The UK’s Brexit-and-Covid Languors

Photograph Source: Dunk ?CC BY 2.0

The UK has been in a protracted capitalist crisis since the collapse of the postwar welfare-state “compromise” between capital and labour (1945-1970s), a compromise which Margaret Thatcher ended definitively with much glee.

Overall, being in the EU neither reduced nor worsened the nature of this crisis. With regard to this systemic crisis, the EU, in this framework, has been neither problem nor solution.

Being in the EU merely kept Ukania in what airline pilots call a “holding pattern”, by doing nothing to create conditions for ameliorating this crisis, and thus not providing the tools needed for its resolution.

All the UK needed to do, in order to abide by this status quo, was comply with the EU’s regulatory framework, which was designed, in essence, to be concordant with Germany’s interests, AND France’s to a lesser extent (not that these interests had no overlap with those of the UK).

At the same time, leaving the EU was always going to incur short, and medium-term, costs, even without the Covid pandemic. The Tories lied about these costs (“sunny uplands”, “new Golden Age”, “Singapore on the Thames”, and all that jazz). The pandemic has merely revealed the devastating extent of these Tory lies.

The much-trumpeted insistence by the Brexiters on the UK’s need to restore “sovereignty” is a red herring. Sovereignty is useless without the power to exercise it— and the systemic crisis just mentioned has weakened the UK’s capacity to exercise this power.

The UK economy is now basically financial services with a little tourism tacked on (and financial services, 80% of UK GDP, and 30% of the UK’s exports to the EU, were left out of the Brexit deal).

When it comes to the rules of the capitalist economy, Ukania is basically a taker, rather than issuer, of rules.

The EU’s canny negotiators were always aware of the UK’s position of weakness, as well as the incompetence of its negotiators chosen on the basis of “true belief” in the cause of Brexit rather than ability, and got nearly everything they wanted, while BoJo Johnson, despite his bumptious bragging, only got 43% of what he sought (according to informed commentators on the negotiations).

Brexit is fundamentally about a Tory culture war—masking a rightwing, deregulating, all norms to be set by (rigged) markets, project– designed to con and sidetrack the long-downtrodden and understandably angry elements in the UK’s subaltern classes.

Many subaltern Brits alas have a forelock-tugging, stubborn nostalgia for ostensibly better imperial days (“Wogs begin at Calais“, “Johnny Foreigner”, etc.), underwriting BoJo’s fatuous claim that EU nationals who made the UK their home have treated the UK like “their own” country for too long.

This said by an Islamophobic foreign-born (New York) Eton and Oxford educated posho, with a Turkish Muslim great-grandfather named Ali Kemal, whose son changed his name to “Wilfred Johnson” because he was bullied for being a Muslim at his English boarding school!

But then this foreign-born UK politician with a Muslim grandfather has long inhabited a “post-truth” reality, where historical memory can be erased at a stroke.

After all, he had been against Brexit while being London’s Mayor, and only changed his position with a view to becoming leader of the (overwhelmingly) pro-Brexit Tory party. The Tories were in power, so this was BoJo’s royal road to becoming Prime Minister.

The growing consensus, on the right as well, is that BoJo had craved a job beyond his capabilities. Constitutively averse to hard work of any kind, he had to lead the response to the UK’s greatest public health challenge in a century. At the same time, Brexit represented the UK’s greatest political challenge since the 1956 Suez crisis.

BoJo would have been unable to deal with either challenge on their own. Together they have exposed him for the fraud he basically is, though his narcissistic self-regard has blinded him to any of his limitations.

According to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer, more people think Boris Johnson should resign as prime minister than think he should continue in office.

The Observer continues:

“There were also signs of a slight drop in support for the government’s handling of coronavirus. Some 72% (+4 on the last poll) think the government has not acted fast enough, with 42% (+4) thinking they are definitely not acting fast enough”.

The fact that UK now has more new Covid cases per capita than any other country in the world, with a death toll of over 80,000, underlies this loss of support for the Tories.

As this culture war takes place, the Tories, their pals (mainly from social networks formed at expensive private schools and Oxbridge), and their pimps in the rightwing press, rake-in huge piles of dosh from Ukania’s now unrestrained chumocracy.

This post was originally published on Radio Free.