Post-war British life has largely been a stay of execution. The former superpower has largely stumbled through the past 70 years of societal rot that laid the seeds for the political crisis that is Brexit.

The old adage stands true that the country has not merely been without a proper place in the world, but a defining worldview to chart a course with. Following the slaughter of the Somme and Passchendaele, the old Anglican and imperial sensibilities began to crumble among their leadership caste opening the path towards post-national decadence.

This decadence is best encapsulated in Huxley’s “Antic Hay” describing the anti-patriotic hedonism of post-1918 British elites and the fact that rather than being the officer class of their society, they had lost their nerve and will to rule. The Edwardian stiff upper lip attitude folded, and into that vacuum came the social engineering of the Fabian society.

If the First World War heralded the end of the old imperial worldview the Second vanquished Britain as a significant global player, leaving it as an effectively American satrap whilst its empire was decommissioned. Genuine British geopolitical independence ended with the botched Suez campaign in 1956, seeing Britain tied at the hip with America right up until the recent sabre rattling towards Iran. 

Despite the rot, a characteristic of British life the past 70 years has been the numerous attempts to revivify the nation with a new post-imperial worldview to adjust to the post-imperial world. Originally with the Atlee welfare state we see the attempts to transition towards socialist utopianism and a cradle to the grave nanny state.

Out of the ruins of the welfare state in the 1980s came the market orientated patriotism of Thatcher and attempts to return Britain to a type of pre-war patriotic normalcy. There was also of course the botched attempt by Enoch Powell for a racially protectionist policy for Britain and the Eurofederalism of Edward Heath in between.

With Brexit we see an attempt at a new project geared towards national revival with a rather crude form of populist nationalism. Out of the ashes of Blairism and Thatcherism, Brexit gained its electoral strength in the economically left-behind areas, combined with latent English nationalism, that may unravel the union as a whole. The empty bromides of diversity and GDP growth mattered very little a majority of the population ready to cut ties with Brussels in 2016, after 30 years of browbeating by neoliberal economics.

While perhaps everything that can be said about Brexit has been said, the extent to which it has and will define British politics for a generation is extraordinary. Slowly but surely the major parties are dying and new battle lines being drawn dependent almost exclusively on where one stands on the Brexit question. If 20th century Irish politics was defined by the national question, with economic ideology made secondary, then the question of Europe will be the focal point of British politics for a large part of the 21st.

British politics is bifurcating on nationalism versus globalism lines. On the latter are those who benefit materially from globalism, as well as those attuned to the cultural and demographic changes occurring at the present time. Ranging from Blairites to disgruntled centrist Tories, they are finding a home in a revivified Liberal Democrats, currently the second largest party in the UK, if the polls are to be believed. 

In the opposing corner is an alliance of the fobbed off Old Labour vote, and sentimental Little Englanders, both baneful at the last 30 years of social change. The days of inoffensive and centred Blairism are finished, with the future belonging to the politicians best equipped to play to the increased polarisation rather than cling to the centre.

The strategic objectives for Brexiteers centre on the repatriation of powers relating to immigration and trade back to the British nation state, ideally in a scenario where the political integrity of the British union remains intact. The problem arises when you begin to inquire about what occurs after the break with Brussels, normally with vague talk of trade deals with America or Europe.

Perhaps the more advanced plans which exist for these post-Brexit trade policies exist in the proposals of the pro-Brexit economist Patrick Minford and his attached think-tank “Economists for Free Trade”. Envisioning the unilateral dropping of all tariffs post-Brexit, the plan is often cited by Brexit supporters. However, it has been criticised for its willingness to sacrifice large swathes of the British economy, such as the areas of agriculture and manufacturing, in order to transform Britain into a de facto free-trading Singapore on the North Sea.

Regardless of the merits and demerits of Minford’s plan, the probable post-Brexit future of the British economy being ransacked for the sake of economic rationalisation and myopic trade deals betrays the very forces that propelled the vote in the first place. It is for this reason that many Brexit supporters are potentially walking into a trap, whereby the economy and society at large suffers from even more neoliberal ransacking.

A rather sad and ironic endgame that may emerge from the entire Brexit process could be an increased pace of immigration into the UK. Any potential trade deal with non-EU nations may come at the price tag of liberalised visa laws opening the British market to more foreign labour.

Populism is a very crude instrument, however useful it is against the neoliberal order. As it stands what is likely to occur should the UK crash out will be a period of chaos, followed by a series of mismanaged and one sided trade deals, leading to effective asset stripping and labour market globalisation. An endemic irony is that the overall outcome of the Brexit process could be a more liberalised immigration system as part of any trade deal made with the rest of the world.

Brexit originated from the infighting and contradictions of the British Tory party, and is likely to miscarry because of it. The EU is an institution worthy of contempt for its homogenisation efforts, as well as its mismanaged handling of economics and migration. However the potential outcome may leave Britain in a worse off state, something that the more ardent Brexiters scarcely realise.

In addition to the naivety towards getting myopic trade deals, the failure to challenge American power by Brexiters is another stumbling block for any attempt at British national revival. While Brexiters take succour in the Trumpian voice in the White House, long term political independence cannot be secured for the UK while America and Britain are bound at the hip in terms of foreign policy.

Unlike the previous attempts at national revival there is no real depth to the current wave of populism gripping the UK, or the West in general. The hamfisted trade deals that may follow a crash-out Brexit will only worsen the social and economic conditions that spurned on Brexit.

