exports, which I am using for reference together with two Guardian articles (March 2017 and September 2017) about EU sugar tariffs and imports.
“A limited amount of sugar can be imported into EU states at a tariff of €98 per tonne from larger countries such as Brazil and Australia. The rest of the world faces almost 100% duties of €339 per tonne – something Tate & Lyle hopes could disappear entirely if Britain strikes new free trade deals once it leaves the EU. ”
And here is the killer punch: David Davis was the Brexit negotiator for Theresa May but only spent a reported four hours talking to the EU negotiator Michel Barnier in the space of a whole year; but he has an interesting former career! “Brexit secretary David Davis who – in a little-known career footnote – spent 17 years working for Tate & Lyle before becoming a politician, much of it battling against what its current American owners regard as the tyranny of European sugar regulation.” (Second Guardian article referenced above.)
There are undoubtedly many more hidden connections between the rich individuals and companies who stand to gain enormous personal wealth from leaving EU market regulations and European laws. Here we have examined the fourth reason why hidden forces wanted Britain to leave the EU.
Russia: Putin’s mafia state
Finally, I just want to introduce the fifth factor in Brexit: Russian influence. I will deal with the details at greater length in the criminality section in Part 3, but I just want to briefly set out the key role played by this factor before winding up this part.
Russia has been very keen for the UK to leave Europe: it is one of the two members of the UN Security Council as well as a key economic piece of the integrated EU block which stands against Russia’s interests and ambitions in Ukraine and the Baltic states which are in fear after the annextion of the Crimean peninsula. It should not therefore be a controversial claim, and we have already seen how Putin tried to influence the French general election by openly backing the extreme right Front Nationale. The ongoing Müeller enquiry into Russian collusion with the Republican campaign in the US election has thrown up numerous references to Russian influence in Brexit.
The Salisbury poisonings and the spying and hacking cases of recent weeks are enough to show that we are at war with Putin’s criminal state. If it could be proven that some pro-Brexit individuals kmowingly colluded with the Russians to undermine their own country’s democratic process for personal gain, this would be a straightforward case of treachery.
We would have to go back to the 1960s to find a case of British citizens working as traitors to serve Russian interests. If this has indeed happened in the case of Brexit, the damage is incomparable. We are looking at the trashing of the entire UK state.
We will be looking at the facts of the fraud as presented by Parliamentary committees, the office of the Information Commissioner, and the office of the Electoral Commissioner. Outside the UK, evidence of criminal involvement in Brexit – including money laundering and foreign interference – has come from the Canadian government and the US “Mueller enquiry” into Russian interference in the Trump election.
Corrections and omissions are invited.
Readers, if you see something that needs correction or feel an important point is not included here, please tell me in a comment. I am trying to write something here which helps people understand Brexit and I am aiming for truth and accuracy.