The short answer is, yes. However this is an answer in two parts; what has already happened in party politics in the wake of the 2016 Brexit Referendum, and what may or may not come when, and if, Brexit ever happens.
Back in 2016, when the public voted to leave the EU in the second Brexit referendum (the first being held back in 1975 with a 67% vote to remain but no one seems to remember that) the majority was a mere 52%, leaving 49% of the voters unhappy at the least, and downright livid at most. This disagreement with the current Conservative government manifested itself dramatically in the General Election the following year.
The largely pro-Brexit Conservatives lost 13 seats and UKIP (whose campaign of lies and racism comfortably selects them into the pro-Brexit group) also sustained losses. Whereas the largely pro-Remain Labour Party gained 30 seats and the Lib Dems and Greens gained 4 and 3 seats respectively.
The continued poor handling of the withdrawal agreement negotiations, left the new PM Theresa May looking lost (in fields of wheat), exhausted and rather humiliated to say the least. Which caused even greater disenfranchisement within the Tory party who sustained, even more, marked loses at this year’s Council by-elections.
They lost 1,269 council seats overnight. A number the BBC clearly felt was fairly similar to Labour losses of 63 seats judging by the way they presented the news the next morning, but when has the media ever been fair to Corbyn?
The Lib Dems gained 676 seats giving them control of 7 more councils than before, and the Greens gained 185 seats. Even to the untrained eye, these numbers suggest the power has slipped from the grasp of the Tories on the right to almost any other party further left.
The only exception was the Brexit Party, which manifested itself gruesomely in the wake of UKIP finally collapsing under the weight of its own inaccuracy. During the 2019 European elections, the Brexit Party won the largest amount of the vote, giving Brexiteers something to celebrate for the first time since 2016. The fact that (excluding Labour and the Torys) the combined vote of parties that were pro-Brexit was 34.9% and the combined Remain-supporting parties share of the votes was 40.4% didn’t stop Brexiteers loudly telling ‘Remoaners’ that this demonstrated a clear majority desire for Brexit.
All the above suggests a shift to the left in the wake of the Referendum 3 years ago; but what is still to come? There are many different forecasts for the 2-3 weeks following our ‘glorious day of independence’. Conservative ministers say all will be fine and that fact the country is currently stockpiling medication and organising the potential for flying in emergency food is nothing to be concerned about.
The more left-wing ministers, however, spend every waking moment these days trying to find a way to avoid a no-deal. They understand that not everyone is rich enough to avoid shopping at mainstream supermarkets. Most people would be affected if withdrawing from the Customs Union left us checking every single import and export of anything by hand, multiplying the time taken to get through customs by god knows how much, turning the whole of Dover into a lorry park and leaving bread and milk shelves empty for a fortnight.
I read something recently suggesting that the democratic vote to leave the EU is the most important thing in the mess. The author even suggested governing is like parenting and that means you should trust your children to do what is best for them. I’m only glad my parents didn’t trust me enough to let me run off a cliff edge.
In short, the handling of Brexit has caused a major disenfranchisement within the right wing who instigated in in the first place. While left wing parties responses have been far from flawless, the repeated failings of a succession of Conservative PMs has slashed the Tory portion of the vote, and this could lead to a left wing national revolution if the momentum continues. Whether this trend will continue if and when Brexit happens remains to be seen.
However, when you consider the potential for an economic recession, the already evident drop in the value of the not so Great British Pound and all the other eventualities outlined in the Yellowhammer report (the Tories didn’t want publishing for some reason), I would be very surprised if, post-Brexit, there wasn’t an even greater swing to the left. More and more people have realised that the £350 million that bus promised for the NHS is actually now in MP pockets.
There is some debate over whether the EU is a left or right wing organisation. Many on the left oppose the EU’s lack of trade barriers that benefit multi-national corporations and many on the right oppose the EU for its regulation and its general move away from a laissez-faire approach. With both left- and right-wing opposition to the EU, we can say that the EU is a centrist organisation.
Lexit is the term used to describe a “left-exit” from the European Union. The LEXIT Network’s slogan is “democracy and popular sovereignty instead of neo-liberal integration and a failed euro system”. This is their belief of taking the UK out of the European Union, into a socialist economy. Despite growing in popularity, it is a long way from being mainstream thought.
Their main concern is with the Euro, in that a shared currency leads to the loss of monetary control. This has proved to be a problem for some countries, especially Greece and Spain. When in recession, countries lose their power to improve international competitiveness by devaluing their currency. This is a fundamental flaw in the architecture of the EU and since the Eurozone crisis, the idea of a shared currency in other trading blocs, like the Association of South East Asian Nations, has rapidly lost traction. However, as the UK has monetary independence, using sterling and having a freely floating exchange rate system, they can much more easily protect themselves from economic shocks that occur in foreign countries. In light of this, Lexit Network’s core arguments actually hold little relevance to the UK. Thus, their case for a socialist revolution in the UK and exit from the EU hold little gravitas in the Brexit argument.
The UK is not the only country that is exhibiting euro-skepticism, however among most Europeans the skepticism comes from right-wing parties. The rise of right-wing nationalism has grown significantly in Europe: for example, the National Rally in France, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, won 13% of votes at the previous general election and in Austria, the Freedom Party won 26% of votes. This is evidence to suggest that Brexit is more likely to lead to a right-wing revolution, than a left-wing revolution.
Socialism has been relatively dormant in the UK over the last few decades. The outlook of Labour moved right to the ‘Third Way’. The Blairite government adopted a stance exhibiting centre-right economic policies with centre-left social policies. Efforts to bring back real socialism have only returned since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader. Despite him being personally opposed to the EU because he sees it as being a barrier to socialism in the UK, the majority of labour MPs and voters are pro EU. Meaning his party are backing a second referendum. As the Green party are also in favour of being in the European Union, there are no major left-wing parties in the UK that support Brexit. Until Brexit gains support from the left, it is unlikely that Brexit will lead to a left-wing revolution.
The foremost reasoning behind many on the left in favour of the EU is due to its progressive polices and commitments to protecting workers’ rights, combatting tax avoidance and fighting climate change. It is not a coincidence that many in the conservative party who have money invested in hedge funds and offshore schemes were suddenly in favour of leaving the EU when the UK began to fight tax avoidance.
Unfortunately, views preached to and effectually believed by the public are not always backed up by facts. Often, issues are too complicated to fully understand without a great knowledge of economics. Brexit is the perfect example; I think it is safe to say the NHS will not be receiving 350 million pounds a week as a result of Brexit. It has been widely debated that expensive campaigns such as this, have the capacity to mislead public judgement.
Expensive campaigns need rich donors, for example billionaire Crespin Odey, Boris Johnson’s largest campaign donor. The common theme is, these rich donors are more likely to support right-wing ideologies as the free market is more likely to be profitable, rather than socialism which usually benefits the poor. Without rich donations to left wing campaigns, it is less likely for left wing ideologies to become the social norm.
The combination of the UK’s position outside the euro, The European Union’s progressive environment, tax avoidance and workers’ right policies and the lack of rich donors aiding left-wing campaigns, we can say that it is very unlikely Brexit would lead to a left-wing revolution. This is if Brexit actually ends up happening, with continued negotiations and no real progress, Brexit is becoming more of a dream than a reality.
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