We should be deciding what kind of society we want
Whatever the result, the establishment will ensure we still live in a society based on the principles of neoliberal economics.
After several months of saturation coverage of the EU referendum, the big day has arrived. At first glance, this national referendum on our future membership of the European Union would appear a glowing example of democracy in action.
Yet the establishment has already made its mind up. Sure, the odd hedge fund and company has announced its support for Brexit. However, the City of London and the big banks want to remain in the EU.
The US has stated its position clearly: President Obama has urged the UK to stay in. The US trade representative has announced that the US will not make a separate trade deal with the UK if it is outside the EU. The EU, and Germany specifically, also want Britain to remain.
So the big guns have been wheeled out to reassure the public that staying in is the right thing to do, from Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, to the former heads of MI5 and MI6.
In other words, Brexit will simply not be allowed to happen. What appears to be an exercise in democratic legitimacy is, in fact, nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
The Brexit campaign has focused on national sovereignty particularly in relation to the question of immigration. However, the debate has been constrained within narrow parameters.
Tory Eurosceptics and Ukip are signed up to a neoliberal model of globalised capitalism. They may complain about EU bureaucrats meddling with how straight cucumbers and bananas are, but they hardly ever challenge the question of infringement of sovereignty due to European corporate power.
For example, you will rarely hear them mention the dangers of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership EU-US trade agreement – known as TTIP – even though this would open up and lock in privatisation of public services including the NHS. Again, you will not hear them discuss the undemocratic imposition of austerity in Greece and southern Europe by the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central bank and the International Monetary Fund. These issues are not on the table for discussion.
To paraphrase the businessman Darius Guppy, if you really want to preserve sovereignty then you would need to challenge the Washington consensus and the likes of Goldman Sachs.
The key issue is not whether we are in or out of Europe. It is what kind of Britain and Europe its citizens want to live in.
Choosing between the European Central Bank in Frankfurt or the City of London is not a democratic choice and reflects how the In/Out question is really a debate taking place between competing factions in the establishment. Either way, we will continue to live in a society based on the principles of neoliberal economics.
We will see the siphoning of wealth to the top, financialisation of the economy with its damaging inflation of asset bubbles, privatisation of public services and austerity – all of which guarantees economic stagnation, frozen wages, increasing poverty and declining living standards. The In/Out question does not address how to improve the lives of ordinary people.
We have seen an orchestrated PR campaign designed to generate the desired outcome of staying in Europe. This manipulation of the electorate fits in with the concept of managed democracy. The establishment closes ranks when it needs to protect its interests. We’ve seen this time and again during the Scottish referendum, the 2015 general election, and in the smear campaigns targeting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
In the previous decade, the Dutch and French voted against the treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. The Irish voted against the Lisbon treaty and a second referendum was held resulting in a Yes vote.
Greece voted for an anti-austerity government Syriza. They also rejected the bail-out conditions in a referendum in 2015. In spite of all this, the Troika and the banks forced Syriza to accept even harsher conditions.
In other words, referenda are non-binding. They are merely for guidance. The establishment does not take them too seriously.
In the event of a Brexit vote, it is likely that Cameron will be allowed to return to the table in Brussels and gain concessions until the ‘correct’ outcome is obtained. The Brexit process itself would entail several years of painstaking trade negotiations and other adjustments. It is likely that this process would lead to a second referendum.
The EU project is a corporate superstructure. As far as the establishment is concerned, there is simply too much at stake.