Back in February 2016 I gave my first take on the British referendum to leave the European Union. It was a deeply cynical take on both fronts, one that I’d sort of renege on two months later when I went from neutral to full-blown supporter of the Leave campaign. Since I voted Leave, the process of Britain leaving the European Union has been incredibly tumultuous. No sooner than we began the negotiations, we have had the Eurosceptic right see some of its key proponents bow out and leave things to whoever’s there to take over. Not only did the pro-Remain PM David Cameron resign, only to be replaced by the single worst Prime Minister I think of. Nigel Farage of UKIP left his party believing his work was done, leaving his party to practically die as a result of revolving door leadership, infighting and general irrelevance in the face of a seemingly confident Tory government, in order to spend his days on Fox News as that guy they have on whenever they talk about Britain (though he swears he’s coming back, any day now).
But for a while, things were going somewhat smoothly for the first half of 2017. The government seemed to be confident, and the economy wasn’t crashing like the Remainers said it was going to. Then, out of nowhere, Theresa May called a snap election in order to gain an even larger majority than she already had, believing it would secure the ultimate mandate for her government to leave the EU. In reality though, the opposite happened: while the Conservative party ultimately defeated Labour, they failed to gain a majority and were forced to form a coalition with the DUP, and her position as a negotiator and as a leader were greatly weakened afterwards. The once confident new leader overplayed her hand and showed herself to be nothing more than a weak, hubristic fool.
This year it was starting to look like Brexit was taking a turn for the worse. For all of our rhetoric concerning national sovereignty, a Brexit delivered to us from the right seems to be a case of shifting from one set of capitalist masters to another, as our government’s plan for a “more global Britain” means being more dependent on China. On the other hand, we could also be set to become vassals of the EU, technically leaving the European Union but still remaining subservient to their laws as though we never left at all. And now, it kind of looks like we are heading down just that path. It has recently been announced that the UK would be kept under European Union laws until December 31st 2020, despite us leaving the European Union. Theresa May also seems to be taking over the negotiations with Brussels as the main negotiator, which to me does not strike me as a positive move considering her incompetence over the last year, and is attempting to exercise her dominance in that regard by threatening a no deal Brexit if her fellow MPs don’t line up in support of her plan. Furthermore, the prospect of a no deal Brexit is leading to concerns of Britons having to stockpile food as though they were preparing for the end of the world following Dominic Raab’s comments on the subject.
Put simply, I feel like we’re getting the bad ending, the worst of both worlds in some sense. Without a plan for leaving the European Union (which, let’s be honest, David Davis seemed to suggest there wasn’t a plan at all), the Conservative government has put us in a situation where we have been making up the program for Brexit as we go along, leading up to a scenario where we are independent in name only. Despite the rhetoric of national sovereignty, we will remain subservient to the very foreign entity we struggled to break free of. And all the while there is the very real sense that the whole thing is going to fall apart and screw everyone over. It’s like Paul Mason was right all along in some respects. Meanwhile there is talk among liberal/social democratic Remainer circles of a second EU referendum, and talk among right-wing Brexiteer circles of replacing the Prime Minister who they view as a traitor to the country. But of course, the Conservatives are trying to assure us that everything is going to be just fine.
I still oppose the European Union (I think it should be destroyed and replaced by something along the lines of COMECON 2.0), I value national sovereignty, but I believe I’ve made the case that it is because of my value for national sovereignty that I have become deeply cynical about our current path. At this point my mind turns to the prospect of Welsh independence, if only because I think the EU issue won’t matter because the EU probably won’t let in an independent Wales or Scotland or the European Union will probably collapse within the decade. Funny, with America going down a horrible path of its own and England in a sorry state, I kind of feel lucky to be in Wales to an extent, and not necessarily for nationalist reasons (strange as that may sound). But of course, to speak of national liberation without socialism would be an empty exercise, for the simple fact that – and I think the current Brexit otucome is proof of this – the goals of national liberation, or even simple populism, cannot be fulfilled within a capitalist order which drives all things toward the globalization of capital and the value of profit and money over liberty and sovereignty.
All I can do at this point is to sit in my corner of South Wales, going about my life, waiting to see what happens next.