Those on the nationalist right should benefit from a greater destabilising of the UK and EU in the aftermath of the Brexit decision. However, any change that emerges from it will be superficial if it does not address the spiritual rot at the very heart of British life.

Failure to break the mould on matters of neoliberalism and having a sycophantic foreign policy relationship with the USA will ultimately make any post-Brexit changes cosmetic. Brexit burst onto the scene as a chance to clean the Augean stables of British life, instead it may end up as just being a public relations rebrand of the Britain we see today.

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

7 Comments

  1. I have to agree with the general point that the meaning of Brexit is largely vitiated if it allows the Conservatives to get back into the saddle and defeat the populist challenge. That is because, although nationalists want Brexit, it was never the most important item on our list. Our list includes stopping immigration, ending the promotion of multi-culturalism, stopping the transgender rubbish, ending feminism, ending gay marriage and adoption of children, bringing back the death penalty, bringing back the right to bear arms, ending the celebrity culture, and much else. And the Establishment can kind of live with Brexit – but cannot live with Populism Max on all these issues. Boris is saying to the elite, let us have a proper Brexit and it will stop there – we will vanquish the Brexit Party, restore the Conservatives to their position as a faux-nationalist party and we won’t allow any other populist cause. In fact, he’s promising to combine Brexit with much more immigration from Africa and Asia. EU migration (Poles, Lithuanians) was always inherently more digestible and acceptable as the people essentially are integratable.

    I don’t know what Ciarán is on about with “racial protectionism” of Enoch Powell. Does Ciarán lock his front door? And bar people not members of his family from living in the house? If so, he is engaged in “protectionism” and “hatred” of those who are not members of his family, right? Why is Ciarán trying to combine support for the free market with hardline Cultural Marxist causes in this way? The Frankfurt School in the 1960s posited a turn from the working class to hysteria over race and culture as a new way for the left to conquer, and views that were the fringe of the fringe of the fringe on the very far left in the 1960s are now the standard elite views today – including the idea that countries like Britain and Ireland belong to everyone in the world and that it is “racial protectionism” to have a border. Maybe Ciarán should have a quick read of John Stuart Mill Ch15 or 16 (I forget) in On Representative Government, where he pointed out that free institutions were impossible in a country with a culturally divided population. Look, I’m no Irish nationalist, but I can get behind the slogan Ireland for the Irish and Britain for the British. That’s no racial protectionism. It’s called survival.

    Reply

    1. Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh 16/10/2019 at 10:36 am

      The hinge of the sentence is “racial”. “Racial” protectionism. It’s quite obvious that Ciarán is not embracing an open borders ideology. The distinction between race and culture is crucial. Let’s leave the obsession with race to the left and to the extreme right.

      Reply

      1. No, Maolsheachlann, this is just cuckery. There is no distinction between race and culture. Large numbers of immigrants of another race bring their own culture. The idea that Ireland could still be Ireland if 5m Pakistanis came in is ridiculous. You are the ones playing the far left game of anti-racism and population replacement.

        Reply

      2. By the way, Maolsheachlann is not a correct Irish name. The correct name is MaolsheachlAINN. The original Middle Irish was Máel Sechnaill, meaning “devotee or disciple of St. Sechnall”, and the second element needs to be in the genitive. The pronunciation (which you are unlikely to know) is /mlʹaxəliŋʹ~mrʹaxəliŋʹ~brʹaxəliŋʹ/, ie Mleachalainn, or Mreachalainn or Breachalainn (with the inn pronounced “ing” in Cork Irish at least – so mlakhaling).

        Reply

        1. Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh 16/10/2019 at 11:56 am

          Thanks for that. I spell and pronounce it as I was taught growing up and as I’ve grown accustomed to; I’ll stick with it.

          I don’t mind being considered a cuck if it means I don’t go down the dead-end of racialism.

          By all means make the argument that five million Pakistanis would change Irish culture (as it would). You can do that without any reference to race whatsoever. A person can be thoroughly deracinated (in the dictionary sense) while, of course, retaining their genetic make-up. Similarly, a person (and especially their children) can adopt a different culture, as has happened innumerable times in history.

          Reply

          1. I have spent years studying Munster Irish, so I’m not asking, but telling you the spelling and pronunciation of the word. Your mother was probably not an educated person – she clearly has no knowledge of Irish. It is your “non-racial” alley way that is the dead-end – it leads to the end of Ireland, England, America, and in fact all Western countries.

            I’m not going to try to make the argument against Pakistani immigration on cultural grounds simply because you adhere to Cultural Marxist views that began with the Frankfurt School. It might be that, say, 5 Pakistanis in Dublin would be under great pressure to forget all about their Pakistani culture and heritage and adapt completely. 500,000 – and you will be adapting to them. Why is it like pulling teeth pointing this out? Because M’leachlainn here is pushing the Far Left propaganda all the time. If Project Ireland 2040 goes ahead, you might as well forget about Ireland – just call it Country X after that. It is not possible to build a free society in a multicultural society, and it is not possible to bring people of other races in in large numbers without becoming multicultural.

  2. John Milbank 16/10/2019 at 8:11 am

    Very good piece indeed. I entirely agree in every way. Though maybe EU not quite as homogenising and contemptible as you suggest for all it’s many faults.

    Reply

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.